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HON Preview: Conference title is up for grabs

Mike Granlund For The Telegram The Heart O' North Conference football season is shaping up to be a real battle for 2016. After two weeks of non-conference play, four teams appear to have their sights set on the crown. Defending co-champions Haywa...

Mike Granlund

For The Telegram

 

The Heart O’ North Conference football season is shaping up to be a real battle for 2016. After two weeks of non-conference play, four teams appear to have their sights set on the crown.

Defending co-champions Hayward and Northwestern return much of their defense corps and both have strong senior classes, and Bloomer seeks to reload after falling to third place last year after winning the HON in 2013 and 2014.

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Chetek was 5-5 last year after back-to-back 9-2 second-place seasons, and looks to be very good behind a potent passing attack.

The other four teams are seeking to get into the top four of the conference and qualify for the WIAA playoffs. Spooner, Ladysmith, Cumberland and Barron all have outstanding individuals who could help pull off a key upset.

 

Hayward

The Hurricanes (2-0), behind Superior native Brian Trettin, returns most of their defense and last year had the luxury of a separate platoon for offense and defense.

One big loss is 2,000-yard rusher Howie Leuschen, but with 88 points scored in their first two games, offense does not appear to be a problem.

David Freund is a veteran quarterback who returns and Riley Donaghue and Kenny Richards are the main ball carriers.

Xavier Cummings was a standout on defense and this year he’s Hayward’s top receiver with 201 yards in two games.

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Graham Frame, Caleb Waggoner, Tanner Kelsey, Kyle Sorenson, Diante Miller, Will Zawistkowski, Keion Johnson, and Cole Robotka all return after receiving all-conference accolades.

 

Chetek-Weyerhaeuser

The Bulldogs (2-0) have opened with two impressive victories and are ranked No. 2 in the Wissports poll in Division 5.

Dawson Davis has already thrown for 467 yards and five touchdowns and is one of northern Wisconsin’s premier passers. Sam Newell, Daryl Williams, and Hunter Flor are his main targets.

Tonight’s game vs. Northwestern will be the HON’s first key matchup.

 

Bloomer

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Most teams that lose nine all-conference players to graduation expect a down year. Not Bloomer (2-0).

The Blackhawks have reloaded behind lineman Payton Dachel and quarterback Mitch Post. They have made the playoffs for 12 straight years, and this looks like another good year for John Post’s team.

A trip north to face Northwestern next week will be their first big conference game.

 

Northwestern

Life without four-year starter Nate Pearson (now at UMD) will be different, but a narrow win over Ashland and a huge loss to Osceola is the same scenario that the Tigers (1-1) began with last year, when they went 8-3.

Osceola went on to become WIAA state champions in Division 4 and this year is ranked No. 1 again in the Wissports poll. The first two conference games (at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser and hosting Bloomer) will loom large for David Crail’s team’s title aspirations.

Senior Alex Tecker (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) anchors the defense, which returns seven starters. Connor Johnson, Mike and Matt Lindsey, Tyler Little, Jameson Pflug and Andrew Hanson comprise what should be a solid core.

Offensively, Jared Anttila returns at quarterback in the spread offense. Carter Spangenberg is the conference’s leading returning rusher, and receivers Tyler Little at 6-4 and Tanner Klobucher at 6-3 are tall targets.

The line of Ricky Schiff, Nate Ohman, Tyler Ronning, Kyle Curphy, and Tecker will need to meld, as all five linemen from last year were lost to graduation.

Sophomore Reagan Ruffi begins the season as the other main ball carrier.

Other players who will play a lot include Ryan Huray, Michael Lewis, Travis Lewis, Trevor Janowicz, Kade Bartelt, Hunter Wiese, Kenny Dunny, and freshman kicker Isaac Nichols.

 

Ladysmith

The Lumberjacks (1-1) are led by Riley Herbes and made the playoffs last year. The final game of the year at Maple may be big for this team’s playoff hopes.

 

Cumberland

The Beavers (0-2) have one of the HON’s premier players in Payton Rose, who accounted for 15 touchdowns as a junior. Rose needs more help for John Oconnell’s team to move up in the standings.

 

Spooner

The Rails (0-2) lost all six all-conference players and appear to have an uphill battle this year, being outscored 101-13 in the first two games.

 

Barron

Low numbers have plagued the Bears (0-2) recently, and they are currently on a 17-game losing streak.

Carter Frandson and Michael Johnston are two players who would start for any team in the conference, but it looks like another long football year in Barron.

 

Heart O’North Conference

Football Champions

1930 - Rice Lake

1931 - Spooner

1932 - Ladysmith-Rice Lake

1933 - Bloomer

1934 - Bloomer

1935 - Bloomer-Spooner

1936 - Rice Lake

1937 - Bloomer

1938 - Rice Lake

1939 - Rice Lake

1940 - Ladysmith

1941 - Spooner

1942 - Rice Lake

1943 - Rice Lake

1944 - Bloomer

1945 - Cumberland-Rice Lake-Spooner

1946 - Rice Lake

1947 - Rice Lake

1948 - Bloomer

1949 - Ladysmith

1950 - Bloomer

1951 - Bloomer

1952 - Bloomer

1953 - Bloomer

1954 - Bloomer

1955 - Bloomer

1956 - Bloomer

1957 - Rice Lake

1958 - Cumberland-Ladysmith

1959 - Rice Lake

1960 - Bloomer

1961 - Ladysmith

1962 - Ladysmith

1963 - Bloomer

1964 - Ladysmith

1965 - Barron

1966 - Rice Lake

1967 - Bloomer

1968 - Bloomer

1969 - Bloomer

1972 - Rice Lake

1973 - Spooner

1974 - Hayward

1975 - Rice Lake

1976 - Rice Lake

1977 - Bloomer

1978 - Cumberland

1979 - Rice Lake

1980 - Rice Lake

1981 - Rice Lake

1982 - Rice Lake

1983 - Rice Lake

1984 - Bloomer

1985 - Rice Lake

1986 - Bloomer

1987 - Bloomer-Hayward- Northwestern

1988 - Northwestern

1989 - Barron

1990 - Barron

1991 - Spooner

1992 S- pooner

1993 - Northwestern

1994 - Not Conference Sport

1995 - Not a Conference Sport

1996 - Spooner

1997 - Northwestern

1998 - Cumberland

1999 - Northwestern

2000 - Northwestern

2001 - Ladysmith

2002 - Bloomer

2003 - Ladysmith

2004 - Northwestern

2005 - Bloomer

2006 - Ladysmith

2007 - Chetek

2008 - Hayward

2009 - Northwestern

2010 - Northwestern

2011 - Bloomer

2012 - Cumberland

2013 - Bloomer

2014 - Bloomer

2015 - Hayward- Northwestern

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