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Beyond the Gridiron: Evergreens Passing Game Sprouts Strong Start

Eyewitness Sports
Updated: September 04, 2018 11:00 PM

"We graduated 8 last year and in eight-man that's a lot," said Northwood/Solon Springs head coach Matt Hager.

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Graduating a full starting lineup including a senior quarterback, there were key slots to be filled by younger players on the team.

"Our last quarterback, was a senior. He and I were pretty close, so it was like starting over," said senior wide receiver Hunter Phillips. "We worked hard in practice, worked hard in the summer and chemistry just came with it."

It didn't take long for junior quarterback Jeffrey Meling to find his place among the backfield.

"It all starts off the field and then translates on the field," said Meling about his chemistry with his teammates.

"I guess it was just like, I hope it works out. You never know," said Phillips. "At the beginning of the season there's a lot of questions, but he just came in and played great. He had confidence from day one," he added about Meling.

In three starts this season Meling has managed to ignite the air game for the Evergreens averaging over 220 passing yards per game and tallying 12 touchdowns. It doesn't hurt that his receiving targets include Phillips who stands at 6 foot 5 inches. Meling says it's guys like Phillips and his other receivers that make his job easy.

"Before practice we'll do routes and it's just whoever I'm looking for. I trust my receivers a lot, so I let them go make a play on the ball. I try to put it in the best spot that I can," said Meling.

"He's worked really hard at arm strength in terms of learning the playbook and making good decisions," added Hager. "He's really stepped up big time and we're happy with his progress so far."

The Evergreens' chemistry in the pass game has helped instill confidence in this team early on. In addition, sitting undefeated to start the season means that every week they're taking another step toward their goals with a new opportunity at the end of the season.

The Evergreens finished their season playing in the Wisconsin 8-man Jamboree. This year, they'll get to play in the playoffs and potentially snag a state title.

"It gives everyone so much more to play for and so much more to look forward to," said Phillips about having the playoff system this season.

"It's kind of that carrot at the end," said Hager. "Before, whether it was the Jamboree or whatever, it was cool, but now knowing that if you can string something together and really peak at the end of the season - you got a chance to do something pretty special."

Northwood/Solon Springs will host Shell Lake this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 P.M.

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