Football: Cardinals continue team-oriented, competitive play in loss to Regis
At the conclusion of the Spring Valley Cardinals' football season, the team didn't retreat to the locker room or greet their fans immediately. After head coach Ryan Kapping's post-game speech, the players remained huddled at the 30-yard line to take in their last moment of being all together on a football field.
"There are a lot of emotions going on right now," Spring Valley senior Santana Schlegel said after his team's 41-14 loss to the Regis Ramblers (11-0), "but it's been a lot of fun. I love every single one of them; they're like brothers to me."
The No. 4 Cardinals (7-4) were eliminated from the WIAA Division 6 playoffs on Friday, Oct. 26, by the undefeated, deepNo. 1 Ramblers who prior to Friday's game had held all of their opponents to less than 12 points.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Schlegel said. "We knew they ran a really hard offense to get to know in a week but that we just had to go out there and play as hard as we could."
According to Kapping, his players successfully carried out their game plan.
The Cardinals were able to force a turnover on downs in Regis' first drive of the night, but found themselves down 6-0 after Cade Osborn ran in a 1-yard touchdown in the final four minutes of the quarter. Osborn went on to reach the end zone five total times for the Ramblers, recording 79 rushing and 24 receiving yards.
Kapping tipped his hat to Osborn and his teammates, but credited his team for forcing the Ramblers to do some things they're not accustomed to.
"(Regis) had a ton of skill guys who were averaging eight yards or better per carry, but I thought we did a good job of not giving up the big scoring play," Kapping said. "They had some bigger runs, but we made them go to play action and that's what we wanted to do."
Osborn struck again in the first minute of the second quarter, but the Cardinals cut the deficit to 12-6 when Nate Fesenmaier ran in a 1-yard touchdown at the conclusion of Spring Valley's 17-play, 77-yard, 10:25 drive.
Osborn made it a two-possession game once again by recording a 14-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half, which was controlled by Regis' special teams. The Ramblers worst kick return of the first half was brought to their own 46-yard line, while the Cardinals were unable to start a drive past their own 23.
Nonetheless, Kapping never thought lack of confidence hindered his team in its final performance of the season.
"I think the kids responded really well," Kapping said. "We just told them to go out and compete this week, and that's what we wanted to see. I thought at times last year it felt like we didn't have 11 guys on the field who were competing. That's all I wanted this year: 11 guys on the field who always competed and gave us a chance."
Kapping credited this change in mentality to his six seniors, quarterback Aaron Borgerding and all of his players who continuously worked to better themselves.
"These guys have invested time in the weight room and have invested time in each other," Kapping said. "I was just really proud of how they played tonight."
The Cardinals found themselves down 41-6 with 4:32 left in the game after Osborn's fifth touchdown of the night, but managed to put eight more points on the board with a 4-yard touchdown run from senior Dylan Bosshart and a 2-point conversion pass caught by Josh Hannack who helped their team become Regis' highest-scoring opponent of the season.
Junior quarterback Borgerding led his team with 66 rushing yards, 39 passing yards (5-for-10) and 10 solo tackles, and echoed Kapping's comments about his team's confidence coming into their final game.
"The biggest thing with this team is we tend to get inside our own heads, but we came out firing," Borgerding said. "We knew what we had to do, but we just fell short. We fell to a really good Regis team. They're the best team we've played all year."
Borgerding said his team was underestimated prior to the 2018 season but that it was able to prove the naysayers wrong. The Cardinals' 2018 success was largely due to Borgerding's improvement in his second year of being the team's starting quarterback, but he's determined to take an even bigger stride in his final season with the Cardinals.
"It's going to have to be bigger, and I'm going to have to take a lot of people with me," Borgerding said about continuing to improve. "The offseason starts right now so we have to get going."
"Our lack of size will be something we look at again, and we'll have to prepare ourselves physically," Kapping said about next year's team. "We're losing six seniors and five of them were All-Conference football players. There are always these holes, but it's always a benefit to have a returning quarterback, especially one as good as Aaron."
But before thinking about the year to come, Borgerding and Kapping reflected on the six seniors their team will be without in 2019.
"They gave us everything they had for four years," Kapping said of Bosshart, Kenny Fesenmaier, Hannack, Lance McMurrin and Schlegel. "Whatever you asked them to do, they were going to do that for the team and it wasn't about themselves individually. It was always about the team with this group, and that made them really enjoyable to coach. They just wanted to win football games, and they would've done whatever it took to do that."
"It sucks. I've really had a great bond with them ... it just sucks," Borgerding said. "It's hard to explain, but we're losing a lot. They're great leaders on and off the field, and we're really going to miss them."
And that feeling was mutual as the senior class departed from the 30-yard line and concluded their time with the teammates they've helped develop into disciplined, team-oriented football players.
"It's really hard leaving these guys," Schlegel said. "I'm going to miss every single one of them. They're all really good players, and I'm looking forward to watching them next year."
The Ramblers will host the No. 2-seeded Grantsburg Pirates (11-0) on Friday, Nov. 2 in the third round of the WIAA Division 6 playoffs.