Prep Football Preview: Big game between FC, Augusta teams looking to building on last year's success while E-S and O-F start to build winners

Two teams looking to build more and two teams looking to start building.

That's where the Tri-County Area's prep football programs find themselves as the 2022 season has begun.

The two teams look to add on and expand on the good things they did last season are Fall Creek and Augusta. The Beavers are the defending Dairyland Conference champions and went 9-0 during the regular season in 2021, one of the best-ever in school history. Likewise, Fall Creek, although finishing 5-6 overall, went to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Both 1-0 teams will clash tonight, Friday, Aug. 26 at Balliett Field in Augusta with the kick-off at 7 p.m. FC leads the all-time series 12-8.

Both teams return a bevy of skill players that could make this an entertaining ballgame as far as points go. Fall Creek returns the players that made up one of the best passing attacks in western Wisconsin led by senior quarterback Eli Laube and receivers such as Leo Hagberg, Bo Vollrath and Jacob Wathke. The key to victory over rival Altoona last week in an exciting 26-20 ballgame at Schultz Field in Fall Creek was putting a ground game with the passing attack Fall Creek used to get into the playoffs last season for the first time in seven years. The Crickets rushed for 123 yards combined and had all their TDs on the ground led by Laube's three short-yardage TD runs with another scored put in by back Ryan Whittlinger which was the game-winner after FC's defense forced a turnover with two minutes to go. Kelly led the team with 77 yards rushing on 13 carries.

"The culture has shifted," FC's third-year head coach Tyler Mickelson said. "Our ability to consistently compete week in and week out is what we're stressing and we look towards even more than wins and losses as we play a very challenging schedule against teams like Augusta. We will have one state’s top ten air attacks but will look to supplement the passing game with more physical play between the tackles. Defensively we will lean heavily on our two senior middle linebackers, Ben Kelly and Ryan Whittlinger. Sullivan Monnier and Jacob Wathke return as juniors who started all nine games as sophomores."

Top defenders for the Crickets were Kelly, Whittlinger and Wathke with six tackles each and Wathke forcing the critical fumble which help lead to victory over the Railers. Kelly and Bo Vollrath both had two sacks each and Caden Kramer had five tackles.

FC also returns letter-winners such as Elijah Matthews, Ben Sackett and Isaac Steinke. They lost Cameron Martzke, Andrew Anderson, Josh Luedtke, Eric Steinke, Bryce Kuula, Soren Johnson to graduation.

Last season severe weather forced a delay and reschedule 12 hours later of Augusta's win over Fall Creek. The same happened last week Friday, Aug. 19 at Pittsville. The Beavers led at halftime 20-14 but the game was suspended in the second half due to storms in the area. As a result, AHS piled on their team bus and went back home and not even 24 hours got back on the bus and went all the way back to Pittsville to finish the game.

And finish they did, outscoring the Panthers 14-6 in the second half to win 34-20. And its the way they did so that has AHS coaches confident 2022 will be another successful season for the Beavers on the gridiron.

Like FC, Augusta returns its starting quarterback senior Brennan King, who was 7-for-9 in the air for 178 yards and rushed for 37 yards, including two TDS of two and three yards. Next to him AHS has plenty of talented athletes who played key roles in 2021 starting backs Ben Dickinsen and Levi White, who led Augusta in total offense with 143 yards receiving on five catches and 99 yards rushing on 10 carries against Pittsville. He scored on touchdowns of 12 yards on the ground and four yards in the air and returned a kick-off 70 yards for a score which put the Beavers back in front in the third quarter after Pittsville scored to resume the game on Saturday. Alongside those two speedsters is power back Jackson Laxson and tight end Hunter Breaker.

Graduation losses were still significant, including starting linemen Hunter Kirchoff and Isaiah Waggoner along with skill players like Tyler Brixsen, Aiden Anderson, Marcus Livingston and Logan Stenson. If the rebuilt lines jell quickly for Augusta they'll certainly be able to keep build from where they left off last fall.

"We return a lot of talent but we also have players who are being thrown into the fire so to speak with not a lot of experience and that's what you get sometimes with small town football," AHS head coach Derek Boldt said. "Sometimes they play well and handle what's thrown at them and other times they don't so until a level of consistency is reached what we have and did from last year really won't matter."

Meanwhile both Eleva-Strum and Osseo-Fairchild want to starting building for the kind of success the Beavers and Crickets are enjoying right now.

Osseo-Fairchild has new head coach in Chad Tankovich who inherits a long losing streak. While the Thunder couldn't snap it in last week's opener at home vs. a very good Cumberland team, they showed the building process has begun in earnest.

Down 28-6 at halftime, O-F held Cumberland's high-powered offense to just one score in the second half, forced several turnovers and showed some fight even with the game decided in the last three minutes. They used a safety, a five-yard TD run by Tim Kostovich and 32-yard TD pass from quarterback Ashton Oliver to Kostovich after recovering an onside kick for a final score of 34-20.

Kostovich and Oliver are just some of the significant number of skill position players back for O-F in their multiple-set offense. Also back are sophomore Drake Swett, junior Lucas Frase, sophomore Tryggve Korger, and seniors Chase Insterness, Braeden Metzler, back Isaac Iverson, who scored the Thunder's first TD of the season on a short-yardage run in the second quarter. O-F rushed for a positive185 yards against Cumberland last week and will look to continue to jell on both sides of the ball despite their young line-up. Osseo-Fairchild has just seven seniors on its roster.

Lack of seniors will also be problem for Eleva-Strum as they graduated quite a few from last season's 1-8 squad. Gone are Wyatt Miland, Brady Monson, Sawyer Deetz, Owen Dunham, Carson Christenson, Justin Julson and Connor Iverson. There are just three on the Cardinal roster this season as they lost their opener at home to Glenwood City 35-0 last weekend.

E-S will try to build back better behind returning letter-winners: junior Alex Anderson, senior Braydn Olson, junior Jacob Olson, junior Ryan Julson, junior Carter Gunderson, senior Tayton Kirschenmann, sophomore Brennan Hanner, junior Cody Wolf and junior Javonny Stevens.

"We return a lot of skill position players and our overall numbers on the roster are up from 27 to 33," head coach Nick Stowell said. "We had a great offseason of strength and conditioning."


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