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UW-River Falls football has recruited heavily in local area

New Richmond’s Brandon Powers (1) is part of the talented incoming group of freshmen for the UW-River Falls football team.

The UW-River Falls football team produced one of its best seasons in years in 2016.

The Falcon coaching staff has recruited the local area heavily in the off-season to make sure that progress continues.

Falcon head coach Matt Walker said the team has 55 recruits coming in this fall to join the team’s ranks. Among those recruits are 18 from western Wisconsin high schools.

“One of our goals when I got here was to win our backyard, to see the core of our team be local,” Walker said. 

Walker is entering his seventh season as the Falcons’ head coach. Last season was the Falcons’ best under Walker, finishing alone in fourth place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings.

Walker said the momentum built by the Falcons last season carried into the off-season, with more and more recruits recognizing that the Falcons are heading in a positive direction.

“This is as exciting time as we’ve had here in a long time,” Walker said. “It’s the most talented team we’ve had since I’ve been here. It’s the best recruiting class we’ve ever had since I’ve been here.”

The recruiting class consists mainly of incoming freshmen, along with a handful of transfer students. Walker said the transfer who is being counted upon to make an immediate impact is Somerset graduate Max Praschak, who played for the University of Wisconsin- Madison Badgers last fall.

“We graduated our mike linebacker,” Walker said. “(Praschak) helps us with an immediate need.”

Walker said this year’s recruiting class “got bigger than we had ever dreamed.” Upgraded athletic facilities at UW-River Falls have helped in the recruiting process.

The two high school conferences closest to River Falls, the Big Rivers Conference and the Middle Border Conference, both figure prominently in this year’s recruiting class. There are six former BRC players on the recruit list, including Jack Berg, Devon Daulton and Trevor Reimer of Hudson and Matt Wachtler of River Falls.

The recruiting class includes eight players from the MBC. Praschak represents Somerset, as do Charlie Belisle and Jackson Struemke. Incoming freshmen Tom McKinney and Brandon Powers arrivefrom New Richmond, as does transfer student Bailey Germain.

Don’t expect to see many of these freshmen immediately figure into the on-field plans for the Falcons. Walker said Praschak is the only recruit who is penciled in to see playing time at the beginning of the season.

“We’re to the point where we don’t have to rely on incoming freshmen,” Walker said. “Our numbers are up. Our talent is up. We don’t have an immediate need anywhere.”

The Falcons graduated several starters after the 2016 season, but Walker said there are players who have been waiting their turn to step up and compete for a starting job. Three of the seniors who graduated were from Somerset, defensive backs Robbie Flom and Tyler Ledbeter and offensive lineman Reggie Larson.

A count from the 2016 roster shows that the Falcons could have 17 players who attended high schools in the BRC or the MBC.

Area freshman recruits 

Charlie Belisle Somerset

Jack Berg Hudson

Jake Block Prescott

Mason Craker Eau Claire Memorial

Devon Daulton Hudson

Anthony Ebensperger Plum City

Tyler Henk St. Croix Falls

Graham Hershfield Luck

Griffin Jensen Baldwin-Woodville

Tom McKinney New Richmond

Brandon Powers New Richmond

Trevor Reimer Hudson

Daniel Reinfranck Eau Claire Memorial

Jackson Struemke Somerset

Shane Van Roo Mondovi

Matt Wachtler River Falls 

Transfer students 

Max Praschak Somerset

Bailey Germain New Richmond

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.
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