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Ruffi commits to UMD

Northwestern High School's Reagan Ruffi (7) gets away from Chetek-Weyerhaeuser’s Kyle Bilodeau (88) on his way to the end zone in the second quarter of the Tigers' 14-12 win last season in Maple. (Jed Carlson / / 2
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The Northwestern High School Tigers will tune up for the upcoming prep football season by scrimmaging Friday, Aug. 10, at Northland College in Ashland.

The Tigers will go up against Hurley and Chequamegon starting at 10 a.m., but will not face the host Ashland Oredockers, who they host in the season opener Aug. 17.

While second-year coach Jovin Kroll will be evaluating his team and putting the finishing touches on his depth chart, there is one player already penciled in as a starter: senior running back Reagan Ruffi.

Ruffi, the reigning Superior Telegram Player of the Year, also begins the season having already verbally committed to playing football with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

“It just felt right,” Ruffi said. “It works out great for my family and I really love the coaches up there.

“There were some other schools that were interested, but UMD was the only school to make an offer.”

The official signing will take place in early February.

“Reagan went to a lot of camps during the offseason and toured various schools, so it’s good for him to figure out what his future holds, move past it and now he can focus on the season, which he is excited about,” Kroll said.

Ruffi (5-foot-9, 191 pounds), who is ranked among the top dozen running backs in Wisconsin, tuned up for the season by attending camps at Wisconsin, Northwestern, South Dakota State and North Dakota State as well as the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association combine.

“I learned so much at those camps,” said Ruffi, who is the latest in a Northwestern pipeline to play for the Bulldogs, joining Lucas Jipson, brothers Cody and Kiel Fechtelkotter, T.J. Polkoski, Ryan Miesbauer and Nate Pearson, a sophomore linebacker on this year’s team.

After rushing for 650 yards as a sophomore, Ruffi set Northwestern’s single-season rushing last year, passing Pearson, who took the record from Jipson.

Ruffi not only surprised coach Kroll last season, but the rest of the Heart O’ North Conference as well. He finished with 1,788 yards on the ground, averaging 162.5 yards per game and 7.8 yards per carry. He scored 21 touchdowns and ran in three 2-point conversions. He also caught six passes for 82 yards and a pair of scores.

With his record-setting season, Ruffi became the 10th Tiger to run for at least 1,000 yards since Gordon L. Nelson Field opened in 2008. He is only the second junior to manage the feat.

The other was Pearson, who set the previous single-season rushing record of 1,657 yards during his senior year in 2015.

“There will be no surprises this year,” Kroll said. “He started a little slow last year then there was a streak where he had five or six games of 200-plus yards in a row. He finished with a bang and we have a lot more experience to go around him, where defenses will not be able to just focus on stopping Reagan.

“Usually, when players put up numbers like Reagan, it’s during their senior season. This is an exception to this rule and he has a chance to add to that.”

TIGER TALES: Other Tigers drawing the attention of college scouts include DB/WR Sam Risley (6-2, 150), DL/RB Carson Holsclaw (5-11, 185) and WR/DB Brody Payton (6-4, 205). … Ruffi’s other 2017 awards included All-Northwest region and first-team all-HON as a running back.