Tri-County Area prep football teams begin 2021 season
The upheaval which COVID-19 caused the 2020-21 school year certainly trickled down to the high school football scene, especially for teams from the Tri-County area.
The season started late, games were either cancelled, postponed if outbreaks occurred on certain teams. Players had to be disciplined not only in their activities in school but also in practice and in games.
Some of those protocols for COVID-19 still remain, especially as the delta variant spreads locally. But as the 2021-22 school year begins, the season is starting when it normally starts and is starting with non-conference games and, fingers crossed, a full conference season and a full playoff series as well.
"We are so grateful to have the opportunity to get back to normal football like structures," Augusta head coach Derek Boldt said. "Football is a sport that relies on bonding together, and that is hard to do when you aren't allowed to be close to each other. Now that we have that back, we are meshing and coming together like we should. There is less to worry about, and hopefully we have a consistent schedule. It feels the way it should again."
The teams in the Tri-County struggled last season, winning no more than 1-2 games. But team with a chance to win much more this season, in what looks to be a wide open Dairyland Conference, is Augusta. The Beavers return most of their skill players including Brennan King - JR Quarterback, Ben Dickinsen - JR Running back, Tyler Brixen - SR Running back, Aiden Anderson - SR Tight End. Their only losses to graduation were Chase Stensen-Veenendall, Ethan Frank, Isaiah Hurst. Dicksen will be one of the top returning athletes in the league as he is a sectional track and field champion and state placewinner.
"I need to see our team come together as a family. We are starting to see that occur nearing the end of our fall camp" Boldt said. "I need to see them paying attention to the details. We know they are athletic, but we need to focus on the little things in order to be successful. That is what fall camp is all about, and we are seeing tremendous progress. If we can keep building on our techniques and tweaking things we already know, we will be in a great spot."
Fall Creek is approaching the season with some excitement as they snapped a long losing streak last season with a win over Neillsville. The Crickets lose Jack Monnier - RB & DL , Caleb VanDong - DB (2nd in the state in tackles), Brock Laube - QB, Nolan Martzke - OL, Logan Gilles - LB to graduation but return Cameron Martzke - Senior WR & DB, Leo Hagberg - Junior WR (led team in receiving), Ben Kelly - Junior LB (led under classmen in tackles), Ryan Whittlinger - Junior LB, Soren Johnson - Senior RB & DL (led under classmen in rushing yards and TFL), Ben Sackett - Junior C (started six games last season on OL).
"The kids are unbelievably excited, and they should be," FC head coach Tyler Mickelson said. "Last season we didn't get a real fall camp to install our new scheme, practices were short and distanced and it hurt us on the field. This season we're ready to play. I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish in 2020. We got seven games in, which is more than many other schools. We need to be mentally tough if we don't score first. We have an explosive offense this year and we need to believe that we can come from behind to win games."
Two teams, Osseo-Fairchild and Eleva-Strum, took hard graduation losses with many top players and starters departing. O-F lost Garrett Koxlien, Brice Shimon, Connor Dosher, Ben Jacobson, Dayne Vojtik, Garrett Loesel, Caden Carlson, Luke Fischer, Dawson Lyngen, Jarrett Wampole, Wyatt Ramseier, and Bo Prudlick and Central lost Nick Higley, Mitch Olson, Gabe Monson, Riley Cegielski and Quinton Schiefelbein.
The Thunder's top returnees include leading returning rusher Keyton Boettcher along with Kaden Moseley, Isaac Iverson, Brody Seefedlt, Cody Severson, Ashton Oliver, Chase Insteness, Zach Rosman and Hayden Nelson. Osseo-Fairchild will have to rebuild in a tough Cloverbelt Conference with teams like Eau Claire Regis, Durand, Mondovi and Elk Mound favored.
"Just getting better every rep we take during practice today, and then again tomorrow and then during games, that's what we're looking for." O-F head coach Eric Boettcher said.
Eleva-Strum's new head coach Nick Stowell is looking for the same thing from returnees: Wyatt Miland RB, Sawyer Deetz OL/DL, Brady Monson OL/LB, Justin Jullson RB/LB, Connor Iverson WR/DB and Alex Anderson WR/DB. How the Cardinals break in a new quarterback will go a long way to determining their success this season
"If we can continue to grow and be the best 'us' that we can be then we'll have a good season," Stowell said. "Having to go through what we did last season prepared us for this season, and it helps us to be thankful for every opportunity that we get to play with our brothers."