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Fall Sports Preview: New Richmond football is young, but retains its lofty goals

Sophomore quarterback Joey Kidder (23) prepares to make a handoff as the Tigers work through variations of their base offense during a practice last week.1 / 3
A number of running back candidates are getting an opportunity to show their skills as the Tigers look for a new lead back for the 2017 season. Sophomore Cooper Strand (22) is one of the candidates2 / 3
Gang tackling like this is going to be a big part of the plan for the New Richmond football defense this season. 3 / 3

After graduating outstanding classes of seniors each of the past two seasons, the New Richmond Tiger football team will be a younger squad than in the past few seasons.

While the Tigers may be younger, it doesn’t mean their expectations are any lower in 2017.

“Everything we do will be to get ready for the playoffs, that’s our goal,” said fourth year Tiger coach Keith Badger. “We want to be ready for the playoffs, assuming we make the playoffs. We can be very good again.”

There are 16 seniors on the Tiger roster. While some of them have had to wait for their turns to play at the varsity level, their time has come. And there are several seniors who have already proven themselves, like returning All-Middle Border Conference players Blake Kretovics, Mikah Kier and Clayton Van Dyk. Kretovics was a first team All-MBC choice on both sides of the ball in 2016. Kier was a first team All-MBC quarterback and Van Dyk was honored at inside linebacker.

Badger said Kier’s emergence and progress all through the 2016 season set him up as a leader of the Tiger offense.

“Mikah will be such a tremendous value...his knowledge of the game, the offense, in his communication with (offensive coordinator Jason) Eckert. Mikah will lead in a very good way,” Badger said.

Sophomore Joey Kidder also showed some good things at quarterback when the Tigers scrimmaged at Chippewa Falls on Friday. The Tigers came through the scrimmage healthy and the coaches felt they played evenly with all three opponents at the scrimmage.

The Tigers have a number of openings to fill in the offense, but none is greater than the void left by the graduation of the team’s all-time leading rusher, Sam Altena. Badger said he isn’t looking to one player to fill that void. Kretovics, Noah Towberman, Cooper Strand and Cole Tappe are all in the mix to be ball carriers in the Tiger offense.

When Kretovics isn’t at running back, he’ll be back at one of the Tigers’ inside wide receiver positions, with Tappe likely to be at the other. Kretovics led the Tigers in most receiving statistics last year, including 25 catches, 419 yards receiving and six touchdowns.

Two juniors are the leaders for the outside receiver roles. Cole Effertz and Drew Momchilovich have both impressed the coaches with their play-making skills in this role.

The offensive line will be a mix of veterans and players who are getting the chance to move up into more significant roles. Leading the line will be senior tackle Evan Derrick. This will be his third year starting and the 330-pounder gives 

the Tigers power at one end of the line. The Tigers have more power at the other tackle, where 280-pound senior Josh Boyd has become a real technician of the position.

Charlie Tornio and Cole Steffen are stepping into the starting guard positions. The coaches see a good deal of potential in Tornio, a junior. Steffen, a senior, was the line’s super sub last year, filling in wherever there was a need. This year he should have a position all to his own.

Junior Nick Andersen has impressed the coaches in winning the center position. Senior Brett McGregor will serve as the line’s super sub this year, listed as the top option to step in anywhere there’s an injury. Badger said the inside trio of linemen has good speed, which will help as the team looks to establish its outside running game.

When the Tigers need a tight end, look for Towberman and junior Braeden Gefeke to plug into that role.

For this season’s defense, things flow around the versatility of Kretovics and the health of Van Dyk. Kretovics has been seeing practice time at inside and outside linebacker and at safety, where he was a major force last year. Kretovics will likely be at inside linebacker to start the season, due to a hand injury that has sidelined Van Dyk.

Strand and Jake Larson are two of the other leading contenders to play at inside linebacker. Christian Germain and Noah Kirchoff will see plenty of time at outside linebacker.

Senior Dylan Minke has stepped to the forefront as one of the starting cornerbacks, with the coaches liking his ability to open-field tackle. Momchilovich will likely handle the other corner, with Towberman and Effertz handling the safety positions. Talon Seckora will also be a contributor in the secondary.

Across the defensive front, it looks like there will be a rotation for the three spots. Boyd returns at the noseguard spot. Andersen, Tornio and Anders Lemire will also be regulars in the interior line rotation.

Special teams will again be in good hands, thanks to the contributions from the Tiger soccer team. Soccer players Colton Pahnke and Sean Flandrick joined the Tigers during the 2016 season and their kicking became a definite weapon in the weekly field position battle.

You might have noticed a lot of the same names playing at offense and defense. That’s one of the drawbacks of having a younger team. At the start of the season, Badger said he expected at least seven Tigers to be playing both ways. There are good numbers in the Tiger program, with 87 total players on the roster, but 33 of them are freshmen.

Badger said many of the same teams that have battled for the MBC title the past few seasons should be in the fray again this year. He pointed to 2016 state champion St. Croix Central and 2015 state champion Osceola as two of the Tigers’ main rivals for the crown, along with an improved Baldwin-Woodville team.

“There’s not a week off,” Badger said. “We play good football in the Middle Border, that’s why we like playing here.”

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

(715) 426-1051