Cardinals ready for next level in playoffsThe Spring Valley High School football team moves up to the next level in the WIAA Football Playoffs this evening as they face Eau Claire Regis at historic Carson Park in Eau Claire.
The Spring Valley High School football team moves up to the next level in the WIAA Football Playoffs this evening as they face Eau Claire Regis at historic Carson Park in Eau Claire.
The one thing SVHS head coach Matt Ducklow noticed right away when analyzing the Ramblers' roster how many names he recognized from the track and field season last spring.
"They have a lot of kids who ran in the sectionals in track," Ducklow said. "And they were sprinters and jumpers."
Athletic defines Regis's 10-1 ballclub. Valley matches-up size with Eau Claire, far more than they did against Marathon (although fat good it did the Red Raiders). But Regis has speed to burn led by leading ground gainer 6-2, 180-pound senior Bobby Mickelson, who has 848 yards rushing on just 110 carries averaging nearly eight yards a carry. Regis has five ballplayers with over 200 yards rushing and they all average over seven yards per carry. Junior running back Chris Pica-Anderson at 5-7 140-pounds has nearly 600 yards rushing and 5-11, 157-pound senior running back Sam Loftsgaarden averages over 11.3 yards a carry on 20 carries for 226 yards. Mickelson also leads the team in touchdowns with 11 while Pica-Anderson has seven and 5-8, 155-pound junior running back Hayden Frey had nearly 500 yards on 56 carries and six scores.
The last time SV, 9-2 overall, played a team as fast as Regis was against St. Croix Central and the outcome wasn't pleasant. The Cardinals gave up several big plays against the Panthers' speed backs Cody Nyhagen and Carl Moll on their way to a 20-7 loss.
"They rotate in 4-5 backs in multiple sets and use their speed to make big plays," Ducklow said. "We have to contain them. We have to contain the edges on defense and control the middle and force them into third and long situations."
Controlling the middle with power running led by the Cards' top ground gainer Steve Von Haden will be crucial in controlling field position, controlling the clock and controlling the game's tempo by keeping Regis's high-powered offense off the field.
Mickelson is also one of Regis's top receivers with seven catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Junior tight end, 6-3, 210-pound Nick Stanke, leads the team in receptions with 11 for 261 yards and four TDs. Throwing to them is 5-11, 185-pound senior quarterback Cole Stegall. He's a very good 39-for-65 passing for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Since joining the WIAA Eau Claire Regis has had just one losing season. This level of the playoffs are old hat for the Ramblers but a new ground for Spring Valley as it's their first Level 3 game since 2003. They'll be playing on big stage in a big town on artificial turf
"Our kids have handled the playoff experience very well," Ducklow said. "Don't forget we've played on artificial turf already in Stout's big stadium and when you have a team as experienced as mature as we do, you don't have to worry about them being nervous or unsettled by new surroundings. They've approached each game the same good and confident attitude in each week of practice so I'm in turn confident we'll be more than ready to play and ready for challenge of a Level 3 game."
Kick-off is at 7 p.m. The winner will take on either Coleman or Shicoton who play tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Coleman for a Level 4 match-up next weekend, the final step for the state finals.