THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Conference roll call: Of the area teams still alive as the state quarterfinals draw near, one (Sun Prairie) represents the Big Eight Conference, three (Waunakee, Monona Grove and Mount Horeb/Barneveld) hail from the Badger Conference, two (Lakeside Lutheran and Cambridge) come from the Capitol and one (Edgerton) carries the banner for the Rock Valley.
Seeking the next level: Coach Mike Klingbeil’s Cambridge Blue Jays are in the playoffs for the 25th season. They enter Friday’s home Division 6 quarterfinal against Racine Lutheran hoping to make it to the semifinals for the first time since the WIAA went to a 32-team bracket in 1996. Cambridge won the Division 5 title in its first-ever state trip in 1979 and took second in Division 6 in 1986. Cambridge has lost four times in the quarterfinals since 2008.
Looking ahead: On the left side of the Division 1 bracket, the potential exists for a real thriller next week. Lower-seeded Kimberly, the four-time defending state champ, travels to Bay Port on Friday for a quarterfinal. If the Papermakers can win, their semifinal opponent will be either Sun Prairie, in a rematch of last year’s Division 1 state final, or Fond du Lac, the team that ended Kimberly’s 70-game winning streak in this year’s opener.
AREA GAME OF THE WEEK
Monona Grove (11-0) at Waunakee (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Silver Eagles update: This is the showdown area football fans have been anticipating all season: Two long-standing powers with decades of regular-season and playoff success banging heads for a spot in the state semifinals. Coach Brandon Beckwith’s team averages 40.6 points on offense and 8.4 points on defense, winning each game by at least 14 points and the nine of the 10 others by 28 or more. The versatile, precision offense is led by Jordan Bishop (2,119 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, 60.7 percent completions, two interceptions), receiver Sam Hepp (27 catches, 827 yards, 12 yards) and running back Brady Killerlain (799 yards rushing, nine TDs). Trenton Herber leads the defense with 86 tackles.
Warriors update: After blowing away every opponent during the regular season, coach Pat Rice’s Warriors showed a hint of vulnerability last week, trailing DeForest for a good chunk of its second-round game before holding on for a 23-20 victory. Waunakee had to wipe out an early 14-0 deficit and trailed 20-16 entering the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jarrett Wulf throw for 180 yards last week, bringing his season total to 2,042 yards passing and 20 TDs. Sawyer Maly caught seven of Wulf’s completions for 172 yards and one score, giving him 1,110 yards receiving on the year. And Will Ross rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown to lift his season total to 697 yards and 17 TDs. Waunakee averages 45.6 points and 319.1 yards per game. The defense, which allows 4.9 points and 143.4 yards per game with six shutouts, is led by Blake McCurdy (65 tackles, 20 for loss), Reed Ryan (62 tackles, 31 for loss) and Jeb Frey (57 tackles, 12 for loss).
AREA GAMES TO WATCH
Sun Prairie (10-1) at Fond du Lac (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Sun Prairie update: Continually on the rise after a season-opening loss to Madison Memorial, last week the Cardinals rolled to a 31-13 win over the same Sussex Hamilton team that ousted Memorial the week before. Coach Brian Kaminski’s team is making its 15th consecutive playoff trip and 28th overall, and boasts an overall playoff record of 32-26. Quarterback Richie Gilles has thrown for 2,260 yards at a 59.2 percent completion rate, with 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions, and Cooper Nelson has shaken off a recent ankle injury to catch 57 throws for 1,000 yards and 13 scores. Running back Nathan Schauer has come on strong in the last few weeks, boosting his rushing totals to 975 yards and 15 touchdowns. Adam Rademacher leads the team with 75 tackles, and Maven Kretche has 65 stops, 15 for loss.
Fond du Lac update: The Cardinals stayed alive after surviving a 28-22 battle with Hartland Arrowhead. It was Fond du Lac’s toughest challenge since its 31-28 victory over Kimberly in Week 1. In the nine games in between, Fond du Lac averaged 48.3 points on offense and 7.6 points on defense. The Cardinals have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in running back Eben Sauer (1,392 yards, 14 TDs) and quarterback Carson Raddatz (1,058 yards rushing, 17 TDs, plus 692 yards passing with 10 more TDs). Zavier Ellis has added 776 yards rushing and 13 scores. Hunter Hansen leads the defense, producing almost twice as many stops as any of his teammates.
Mount Horeb/Barneveld (9-2) vs. Waukesha Catholic Memorial (10-1) at Carroll University, Waukesha, 7 p.m. Friday
Vikings update: The bitter taste of last year’s playoff meeting with the Crusaders — a 26-20 Vikings loss after a 13-13 halftime tie — lingers as motivation for this year’s rematch. New head coach Bret St. Arnauld has built a powerhouse of a spread gun offense, averaging 38 points and 425 yards per game. Quarterback Ethan Post has completed 131 of 201 passes for 1,989 yards and 24 touchdowns, building a 65.2 percent completion rate with only nine interceptions. And running back Malik Winston has been productive, with 947 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 153 carries. Tyler Denu leads the defense with 85 tackles, 11 for loss, with Josh Radke (79 tackles), Chase Markin (78) and Isiah Matthews (74) making their mark.
Crusaders update: Bill Young, Catholic Memorial’s head coach since 1978, is still growing strong despite running a program with a Division 3 enrollment in a Division 1 conference — the Classic 8. He’s already a member of the National High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. The Crusaders have earned two state championships and three runner-up finishes since joining the WIAA in 2000. Quarterback Luke Fox has thrown for 1,901 yards and 23 touchdowns, with only two interceptions. Top target Joe Sikma has 43 catches for 742 yards and 10 scores. Running back Tate Kopulos has rushed for 784 yards and 14 TDs and caught 33 passes for 614 more yards and eight scores. The Crusaders’ defense is dripping with talent, including sophomore J.C. Latham, a 6-foot-7, 270-pound defensive lineman who already holds multiple Big Ten scholarship offers, including one from Wisconsin. He ranks fourth on the team with 78 tackles, five sacks and three fumble recoveries. Junior linebacker Ben Kreul, another potential Division I recruit, leads the defense with 114 tackles.
Edgerton (10-1) at Lakeside Lutheran (10-1), 7 p.m. Friday
Crimson Tide update: What an offensive powerhouse coach Mike Gregory has built, earning the program’s first quarterfinal trip in the era of the 32-team bracket. Edgerton has scored 30 or more points in nine of its 11 games, averaging 36.9 points scored and 17.1 allowed per game. That includes last week’s 35-14 thumping of defending Division 4 state champion Lodi. Quarterback Jaden Johnson has directed the offense, passing for 1,060 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for 1.854 yards and 25 more scores. Devin Jorgenson has added 1,443 yards rushing and 19 TDs. Defensive leaders are Ben Wileman (86 tackles) and Hunter Reilly (84 tackles). Entering this year, Edgerton had gone 5-21 overall in the playoffs and 1-13 since 1995.
Warriors update: Coach Paul Bauer’s team has been steady and productive all season, save for a 33-14 loss to last year’s state runner-up, Lake Country Lutheran, in Week 3. Lakeside scored 35 or more points in its other regular-season games, and advanced to the quarterfinals for the third time in school history (the other times were 2011 and 2012). Casey Ponyicsanyi has rushed for 677 yards and quarterback Jack Monis has thrown for 568 yards and rushed for 549 more. Will DeNoyer leads the team with 60 tackles, six for loss.
Racine Lutheran (9-2) at Cambridge (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Crusaders update: Racine Lutheran has been forced to slug it out on the first two stops of its playoff trail, edging Pecatonica/Argyle, 20-19, and then controlling possession in a 49-14 rout of Mineral Point that saw Tyler Tenner run for 235 yards and two TDs and Jaylen Houston run for 215 yards and three scores. Tenner has 1,537 yards on the season for Crusaders team that has averaged 35.1 points per game while allowing 16.5. Quarterback Colton Craus (490 yards passing) doubles as the leading tackler with 121, including 12 for loss.
Blue Jays update: Cambridge has built an unbeaten season behind the running of Riley Olson (1,267 yards, 21 touchdowns) and the passing of Denver Evans (1,909 yards, 63.9 percent completions, 25 TDs). Rudy Hommen has 39 catches for 795 yards and 14 scores. The defensive leaders are Kaden Grieser (167 tackles, 15 for loss) and Bailey Furseth (112 stops). Aside from a 14-13 win over Belleville in Week 7, the Blue Jays have scored at least 21 points in each game and average 35.5 points on offense and 13.8 points on defense.
AROUND THE STATE
Champs clash: A rare meeting of defending state champions will take place on Friday in Lomira. Amherst, the defending Division 5 champion, will take on Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs, the defending Division 6 champ. Springs moved up this year to Division 5, based on enrollment.
Six champs alive: Including Amherst and Springs, six of last year’s seven state champions remain alive in the playoffs, with only Lodi (Division 4) bowing out. Kimberly (Division 1), Waunakee (Division 2), Rice Lake (Division 3) and Bangor (Division 7) are still in the hunt.
Spartans in the hunt: Sparta (6-5), in Division 3, remains in the playoffs despite being seeded No. 7 (out of eight) in its quadrant of the bracket. The Spartans, of the Mississippi Valley Conference, will get quite a test Friday at top-seeded Rice Lake (9-2).
Waukesha West advances: Also still in the chase is Division 2 quarterfinalist Waukesha West, which entered with a No. 6 seeding but beat the top two teams in the Southern Lakes Conference, Wilmot and Waterford. The Wolverines visit top-seeded Brookfield Central on Friday.
Top seeds surviving: Twenty-seven of the 28 No. 1-seeded teams (four per division) remain still alive. The only top seed to be knocked out was Almond-Bancroft in Division 7. The Eagles fell last week to fourth-seeded Pittsville, 17-7.