SPRING VALLEY — When the Spring Valley Cardinals take the field Friday night at Carson Park, they’re going to have a chance to punch their ticket to Level 4 of the state playoffs for the first time since 2001.
That alone should be plenty of motivation after six straight playoffs ending in late October, but this game is going to be extra special for this Cardinals group.
“It’s definitely an important game for us,” senior running back Brenden Williams said.
The Cardinals will have a chance this week to erase two years of heartache with a win over Regis, the team that has bounced Spring Valley from the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
“We’ve wanted to get our revenge so bad,” Williams added.
Last year, the Ramblers entered the Level 2 game as the top-seeded favorites and showed off why, taking down the Cardinals 41-14.
“They were as good as anyone in the state,” Spring Valley coach Ryan Kapping said. “We just weren’t physically as good as they were.”
It was two years ago that really hurt for the second-seeded Cardinals, who were upset in Level 2 by the No. 3-seeded Ramblers 25-6. Spring Valley entered that matchup with just one loss, but struggled to slow down the runners like Andrew Root and Nati Raehl.
“They made a few more plays than us,” Kapping said. “They wore us down. They just have such tremendous depth and it’s hard to compete with the number of athletes they have.”
This year the teams are facing off a round later than in the past, with Regis entering as the No. 1 seed and Spring Valley the No. 2. This Cardinals team is different from those in the past because of its chemistry, according to Kapping. They’re not the most talented group Kapping said he’s ever had, but what they lack in skill they make up for with intangibles.
“I feel like we always play for each other,” junior Michael Bauer said.
It’s allowed them to go 10-1 this season, with the lone hiccup coming on a last-second 32-29 loss to undefeated Dunn-St. Croix champion Mondovi on Oct. 11.
Now the Cardinals are planning to bring a winning attitude into the Regis game, something Williams said should make a big difference this time around.
“If we go into this game thinking we can win, I know that we can come out on top,” Williams said. “I think in past years we’ve had kids that didn’t think they could win and that definitely shows on the field.”
This year, the Cardinals are hoping things will be different. If they’re going to pull off the upset of the undefeated Ramblers, they’re going to need a big game out of the Dunn-St. Croix’s offensive and defensive player of the year, Aaron Borgerding. The senior signal-caller threw for six touchdowns and 610 yards this year with an astonishing 21 touchdowns on the ground and 1,086 rushing yards. He’ll likely combine with Williams and Nathan Fesenmaier to carry the bulk of the Cardinals’ offensive load on Friday.
Defensively, Spring Valley is going to have to stay composed. The Ramblers, champions of the Cloverbelt Conference, run a complex rushing attack and rarely make mistakes.
“They don’t play outside of themselves,” Kapping said. “They’re just a very strong football team.”
With the game plan drawn up, all that’s left to do is mentally prepare for what’s expected to be a close battle between two local powers.
“I think if we have the right mindset, we have speed on them and we can come out on top,” Williams said.