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Spring Valley looks to grow into winning for 2013 season

Spring Valley running back Tyler O'Keefe is one of 18 returning lettermen playing for the Cardinals this prep football season.

SPRING VALLEY - One of the closest games the Spring Valley High School football team played last season was against Glenwood City.

That's defending state champion Glenwood City. 

The Hilltoppers won the Dunn-St. Croix Conference opener in 2012 by a 19-7 score and according to new SV head coach Ryan Kapping, the difference between the two teams at that moment in time wasn't that great.

"They used that game to springboard themselves to becoming state champions," Kapping said. "The jelled together a team and their coaching staff did a remarkable job bringing them together and developing them into champions from there. But they only barely beat us and no one watching then would have predicted they would go on to win a state title. They just got better week after week."

In other words, the margin of difference between teams in high school football sometimes is so small Spring Valley could go on a similar title run if everything comes together and stays together as it did for the Hilltoppers. For a Cardinal squad which finished 2-7 last season, 1-5 in the D-SC, it's a notion which provides a lot of hope for 2013.

"They (Glenwood City) developed better than we did," Kapping said. "They started playing more consistent and played with more confidence. Remember the year before they were 1-8 and we beat them 40-8. Our ballclub didn't play as consistent last season and even when we did play well we still didn't always win. Well, they were the same way in 2011 and just like that they turned things around. The same can happen for us."

Spring Valley has 18 returning lettermen but just six returning starters on each side of the ball. The Cards' lost many of their top players from last season, including All D-SC gridders like Gabe Verges, Troy Rudesill and Jake Ninneman along with leading rusher Jaron Turner, lineman Kienan Sieg and Logan Satona.

Part of what has Kapping confident the Cardinals will at least be improved from last year is more experienced depth, especially at the skill positions. This includes quarterback where not just senior Zach Newton returns but also junior Remington Schneider, who also has taken varsity snaps.

Newton threw for nearly 300 yards last season and two touchdowns. He was second on the team in rushing with 534 yards on 101 carries and seven TD's. Newton also had 123 yards in receptions.

"Definitely it's helpful to have a quarterback experienced in the system," Kapping said. "We have a good situation in that we can go either way and still make sure we can have the one not playing QB still on the field and making sure they get the ball because they are both good athletes."

There's a deep pool of athletes for the skill positions on offense and defense. It includes senior letterman Tyler O'Keefe, who rushed for over 100 yards last season, along with juniors Hank Larson and Matt Fesenmaier and sophomores Jed Schlegel, Jake Rielly and Logan Newton. Also back is Al D-SC kicker Bryan Bednarek, a senior who is also a wide receiver and defensive end. 

"We comfortable giving the ball to any of these players," Kapping said. "They will allow us to use a lot of different looks and formations on offense and defense too."

The linebacker corps look set with returning letterman senior Trent Miller joining up with O'Keefe and Fesenmaier. Schlegel looks set to play safety.

"If all goes well and we avoid injuries we could be in a position to have some of our players go just one way, either offense or defense," Kapping said. "At this level of high school football, the more one-way players you have the more advantage you gain."

Yet to do this the Redbirds are going to have develop fast up front. Valley took its biggest graduation losses on the line in Rudesill, Sieg and Ninneman and the defensive line is still unsettled. SV does return three starters on the line on offense in senior letter winners Chris Craft (honorable mention All D-SC); Miller, senior letterman Nick McDonald along with junior Kevin Fesenmaier. Senior lettermen Sean Ortner and Tyler Berg and junior Mike Roesler are the top candidates for the defensive line along with a mix of the Cardinals' younger players.

"Over half the team will be freshman-sophomore but we have a really good sophomore class whose members will be competing for playing time," Kapping said. "That's what it means to have better depth."

Kapping sees GC as the team to beat in the Dunn-St. Croix with Mondovi and Elk Mound 2-3. The league's improvement visa-a-vie their immediate nearby small and medium-sized competition means Spring Valley will have to play more competitive and intense football. Even if it doesn't mean a league title, it could certainly pay off in the playoffs as it did for the 'Toppers in Division 7.

"We look to get better each week and we hope we can use our first two non-conference games (Unity, Elmwood/Plum City) to build our confidence before we get into our league schedule." Kapping said.

Spring Valley will play the home portion of its schedule this season at Williams Stadium on the campus of UW-Stout in Menomonie, beginning with Colfax on Sept. 13. The Cardinals' Homecoming game is vs. Boyceville on Sept. 27. The SV season opener is next week at Unity.