Six starters on both sides of the ball to go with diversity and chemistry carry the Rice Lake Warriors into their football season opener Friday at Medford. It's the Warriors' first trip to Medford since the 2011 playoffs and a 26-8 loss to the Raiders. In the nonconference series of season openers between the two Division 3 teams, the Warriors defeated Medford last year, 20-14. Rice Lake has plenty of experience returning from a team that went 6-4 last year, rallying with four straight wins before a second round Division 2 playoff loss at Waupaca, 38-8. "I'm happy with how this team has come together. Its chemistry combined with experience should make us very competitive," said Dan Hill, starting his eighth season as head coach. The list of returning starters begins with senior Austin Roberts, an all-state linebacker whose next football stop is the University of Illinois. Roberts is not only one of the Warriors' returning starters, he also represents the squad's diversity and willingness to use some players on both sides of the ball. Roberts returns to his inside linebacker position on defense and tight end on offense. But on offense he will also see duty at fullback. That was shown immediately in Friday's scrimmage when the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder took a hand-off and rumbled into the end zone against Hayward. The diversity on offense continues in the backfield where 6-foot-4 senior Shawn Magee returns at quarterback. But the Warriors are stocked well at the position, which will allow Magee to split out at wide receiver while junior Erik Hovde takes the snap. Magee can run-838 rushing yards last season-while Hill terms Hovde an "excellent reader" with a good passing arm in the wishbone option. "That's a threat we can put into the formula each week," said Hill of using Magee at wide receiver and Roberts in the backfield. The third quarterback, also with running/passing ability, is sophomore Hunter Ashlin, who took snaps in Friday's scrimmage. Only one running back returns in senior Nick Webber, who settled for 110 yards on only 21 carries last season. The Warriors must replace fullback Colten Weinberger and his 979 yards rushing. That fullback spot goes to senior Tayler Watland (5-7, 180), with Roberts and senior Eric Butler (5-9, 170) also to see duty. "Watland has quickness and toughness, with a quick side step," said Hill. Besides Webber, the other halfbacks are senior Tanner Kleven, junior Scott Carr and sophomore Alain Pierre. Only Kleven had a handful of varsity carries last season. Pierre is a transfer from Superior. While the Warriors get the talented sophomore speedster Pierre, they also lose a sophomore, Isaiah Secrest, who was projected to start, said Hill. Secrest has moved to Barron. Three starters, all seniors, return to the offensive line in center Austin Angell (6-3, 205), left guard Jake Zoellick (6-0, 215) and left tackle Trapper Ward (6-5, 265). Angell and Ward were Big Rivers all-conference honorable mention, while Zoellick was a second-team pick on the defensive line, where he will also start. "Zoellick is just a hard-nosed kid with a monster work ethic," said Hill. Joining the line on the right side are two juniors, Hunter Harris (6-2, 225) at guard and Kyle Crotteau (6-2, 230) at tackle. Also in the offensive line mix are 190-pound junior Sam Hovde at center, 200-pound junior Corwin Deetz and 235-pound sophomore Jake Roberts, a brother of Austin's. The tight end spot belongs to Austin Roberts, but junior Chase Mickelson (6-2, 200) has impressed coaches and will see time there. The go-to wide receiver, in addition to when Magee splits out, is 6-foot-1 junior Noah Pierce, with another 6-2 junior, Tyler Hackel, a candidate. The trio totaled only three receptions in 2012 as graduated Harrison Widdes led the team with 11 catches. On defense the Warriors are set at inside linebacker with not only Austin Roberts returning but also senior Adam Schwab (5-9, 180), a "student of the game" and one of the defensive leaders. While Roberts set a team record with 93 solo tackles last season and added seven sacks, Schwab had 44 solo tackles and three sacks. Returning up front are Zoellick (29 solo tackles and four sacks) and senior Josh Tyler (5-8, 180). It's not a huge defensive line. Also vying for spots are Harris, Deetz, Jake Roberts and Sam Hovde, a 190-pound junior). Roberts at 235 pounds is the heaviest lineman. "We'll play a lot of guys up front. We're small, but the guys get to the ball quickly," said Hill. The balance of returning starters includes the secondary where seniors Eric Butler and Aaron Pelle return, though all-conference Colton Robach has graduated. Butler and Pelle each had a pair of picks in 2012. In the mix for the other secondary spots are senior Turner Swanson, returning from an injury, Carr, senior Teague Tomesh and Erik Hovde. The outside linebacker candidates include junior Tyler Fleming (5-9, 160) and sophomores Cole Sommerfeld (5-10, 210) and Parker Buckley (6-2, 195). Buckley is currently out with a high ankle sprain. The Warriors are solid in punting, with Magee and his 40-yard average returning. Place-kicking will also be handled by Magee, along with Erik Hovde and junior Brandon Khardian. The Warriors' 64-player roster is balanced with 19 seniors, 22 juniors and 23 sophomores. Following Friday's nonconference opener at Medford, the Warriors remain in nonleague play for their home opener Friday, Aug. 30, hosting New Richmond. The Big Rivers season starts Friday, Sept. 6, with the Warriors visiting Hudson, the defending champion. Hudson had 43 seniors on that title team but also 27 juniors, including three starters when the Raiders rallied for an early season win in Rice Lake, 24-21.