SIREN – Much like a football game, Siren’s season had two halves.
Combined they led the Dragons to a 7-3 overall record for the 2019 season, with a majority of the wins coming from the portion with a roster of full availability.
“When we were healthy, we were exactly on-point this season,” Siren coach Ryan Karsten said. “At full strength, we were fine. When we weren’t, our philosophy changed a bit.”
The necessity to adjust due to injuries may have been the primary obstacle blocking the Dragons from a 1st-place finish in the Lakeland-8 North. Though even with the injuries they went 5-1 in the conference for a runner-up spot to Shell Lake.
The Dragons had a 4-0 start with their primary players healthy, including two season-opening wins over Clayton and Prairie Farm in which they outscored the two teams by a combined 100-8 score. And after a 28-26 win over Northwood-Solon Springs, Siren earned another lopsided win over Mercer-Butternut to have an unblemished record entering its matchup with Luck.
“When we beat Northwood, it was a great test and it felt good because they beat us last year,” Karsten said. “We had a decent look to our offense through the first four games.”
Running back Cordell Fischer led the Dragons in the first four wins, getting a good start toward his 1,523 total rushing yards on the season. And if not for the needed alterations to the game plan due to injuries, Karsten said Fischer’s season total would have been even better.
“Fischer met all expectations this season,” Karsten said. “A lot of his yards were early in the season. If we could have stuck with the run the whole season and not needed to change philosophies with the injuries, he would have had over 2,000 yards.”
But eventually, quarterback Jordan Webster was added to the list of injured players and the lineup that led the Dragons to a 4-0 record was no longer intact.
“When Jordan couldn’t run, he was a standing target,” Karsten said. “He wasn’t mobile enough and was probably at about 70 percent.”
Siren soon fell to 4-2 with a one-point loss to Shell Lake that followed a loss at Luck. Fortunately for the Dragons, they were healthy enough to run the table for the remainder of the regular season.
They earned lopsided wins over Mellen, Winter-Birchwood and Washburn-Bayfield before a rematch with Northwood-Solon Springs to open postseason play. But the Dragons’ roster needed to be as healthy in the postseason game as it was in the regular season win over the Evergreens, in order to advance.
“We needed two or three weeks to be completely healthy,” Karsten said. “But beyond the injuries, we had 10 (pass) drops in that game, so it wasn’t all about the injuries.”
A 24-8 loss to Northwood-Solon Springs concluded Siren’s season, which may be proven to be at least somewhat easier than the 2020 is expected to be. The Dragons lose 10 seniors from their 2019 team, meaning nearly half of the 2020 roster will be different.
“We will take a step back (in 2020),” Karsten said. “Expectations will be pulled back and while we were hoping for a conference title this year, if we can get five or six wins (in 2020) I’ll be tickled pink.”
Included in the departing group of seniors is the quarterback, who finished with 1,783 yards passing and 20 touchdowns despite not being at 100 percent for the duration of the season. Webster’s primary target – Trevor Stanford – also played his final game for Siren after 73 receptions, 1,110 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. Since Fischer also is a senior, the Dragons will lose their top three options on offense.
The defensive side also will have significant losses, including leading tackler Gavyn Anton, who finished with 130 stops on the season. Twenty-two of his tackles were for loss.
Zach Richter, Mo Richter, Mitchell Daniels, Gage Holmes, Zach Doriott, Riley Churchhill, Russell Cook and Andy Gore also are among this year’s seniors for Siren.