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Prep football: Spartans, Tigers, Evergreens ready for season to kickoff

Douglas County's high school football teams are itching for the season to get underway.

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Superior lineman Darrin Lowney shoves off a blocker as he keeps his eyes on the ball carrier before making the stop at practice Monday, August 16, 2021, in Superior. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Friday night lights are back this fall for all three Douglas County high school football teams.

After a hodge-podge season where the Northwestern Tigers and Northwood/Solon Springs Evergreens played as usual in the fall of 2020, with the Superior Spartans pushing their season to spring 2021, the coaches and players are glad to be back on track.

Spartan head coach Bob DeMeyer said he's proud of the way his players handled the adversity of last season, but everyone is excited to open the season against Ellsworth on Friday, Aug. 20., at NBC Spartan Sports Complex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

"W e’re so looking forward to having our fans there and to be back to a normal Friday night atmosphere where people can come out and enjoy a good game," DeMeyer said.

" The band is playing and cheerleaders and student body and parents, grandparents — that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what we all need right now," he said. "It’s part of the healing process and we need to get back on track and school and activities are a huge part of that."

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The first few weeks of practice have gone well for the Spartans, and DeMeyer said his players show up with great attitudes and are ready to put in the work.
It's particularly impressive considering their short offseason. Some players went from football directly into spring sports and summer sports after that. Then there were family vacations or summer jobs.

" I just really like how the kids have rolled with everything and they’ve persevered through some challenging times here, and again, I like where we’re at right now in terms of attitude and effort and the chemistry," DeMeyer said.

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Superior’s Courdin Nelson-Scaggs secures the ball as he busts through the line at practice Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Superior. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The offensive and defensive lines anchor the Spartans. Seniors Grayson Prange and Darrin Lowney play on both sides of the ball, with Prange at guard and defensive end and Lowney at guard and defensive tackle. Junior Sam Berthiaume is another upperclassman with experience — he joins them as a guard and defensive tackle.

Junior Carson Gotelaere will lead the offense at quarterback, DeMeyer said.

Seniors Ross Rivord and Jordan Goldfine will look to make an impact on offense. Both play halfback, so the Spartans will be looking to get them the ball from the slot.

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While every game on the roster is one the Spartans look forward to, the nonconference matchup against Ellsworth on Friday and the game at Eau Claire Memorial on Sept. 24 were games DeMeyer mentioned. The Eau Claire Memorial game will be the first time the Spartans play against their former defensive coordinator Rob Scott, who took over as Eau Claire Memorial's head coach this season.

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Superior assistant coach Matt Krivinchuk instructs the defense during practice Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Superior. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Tigers look to use depth, skills

Tigers head coach Jovin Kroll chuckled when asked what his team needs to work on.

" This team doesn’t need to work on much — this might be one of the best ones I’ve had," he said before saying they do a great job of communicating, but that's an area where they need to improve.

With 35 juniors and seniors, depth is one of the team's strengths. Another is their skill players. Kroll said the Tigers are going to use those strengths to their advantage and be aggressive this season.

Junior Luke Sedin will take snaps under center for the Tigers.

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Northwestern’s Austin Schlies fields a kick during practice in Maple on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The Tigers open their season at Ashland on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The team also returns outside linebacker Austin Schlies, who earned Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Region honors. He was also a first-team all-Heart O' North Conference selection.

Other returning players to watch include seniors Ben Benes, Greg Ohman and Logan Trautt. Benes plays on the offensive and defensive lines; Ohman plays fullback and inside linebacker; and Trautt "has been really sound at corner," Kroll said.

Sophomore Ian Smith has been a surprise at camp, and he's earned a starting spot on both sides of the football, Kroll said.

The Tigers scheduled games against some bigger schools to help the coaches gauge where the team is at heading into a tough end of the season. They recently had a scrimmage with Chippewa Falls, and they play Rice Lake Aug. 27 in a nonconference matchup.

With Bloomer on Oct. 1, St. Croix Falls on Oct. 8 and Cumberland on Oct. 15, the Tigers have their work cut out for them.

" Cumberland got us last year ... they’re going to be a really tough opponent to end the year. St. Croix Falls and Bloomer at the end along with them is going to be a real tough October," Kroll said.

The Tigers open their season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, with a nonconference game at Ashland.

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Northwestern’s Ben Benes hits the blocking sled during a drill at practice in Maple on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Seniors anchor Evergreens

When it comes to conference matchups, Northwood/Solon Springs head coach Matt Hager said the Evergreens don't know much about their competition, but they're excited to find out. The only conference opponent the 8-player team faced in the 2020 season was Mellen, and this year Mellen isn't fielding a varsity team.

"They’re only playing a JV schedule, so we really don’t know anything about any of the other teams in our conference. We’re just looking forward to seeing what they’ve got and going from there," he said.

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Northwood/Solon Springs’ Syver Gulbrandsen (14) gets rid of the ball as he gets hauled down by Shell Lake’s Logan Yoss (72) in the second quarter of the Evergreens game in Minong on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. The first -team all-Lakeland East 8-man selection returns under center this season for the Evergreens. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The team returns senior quarterback Syver Gulbrandsen, who was a first-team all-Lakeland East selection.

He's joined by seniors Brady Krmpotich and Bryon Hobscheid. Krmpotich plays tight end and linebacker, while Hobscheid plays slotback and cornerback.

Hager said he's looking forward to seeing what the seniors bring to the field. Hobscheid, in particular, wasn't a full-time member of the varsity team last year, but wowed the coaches during training camp.

"He wasn't necessarily a guy that played every single snap, and this year we’re going to really try to rely on him," Hager said. "He showed a lot of progress this year, and I think he’s going to be a playmaker for us."

The team's strength is its athleticism. Northwood School doesn't have tackle football at the middle school level, so it takes some time for freshmen coming in to adjust, Hager said. There are also a few seniors from Solon Springs who are playing high school football for the first time, but who are solid all-around athletes.

"The first time playing tackle football, there’s a little bit of a learning curve there where we’re going to have to get guys caught up, but I would say our athleticism is going to be one of our strengths," he said.

The Evergreens open their season at Luck High School at 7 p.m. Aug. 27.

Related Topics: FOOTBALLPREP SPORTS
Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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