Strum, Augusta (WQOW) -- Eleva-Strum and Augusta finished at opposite ends of the Dairyland Conference last season, but both are optimistic heading into a new season.
Eleva-Strum took second in the conference last season, and advanced to the Division 7 playoffs for a third straight year. The Cardinals got to Level 2 before a tough overtime loss to Pepin/Alma. This year, there are many new names on the varsity roster, but head coach Chad Hanson says expectations haven't changed.
"The last three years we've built into a successful program and put in a lot of time in many different aspects to get the program built so we can compete year in and year out," Hanson says, "and we did graduate 17 seniors which is a lot to replace, but we have a lot of kids coming back that served as role players on the team last year and the year before, and now it's their turn to step up and shine. So the expectation is the same as it's been the last 3 years - make the playoffs and compete for the conference."
With the heavy graduation losses, the Cardinals have to find new leaders and new playmakers.
"I feel the work ethic is a lot better than last year, taking it more serious now that more guys have to step up," says Cardinals senior guard Wyatt Hillestad, "last year's seniors played since they were Sophomores, some as freshman, and we're taking from where they left off and go one step further."
"In the past years we've had a lot of athleticism, and now that we don't, we kinda have to rely on how well we work together," says Eleva-Strum senior guard Ethan Maug, "which, we're all really close, so I think that's going to help us out a lot. We know that we all need to work together for it to work out in the end."
Eleva-Strum opens the season on Thursday, August 17, when the Cardinals will visit Mondovi.
In Augusta, the Beavers are looking to keep closing the gap on the rest of the conference. Augusta's had low numbers in its recent senior classes, meaning that a lot of young guys have been on the field in recent years, but those players have stuck with the program.
"We're still going to be facing teams that have 13, 14, 15 seniors, and so we've got a deficiency in that area, but I'd really like to see our seniors have a successful year," says Beavers head coach Andy Jarzynski, "many of them have started since they were Sophomores, some as freshmen, and they took some poundings. And so now, they've finally got into some more adult style bodies and so you don't have the 140 pound kids going against the 225 pound kids. There's more parity physically at least."
Augusta has eight seniors on the roster, double the size of recent senior classes, so those guys say they're in a better position to be successful.
"This year we're keeping a lot of the same stuff so all of the returning guys have a very good idea of what we need to do," says Augusta senior left guard / defensive end Cordell Stanek, "we seem to be a lot more conditioned than years past, a lot stronger physically and mentally."
"We've had a lot of guys in the weight room in the summertime trying to get better and just a lot of effort this year," says Beavers senior offensive & defensive lineman Michael Livingston, "this year we're all senior dominant, we know what we need to do, and we're going to get out there and do it."
"We can't expect to come out and be competitive if we can't take care of things that we can absolutely control," says Jarzynski, "we talk to the kids all of the time about 'You take care of what you can take care of,' and it's amazing how lucky you end up being sometimes."
Augusta opens the season on Friday, August 18, when the Beavers will host Three Lakes/Phelps.