River Falls coach Ryan Scherz

River Falls head football coach Ryan Scherz addresses his team at the end of a six-team scrimmage in Osceola Friday, Aug. 12. The Wildcats are rejoining the Big Rivers Conference this season after two years in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

After spending the last two seasons as members of the Mississippi Valley Conference, and fresh off an MVC title a year ago, the River Falls football team is back in the Big Rivers Conference this year. But that hasn’t changed the way the Wildcats are preparing for the season.

“We try not to let those things really dictate how we how we prepare,” third-year head coach Ryan Scherz said. “We don't prepare any differently. It's going to certainly be a challenge and a difficult schedule. But that's what we want.”

River Falls played in the Big Rivers Conference from 1989-2019, winning back-to-back BRC titles in 2018 and 2019, before being moved to the Mississippi Valley Conference for the 2020 season as part of a statewide conference realignment plan. River Falls immediately appealed that decision, and after a truncated 2020 season due to Covid, won the MVC title in 2021 before returning to the BRC this season.

And there will be a lot of holes to fill from the team that went 7-0 in MVC play, 8-4 overall, and reached the second round of the WIAA playoffs last year. The Wildcats graduated MVC Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Vito Massa, MVC Defensive Player of the Year Eddie Loesch, and MVC Lineman of the Year Tanner Zepczyk as well as four-fifths of their starting offensive line. In all they lost 13 All-MVC players from last year’s team to graduation.

But that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare. First team All-MVC defensive back Wyatt Bell is back along with second team tight end Cade Myszewski, second team offensive lineman Maverick Kaminski and honorable mention running back Gavin Kohel.

Bell is on the Wisconsin Sports Network Jim Leonhard Award preseason watch list, which goes to the state’s top senior defensive back, and Kaminski is on the WSN Joe Thomas Award watch list for the state’s top offensive lineman while Myszewski is on the Tim Krumrie watch list for the state’s top defensive lineman.

Scherz said he liked what he saw from the Wildcats at last Friday’s scrimmage in Osceola

“We played a ton of guys,” he said. “Everybody played a lot. We saw some good things and we saw some stuff we need to work on. No different than any other scrimmage. The main thing was to stay healthy, and we did that.

He particularly liked the competition for the starting quarterback job between senior Dylan Brathol and junior Jacob Range.

“They both played really well,” he noted. “I was very happy with that. No stupid plays, and they executed our offense the way we need them to.”

Scherz said the Wildcats will face a stiff test in their season opener this Thursday, Aug. 18, at Wisconsin Rapids.

“What we've wanted to do here in this program was challenge ourselves, and Wisconsin Rapids will be a really, really stiff test right off the bat,” he said. “You’ll find out really fast what you need to do and where your guys are at.”

After Wisconsin Rapids the Wildcats will see former MVC foe Holmen at home Thursday, Aug. 25, before their Big Rivers Conference opener Friday, Sept. 2, at home against New Richmond.

Wildcats 2022 schedule

Aug. 18 Wisconsin Rapids A

Aug. 25 Holmen H

Sept. 2 New Richmond H

Sept. 9 Hudson A

Sept. 16 Eau Claire Memorial A

Sept. 23 Superior H

Sept. 30 Chippewa Falls A

Oct. 7 Menomonie H

Oct. 14 Eau Claire North A

All games 7 p.m.

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