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Somerset, St. Croix Central squads get an early jump on football season

A St. Croix Central running back struggles to gain more yardage while a Somerset defender tries to wrestle him to the ground during last Thursday's scrimmage between the two teams.1 / 3
Two of the veteran leaders of the St. Croix Central football team, quarterback Carl Moll and running back Cody Nyhagen, complete a handoff during the portion of the scrimmage where the Panthers worked on their offense.2 / 3
Somerset receiver Gaelin Elmore reaches out to haul in a pass during a drill to improve receiving skills during last week's scrimmages.3 / 3

The football programs at Somerset and St. Croix Central had amazing success last fall. Somerset advanced to the state championship game and St. Croix Central was 11-0 until they were defeated by Somerset in the sectional quarterfinal game in November.

Last year the two teams spent half of their allotted WIAA contact days scrimmaging against each other. After such success last year, both teams were anxious to renew the arrangement this summer.

The teams spent last week using their five summer contact days. They scrimmaged against each other on Tuesday and Thursday.

Somerset is among the top-ranked teams in the state heading into this fall's season. Central coach Tony DiSalvo said that's a main reason why he wants to scrimmage the Spartans.

"We needed to see what some guys would do against really good competition," DiSalvo said. "It's an eye-opener for some kids. They learn they have to be aggressive."

DiSalvo said scheduling the contact days in June is important for several reasons. He said the athletes are still in competitive shape from their spring sports. If there are injuries, it provides time to heal before practices begin in August.

Somerset coach Bruce Larson said his staff videotapes every play of the two scrimmage days.

"This gives us six weeks to figure things out," Larson said, saying the week is an early audition for players vying for open starting positions.

Larson said because teams can't scrimmage in the first two weeks of practice in August, it makes perfect sense to put players into contact situations now. Otherwise, players won't face contact until the week before the first game. This gives coaches a chance to see whether younger players are ready to handle to rigors of varsity ball.

Besides getting in two days of contact against an opponent, both teams put in their base offensive and defensive packages during the week. With both teams returning a majority of their starters from successful seasons, this involved getting the younger players up to speed with the veterans. It also allowed the coaches the chance to see whether older players could be moved into positions with more responsibility for this season.

"It puts the kids in a football frame of mind," Larson said of holding the contact days in June. "When we're done with camp, kids know (the season) isn't very far away."

The coaches do have different programs planned for the rest of the summer. Central will be having captains' practices three times a week in addition to their weight room routine. Somerset will not hold any captains' practices, electing to concentrate on their weight room regimen.

New Richmond's football team will be holding its contact days at the end of July. The first day of football practice for the 2012 season will be on August 7.