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Spring Valley hopes home schedule will offset graduation losses

A tackling drill taking place during a recent Spring Valley practice.

SPRING VALLEY - Because of fieldwork done to Syverson Park last year, Spring Valley High School's football team had to play all its home games at Williams Stadium on the campus of UW-Stout in Menomonie.

But the Cardinals had a veteran team which could handle the jarring change of not playing at their Syverson Park home.

Now the Redbirds will be back at Syverson for the upcoming 2014 season. In fact they'll be there for their first three ballgames and four of their first five contests and five of their first seven games. Such a schedule could help a much less experienced SVHS ballclub works its way into the season.

SV lost 1,500 yards of rushing and 19 touchdowns from last season's 6-4 squad with the departure of All Dunn-St. Croix Conference running back Tyler O'Keefe and quarterback Zach Newton to graduation. The Cards' also lost All D-SC lineman Chris Craft, All D-SC linebacker Trent Miller and all-conference kicker Bryan Bednarek as well along with lineman Kevin Fesenmaier, Tyler Berg and wide receiver James Hannack. 

But Valley returns 14 lettermen. They have five returning starters on offense and four on defense. Second-year head coach Ryan Kapping says the depth the program has been buidling up will finally display itself in light of significant graduation losses.

"We need to reload in the skill positions," Kapping said. "We've had good depth the past few seasons and fans will see the replacements for our departed seniors are more than capable of playing those positions."

This includes senior quarterback Remington Schneider. He saw some snaps on varsity as a sophomore and Kapping said he's more than ready to lead the team. He'll have two experienced fullbacks to hand the ball off to in senior Matt Fesenmaier and junior Jed Schlegel, who was third on the team in rushing with 470 yards and four touchdowns. The team's wingbacks and receivers are senior Hank Larson, junior Logan Newton and fellow junior Jake Rielly.

SV lost three seniors up front but do return senior All D-SC lineman Nick McDonald and junior Ethan Hofacker, who received honorable mention All D-SC.  Other linemen include seniors Butch Rabitoy, Mike Roesler, Tyler Larson, Jaden Sorenson and juniors Nic Kalmes, Ryan Berg and Sam Verges.

"We have capable leaders and players up front, we just need more consistency," Kapping said. "We should have better depth and hopefully our line will come together quickly. Those first few games will help us find the combinations which will work for us."

Schlegel is Spring Valley's leading tackler returning for the 2014 season. He'll be back at stong safety and if the Cards' find their man at middle linebacker early on it will make for a nice comb on defense along with returning linemen like McDonald and Hofacker. Kapping hopes Matt Fesenmaier can make that impact at linebacker. Also returning to his spot on defense in Schneider in the backfield.

"We have good talent, it's just a question of those players who have seen limited action on varsity, even as sophomores a year ago, can step up their play now that they have to play more often," Kapping said. "They're going to have to learn fast."

However, they will get the luxury of learning in their home classrooms and learning in league more spread out in terms of talent and experience.

"The (D-SC) is really wide open," Kapping said. "Graduation is going to take Glenwood City and Mondovi back to the back. Both Colfax and St. Croix Central have a lot of talent and good potential. Elk Mound and Boyceville both have solid squads. It could be everyone has aan equal chance to win it so we have to take advantage of this by being the team which develops faster than the rest."