With summer fun coming to an end and kids of all ages beginning to go back to school, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel - FOOTBALL IS BACK!
More importantly, Sparta high school football is back!
For this season, it is a return to normalcy as the Spartans played an alternate spring season earlier this year.
In that spring season, the Spartans faced some unfamiliar foes and some familiar ones. The spring season was a short one with the Spartans only playing 6 games. At the end of the season, the Spartans finished 2-4.
“There were no pushover games in the spring. Were the teams we faced different than a normal season, yes they were, but every team we face in conference is a tough team.”, said head coach Adam Dow.
“We were only a couple overtime games away from going 4-2, but those couple games in a normal season could be the difference on making the playoffs or not.”
Sparta opened the season with an OT loss at G-E-T and then suffered an extra period defeat in its last home game of the year to Superior. Those two games, had they gone the way of the Spartans, could have led to a different feeling after the alt-fall experience.
Despite the 2-4 mark, Coach Dow believes that the spring season helped to develop some of the younger players on the team.
The Spartans had 16 seniors on the team during the spring. Those seniors have moved on and now the team comes into the 2021 season looking a little younger.
“Some of the younger guys weren’t ready to play physically fall of last year, but when the spring season came around and their bodies changed a whole lot and some were ready to see the field,” said Dow.
Offensively, the Spartans have been a run-heavy offense in the first three seasons of Adam Dow’s reign as head coach.
The philosophy is to run first and allow the ground game to help create openings for the pass game.
Senior running back Nick Kent was the leader of the running game in the spring. He managed to tally up 565 yards on 80 attempts. He also had 7 touchdowns which lead all offensive weapons on the team. However, Dow says that the team cannot be one dimensional and that they have athletes on the outside that can also make plays.
Players like Ty Klass moving to halfback/tight end, while younger ones like Carson Kelsey, Layton Ott and Dain Pitsenberg are all guys who will have expanded roles and extra opportunities to make plays on this Spartan team.
With former quarterback, Brett Stuessel, off to college, there will be a new face taking snaps for SHS.
Though the exact plan for who should lead the offense may change, for now, Dow seems content with the progress he’s witnessed from sophomore Thomas Laufenberg.
“Laufenberg took most of the snaps at our scrimmage,” said Dow. “I really like what I saw from him. He is an athletic kid and ready to learn. We have a few great guys in the QB room but Laufenberg has impressed me the most.”
If Laufenberg’s progress continues at a high rate, it may be a perfect compliment to a proven commodity with Kent at running back. Dow understands the value of balancing the offense and knows its the key to a number of victories - especially in the MVC.
“In high school football, if you can run for 200 yards and pass for 100, you are winning most games.”
GET A STOP
One major focus for Sparta this fall will be its defense. After allowing over 200 yards a game and just over 29 points a contest last spring, there’s plenty more to be desired from the red and gold on the other side of the ball.
Again, Dow is positive in what he’s seen from his defensive unit so far and is expecting a big turn around from his defense going into the season.
Even though there will be mostly new faces in on the defense, there are enough returning players to keep opponents honest.
“This isn’t a year where we are returning a lot of our starters,” Dow said.
“Honestly, it has been really fun coaching these kids and trying to figure out who wants to start at each positon. You really see the best come out of the kids when that is the case.”
At the linebacker level, Sparta returns Ty Klass. On the defensive line, Ty Lietzau and Hayden Brueggemen will be holding things down up front.
“Those are two solid guys who are going to be playing both ways for us. They did in it in the spring and are ready to do it again this fall,” added Dow.
Senior Chris Jacobs is returning to the cornerback position while also playing wide receiver on the offensive end.
WHO WILL STEP UP
With the loss of 16 seniors coming into this fall season, one of the biggest questions is, who are going to be the leaders on the team?
Head coach Adam Dow said, “We have a great core group of seniors in Hayden Brueggeman, Chris Jacobs, Nick Kent, Ty Klass and Ty Lietzau who are emerging as the leaders on our team.”
“These first couple weeks of practice leading up to the game are a time for them to figure out if they are a vocal leader or a leader who leads with his actions. We will learn that when they face the adversity come Friday.”
“I’m excited to see what this year has in store for them.”