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Tonight it begins - High School Football 2013

The 2013 prep football season in Pierce County begins this evening yet only one of the county's four teams will have both their home and season opener together.

Ellsworth will begin the 2013 grid campaign from its home at Fuller-Symes Field when the Panthers take on Spooner. Kick-off for this game and all other prep contests will be at 7 p.m. This contest start's EHS head coach Clair Austin's third season on the Panther sideline. After making the playoffs in his first season at 5-5, the Panthers took a step back going 2-6 but lost several close games in the process.

The Rails, by contrast, have a new coach on the sidelines as Jeromie Voltz takes over for Josh Fizel, who now is the head coach at Eau Claire North. But the Railers do have back the quarterback who led the team to a win over Ellsworth last season, Gvain Anderson. He threw for over 1,500 yards. Spooner also brings back an experienced running back in Tanner Vik.

Another repeat season opener from last season pits Prescott vs. Barron, this year at Barron. The Cardinals won a close contest 27-22 last year over a playoff squad which helped last fall's Prescott team earn a playoff bid. They hope for a similar outcome for this year's PHS team.  Barron senior Jason Balts is their leading returning rusher and receiver, catching nearly 900 yards in receptions in 2012.

Another new head coach whose squad is opening on the road in Spring Valley's Ryan Kapping. Valley is at Unity this evening and the Cardinals will have to get used to playing away from the Valley. As the Syverson Park field is being fixed up, SV will play their "home" games at UW-Stout's William's Stadium in Menomonie this fall. Kapping considers these non-conference contests vs. Unity and next weekend vs. Elmwood/Plum City in providing SV with some momentum before greuling Dunn-St. Croix Conference schedule. Unlike Spring Valley, the Eagles were a playoff squad last season and finished with a 5-5 record.

Speaking of playoffs, two squads who made the WIAA playoff field last fall, Frederic and Elmwood/Plum City, square off in both team's opener in Frederic.  The Vikings were 8-2 last season and were second in the Lakeland Conference North. Both of their leading rushers are back in 2013, Pete Chenal and Jaryd Brayden. Braden also led Frederic in passing with over 400 yards. EPC begins year two of its co-op and hopes and experienced line, the return of veteran quarterback Levi Wolf and plenty of depth will lead to an improvement over a 3-6 record.