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NLS gears up for state football championship game

Area businesses, like Mel’s Sport Shop in Spicer, are rooting for the hometown team. The New London-Spicer Wildcat football team plays for the AAA championship game Saturday at the Metrodome. Tribune photo Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON — Fan buses, fire trucks and cheering supporters will help send off the New London-Spicer Wildcat football team Saturday as they head to the Metrodome for the Class AAA football state championship game.

The team takes on St. Croix Lutheran at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The NLS community will be sending the team out of town in style at around 8:15 a.m. when fans and players will gather outside the high school to sound the battle cry.

Fire trucks from New London and Spicer will escort the team bus through Main Street in New London, according to John Vraa, NLS activities director.

“People want to be part of the excitement,” Vraa said. “It adds a little bit of extra specialness to it.”

Signs posted throughout the community at stores, on residential lawns and on windshields of student cars have helped build the excitement of the Wildcats’ championship trip.

“There’s good, positive enthusiasm in our community. It’s a lot of fun to go through,” Vraa said.

The team won the state title in 2009 and they played in the state semis in 2008.

That past experience in the Dome has taught them a few things, Vraa said. Most importantly: the Dome is hot, muggy and noisy.

Since winning the semis two weeks ago, Vraa said the team has spent time practicing indoors wearing layers of sweatshirts to help prepare their bodies for playing in the Dome climate.

Being able to hear play calls in the roar of the Dome is another challenge, but it’s a welcome one because it means fans are cheering, Vraa said.

He said more than 1,000 NLS Wildcats fans attended the semi-final game, which he expects will be matched Saturday.

It sends a powerful message to the players and coaches.

“It’s overwhelming when you’re on the field and you look up,” Vraa said, adding that the players definitely “hear and feel” the crowd noise.

The Wildcats have never played St. Croix Lutheran, but the team will likely make for a formidable opponent. St. Croix Lutheran won the state title in 2011 and placed in 2006 and 2012.

“Certainly anybody can win,” said Vraa.

His main hope for the Wildcats is that “they play well.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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