The Chi-Hi football team heads north this Friday to Superior to face off with Superior in a Big Rivers Conference contest.
Both squads are looking to snap mini two-game losing skids as the Cardinals have been defeated by Rice Lake and Eau Claire Memorial to open league play and the Spartans have fell to Eau Claire Memorial and Hudson.
“This league is pretty darn good and it just doesn’t get easier this week with what we’ve been through the last two weeks,” Chi-Hi coach Chuck Raykovich said of facing the Spartans. “They’re very good, very athletic and (have) a lot of seniors.”
Superior is 11 points away from being unbeaten. The Spartans (2-2, 0-2) opened the season with nonconference wins over Merrill (20-10) and Somerset (62-50) before suffering one-score losses in conference play to the Old Abes (24-20) and Raiders (7-0).
The multidimensional Spartans have shown the ability to hold their own in shootouts as well as in defensive slugfests. Senior running back/linebacker Gunnar Gronski spearheads the Superior offensive attack. The first team All-Big Rivers Conference selection at running back a season ago ran for 126 yards and two scores against Somerset and 155 yards and a touchdown a week later against the Old Abes according to WisSports.net.
First team all-conference defensive back Max Plunkett and second team all-conference offensive lineman Sam Oosten also return for a Spartan team that like the Cardinals is shooting for its first conference win this week.
“They’re athletic and with what they do on offense and defense they need to be athletic and they are,” Raykovich said.
The Cardinals (1-3, 0-2) are coming off a competitive performance against the Old Abes in a 24-14 defeat. Chi-Hi held unbeaten Eau Claire Memorial to their season low in points scored (just as Superior did the week before) and was within three points late until a 2-yard Jack Brown touchdown run with 3:48 to go. Raykovich came away encouraged with his team’s performance from the game after opening the conference schedule with a 37-0 defeat at Rice Lake on Sept. 1.
“We were extremely proud of the boys after the game,” Raykovich said. “They fought and it was a 1,000-degree difference from the week before (against Rice Lake). It was like our team is back again and we were very happy. We know we have a lot of work to do yet and the boys know that and they’re not afraid to work in practice.”
Matt Pomietlo ran for 102 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown while the Cardinals threw for more yards (77) in the contest then they had in the first three games combined. Defensively Chi-Hi was able to limit Old Abe big plays with a pair of second-half turnovers in Chi-Hi territory leading to 10 Old Abe points.
Chi-Hi, Superior, River Falls and Eau Claire North are each 0-2 to start conference play while Hudson, Menomonie, Eau Claire Memorial and Rice Lake have each won their first two Big Rivers Conference games.
Chi-Hi owns a 17-15 advantage in the all-time series against the Spartans and the teams have split their last eight meetings overall. The first meeting between the two teams came just under 111 years ago when Superior scored a 67-0 win over Chi-Hi on Nov. 10, 1906.