After his team’s 41-14, season-ending loss to the Regis Ramblers last fall, Aaron Borgerding didn’t waste any time before thinking about the 2019 season in which he’d return as the Spring Valley Cardinals’ starting quarterback with a presumed, immense role.
“It’s going to have to be bigger, and I’m going to have to take a lot of people with me,” Borgerding said, when asked about his role as a senior quarterback. “The offseason starts right now so we have to get going.”
As the Cardinals look to exceed their 2018 accomplishments, they’ll hold onto the attitude that Borgerding voiced back in October. It’s the mentality that was instilled in him when he carried the Cardinals’ offense as a sophomore, starting quarterback back in 2017: every Spring Valley player’s role is important.
The class of 2019
The 2019 Cardinals will be without six seniors from the 2018 season — Dylan Bosshart, Kenny Fesenmaier, Josh Hannack, Dakota Kerr, Lance McMurrin and Santana Schlegel — who were not only reliable two-way players but who also reminded their teammates to lean on their program’s fundamental principles of teamwork, unselfishness and grit.
“We will miss their on field contributions greatly but we will also miss the leadership and closeness of the group,” Kapping said. “They did a great job of putting the team before themselves and built a really great team culture.”
The class of 2018’s leadership wasn’t lost on this season’s co-captains, seniors Aaron Borgerding and Travis Marty along with junior Nate Fesenmaier.
“They brought tremendous amounts of toughness to the team,” Borgerding said. “They would grind and work harder than anyone.”
“The thing I’ll miss most about the seniors is the relationships I had with all of them,” Fesenmaier said. “The seniors brought the whole team together by helping us out but also pushing us to our limits.”
Bosshart led last year’s squad in receiving yards (311), Schlegel claimed a team-high 104 total tackles, and the entire class of 2019 helped guide the Cardinals to a 7-4 record, a share of the 2018 Dunn-St. Croix Conference title and a second-round playoff berth where the Cardinals ultimately fell to the Regis Ramblers — for the second year in a row.
All in all, Kapping and his captains were pleased with last season. “We had a few hiccups early in the season, but I thought that we improved throughout the year and were playing our best football at the end of the year.”
“Last season was a step in the right direction for our program’s culture,” Borgerding said. “We got back to outworking teams and fighting for everything on every down.”
But the Cardinals wouldn’t be the Cardinals if they entered this season clinging on to complacency and what went well last year.
“I’m satisfied with the way it ended, but that’s the past,” Marty said. “I feel we are hungrier to achieve more this season.”
A corresponding offseason
The Cardinals’ offseason training attendance aligns with Marty’s description of his team’s mentality.
Borgerding, a four-year member of the varsity team, claims offseason numbers reached new heights this summer.
“I’m very impressed with this offseason,” Borgerding said. “It’s been the best number of kids showing up to workouts since I’ve been in high school.”
“I definitely think we have a lot of athletes who are capable of impacting the team,” Fesenmaier added.
Kapping was pleased with this past summer’s weight room participation, which featured four different classes that attracted large numbers every day.
This, again, goes back to the Cardinals’ culture.
“One of the things that we really work hard to do is to create a great team culture and an environment that kids want to be a part of,” Kapping said. “Our captains do a great job of taking ownership and injecting fun, competitive activities into the routine on days that are not a typical weight room day. We had guys showing up at 6:45 a.m. on off days to take part in captain-led activities.”
Their summer dedication suggests that the Cardinals are eyeing another conference title and are committed to surpassing 2018’s second-round playoff elimination, but what will need to happen in order for the Cardinals’ admirable offseason to translate into a respectable 2019 record?
Despite their impressive offseason weight room attendance, the Cardinals will once again be out-sized against teams such as Elk Mound and Mondovi who will compete in the DSC for one final season. The Cardinals will turn to playing sound, assignment football to compensate for their size disadvantage, and having experienced skill position players will be a plus.
Borgerding, who was named to the DSC’s All-Conference First Team last season, went 39-for-84 in pass attempts in his second season as the Cardinals’ starting quarterback and recorded 585 passing yards along with six passing touchdowns. He showcased his multidimensional game by recording the conference’s third-best rushing yard total of 845 yards, and he added 12 rushing touchdowns to his junior-season stat line.
Fesenmaier was a close second behind Borgerding in rushing yards last season. The sophomore running back tallied up 789 rushing yards, averaged 4.5 yards per carry and found paydirt 14 times to lead the 2018 squad in rushing touchdowns.
But Borgerding and Fesenmaier aren’t concerned about individual stats this season.
“We don’t worry about individual goals because football is a team sport,” Fesenmaier said, “and if you’re selfish, you won’t work as a team.”
Instead, they’re looking forward to encouraging their underclassmen — especially new linemen and receivers — to identify what’s needed from them, accept their roles and buy into the preserved, team-first culture.
“We are pushing each other even if it is a freshman or a senior, because we know that is going to pay off in the long run,” Fesenmaier said.
That’s the culture that allowed Borgerding and Fesenmaier to flourish as underclassmen, and it’s the same one they hope to emulate in the upcoming season.