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Prep football: Despite youth, Northwood/Solon Springs hopes to contend for another playoff berth

Northwood/Solon Springs has a tough early season schedule — including the opener at Shell Lake Aug. 26 — but coach Matt Hager thinks the team can overcome its inexperience.

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Brody Visger (40) is congratulated by his Northwood/Solon Springs’ teammates after running back a second-quarter interception for a touchdown during the 2021 season.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SOLON SPRINGS — For a football team that lost nearly half its starting lineup from last season, Northwood/Solon Springs coach Matt Hager has a surprisingly cheery outlook on the 2022 season.

N/SS, an eight-man football team, lost seven seniors from last year’s squad that went 5-4 and ended its season in the first round of the playoffs against eventual state runner-up Luck.

“We’re going to be inexperienced at a lot of positions, but knowing some of the other teams in our league, I’m still pretty optimistic about the season that we can make the playoffs again,” Hager said. “It’s all dependent on how quickly our guys pick up on things and how things go.”

Hager said offensively, NSS will try to split pretty evenly between passing and running plays, but this season they could be even more pass-heavy than in years past because of strong athletes on the outside and inexperience on the offensive line.

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Northwood/Solon Springs’ Jared Schultz (4) makes a catch over Frederic’s Dylan Steele (22) during a 2021 game in Minong. Schultz will be moving to play quarterback in 2022.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

Much of the responsibility for the passing game will fall on sophomore quarterback Jared Schultz. Schultz played wide receiver last season, though he has spent time as a quarterback at the middle school and junior varsity levels.

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“It’s going to be a little bit of a change for him, but he’s a great athlete and we are really expecting good things from him,” Hager said.

N/SS is also getting two new players in sophomore Cade Lisson and junior Abe Ahlberg, who both came out for football for the first time.

Lisson finished ninth in the 400-meter dash at the Wisconsin Division 3 state meet in June, and Hager is looking forward to taking advantage of that speed this fall. Lisson will play wide receiver and safety this season.

Ahlberg, the 2022 Superior Telegram Baseball All-Area Player of the Year, is slated to be a slot receiver and defensive back.

Northwood/Solon Springs sophomore Abe Ahlberg is this year's pick.

“I think they can be super versatile for us,” Hager said. “It will be really important for us to get the ball in space to those kinds of guys and let them use their athleticism.”

Lisson said he was asked to come out by an assistant coach during basketball season, and he’s hoping playing can help him improve his strength and conditioning for basketball and track.

“The biggest challenge was getting into a new sport after running track,” Lisson said. “I had to learn all the different plays and techniques and just see where I’m going to end up on the field because I really had no idea what I was going to do.”

Northwood/Solon Springs will be tested early with away games against Shell Lake and Siren in the first three weeks of the season and will do so without one of their strongest players. Running back and linebacker Brody Visger will miss the first few weeks of the season with an injury, but the junior should return this season, according to Hager.

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“We’re going to face some really good teams early in the season,” Hager said. “We know we might take our lumps early on with the inexperience, but as long we keep working toward that goal, we can be a really good team and peak towards playoff time.”

NSS will kick off its season at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at Shell Lake.

More from Jamey Malcomb
The three coaches graduated from the school in the early 1990s and ended up playing college football together at Valley City State in North Dakota.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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