There is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Eau Claire North football team came close in the season’s second game, scored the most points since 2015 and piled up the most rushing yards in 13 years.
That’s only part of the story.
Looking ahead to next year, expected back are 30 juniors, around 50 sophomores along with the possibility of 70 freshmen joining the program.
“We expect good numbers back and that’s exciting,” second-year Coach Andy Jarzynski said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
The direction is to snap a 43-game losing streak dating back to the third game of the 2015 season.
The Huskies led La Crosse Logan in the fourth quarter before losing 26-20 but were simply outmanned in the team’s eight other games.
“You wonder if we would’ve gotten that game, what difference it might have made,” Jarzynski said.
But they did show the ability to line up with opponents and bang heads at the line of scrimmage on the attack. But they couldn’t match up defensively.
“It was a case of 15-year-old kids tackling 18-year olds,” Jarzynski said. “But we made progress in competitive ability as we got more kids in the weight room.
“We’d like to win some games, but everything happens at the right time.”
A bright spot for the Huskies was the ground game featuring senior Sam Barby as the workhorse.
He turned out three straight 100-yard games at mid-season and finished with 778 at a 5.3 clip, scoring seven touchdowns. It was the most yards for a North running back since Justin Diers gained 866 in 2004.
The hard-nosed Barby made almost all yards slamming into the line and raised his two-year total to 1,163 yards in 277 attempts, moving into the 11th spot on the school’s all-time list.
Charlie Wolter was another threat. Besides returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, he came on late in the season for a 100-yard game and finished with 376 at a 5.8 average. Austin Zainhofsky added 212 yards at a 9.2 clip.
Directing the attack was junior Kyle Greenlund who completed 29 of his 59 attempts for 289 yards in his first year at the position. His leading receiver was Matt Johnson, who caught 12 for 150 yards.
Leading the way up front on both sides of the ball was three-year starter Anthony Pogodzinski, the only player singled out among linemen and defenders by Jarzynski, although he did say he looks forward to Xavion Biesterveld to return as a three-year starter and Austin Zainhofsky to step in at running back.
Besides Greenlund, Wolter and Johnson, Jarzynski said “We’ve got a good-sized group coming back that saw a lot of action.”
The aim is turn around figures like being outscored 391-107 and outgained 357-225 in average yards –and, most importantly to win.
The Huskies lose only 11 seniors so there will be good competition for spots next season.
“A lot of observers on the outside have commented on another step taken and we hope to take another in our third year,” Jarzynski said.
“But we have to earn everything. We’ve had a great turnout of younger guys in the weight room and we want to build on that momentum.”