Rice Lake, Bloomer (WQOW) -- Rice Lake and Bloomer look to be factors in their respective conference races.
The Warriors have made three straight trips to the WIAA playoffs, including a Level 4 appearance in Division 3 last year. Rice Lake may be the smallest school in the Big Rivers, in terms of enrollment, but the Warriors tied for first two years ago, and tied for second last season. This year's group has plenty of speed and athleticism.
"We've got about 19 seniors," says Warriors head coach Dan Hill, "our numbers are down, the lower classes have a few less kids in it, but they're very, very competitive, practicing smart, that's going to be critical and not becoming complacent. We're going to fight for everything we've got every week, there's not a week off, so its trying to drive that into our kids' heads that nothing happens for free here."
Track standout Kenny Bednarek is the fastest of that group of seniors, that looks to lead Rice Lake to another winning season.
"I feel like with the returning starters, we've got a little bit more speed coming back, so that's going to be good," says Warriors senior quarterback/defensive back Sam Bliese, "we've got people who know the playbook better with more returning starters."
"We've got 18 seniors right here and we're all dedicated," says Warriors senior running back/linebacker Bill Brown, "we all want something we haven't gotten in awhile, and that's a state championship. and a BRC championship, so I'd say that's the big key and all of the coaches are pushing for it, every coach is on board and every player is on board."
"The senior leadership is a big piece of the puzzle there," says Hill, "we want to compete and fight for everything we get and the guys' goals are very high, and we've just got to fight complacency and keep getting better every day."
Rice Lake kicks off the season on Friday, August 18, when the Warriors travel to Medford.
Bloomer finished 4-3 in the Heart O'North last season, and 6-4 overall. The Blackhawks extended their streak of playoff appearances to thirteen. Bloomer does have good numbers out for football this year, although the Blackhawks did graduate the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball.
"Kids that haven't played varsity are going to have to you know, learn a little bit different things, and speed of the game I guess," says Blackhawks head coach John Post, ''we try to get a lot of reps, a lot of breakdown drills, and kids that with skills, especially when you get the pads on like today, you can start to see kids separate themselves. For the most part, just getting the overall team concept with the kids, and understanding their role."
Those players who are returning are helping the young guys adjust to varsity football.
"When you're basically run the same offense throughout the years, so you're constantly learning the offenses and defenses," says Bloomer senior offensive guard/defensive end Payton Dachel, "so all the young guys are constantly learning the systems, they're coming up into the varsity level with a little experience in that system."
"All the guys are doing really good," says Blackhawks senior fullback/linebacker Adam Malinowski, "we have a bunch of young guys who had to step in this season, which they're doing really good so far in practice."
"In the line we don't have a lot of depth," says Post, "we have big guys, [which] Bloomer seems to produce, but our numbers there could be better."
Bloomer begins the season on Friday, August 18, when the Blackhawks travel to Somerset.