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The Chi-Hi football team opens up the Big Rivers Conference season with its first home game of the year when the Cardinals host unbeaten Menomonie on Friday evening at Dorais Field.

The Mustangs (2-0) come to town after a pair of impressive nonconference victories over Lake Mills and Holmen in the first two weeks.

“It’s the third extremely senior dominated, extremely strong team we’ve faced,” Chi-Hi coach Chuck Raykovich said of facing the Mustangs.

Menomonie has leaned on a potent ground game in its first two wins, rushing for 557 yards and 10 scores thus far. Will Ockler leads the team with 228 rushing yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns, according to WisSports.net. Devauntaye Parker adds 143 yards and four scores while Thomas Poplawski, Brooks Brewer and Tyler Werner have all found the end zone on the ground.

The Mustangs held two potent offenses in check, limiting Lake Mills to 10 points while holding Holmen to 16 points. The Vikings defeated Chi-Hi 27-7 in the season opener on Aug. 23.

“They have everybody back on their defense and their defense was pretty good last year,” Raykovich said of Menomonie.

The Cardinals (0-2) are coming off a 42-0 defeat at Medford last Friday. The Raiders scored two touchdowns in the first and second quarters to grab a lead it would not relinquish.

“It’s easy to say the score doesn’t tell the truth but the fact of the matter is we saw a lot of good things,” Raykovich said. “The game should’ve been closer than it was but we just haven’t learned yet from our mistakes in game one. We’ve got to catch up on that real quick.”

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Medford running back Ean Wilson ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns while the Raiders also blocked a punt and recovered it for a score.

“In that Medford game, every one of their scores was a breakdown of maybe one player and on offense same thing,” Raykovich said. “We’ve scored only one touchdown in two games and there are so many opportunities where small plays should’ve been bigger plays if people are sticking with their block, going with the right guy, etc., etc.

“These are small things that turn into big things and when you have a young, inexperienced team there’s growing pains and that’s what we’re going through right now.”

Chi-Hi’s young roster will look to continuing growing and coming off age, a challenging proposition as the team starts league play against one of the Big Rivers Conference’s three remaining unbeaten teams.

“They’ve got to compete. They’ve got to take what we’ve shown them on film and what we’ve shown them on the field and they’ve got to put it to use,” Raykovich said. “Win, lose or draw they’ve got to do what they’ve been coached up (to do) and not ad lib and go half speed, etc., etc.”

Menomonie leads the all-time series with Chi-Hi by a 54-47-2 margin based on Chippewa Herald records. The Mustangs have won the last three meetings with the Cardinals and 10 of the last 11 overall. Chi-Hi’s one victory during that stretch was a big one, a 17-6 win in the third round of the 2015 Division 2 playoffs.

The all-time series dates back to the final game of Chi-Hi’s first season as a program, a contest Menomonie won 6-4 on Nov. 16, 1895.

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Chippewa Herald sports editor

Chippewa Herald Sports Editor