Before we get to this week's game of the week, make sure to check out our recaps from last week:
Additionally, make sure you get your free-to-download copy of the Madison-Area High School Football Preview, packed with 150 pages and 70,000 words previewing the action on Friday nights!
Here's a rundown of this week's high school sports content:
🏈 LISTEN 🔊: Madison West Football Coach Brad Murphy is in the midst of a difficult part of the Big 8 schedule, with Verona this Friday
🏈 LISTEN 🔊: Abundant Life/St. Ambrose Football Coach Chad Henning
🏆 LISTEN 🔊: Waunakee Girl's Volleyball Coach Anne Denkert has the Warriors at 19-0 already as they work through conference play.
⚽ LISTEN 🔊: Wisconsin Heights Boy's Soccer Coach Bartlett Holmes gears up the Vanguards for a three-game road trip
⭐ Big Five Games - Week 4, 2017 ⭐
1. Badger South: Milton (3-0) at Stoughton (3-0)
2. Rock Valley: Clinton (3-0) at East Troy (3-0)
3. Badger North: Waunakee (3-0) at DeForest (2-1)
4. Capitol (Crossover): Belleville (3-0) at Lake Mills (3-0)
5. Big 8: Madison West (2-1) at Verona (3-0)
Edgewood (0-3, 0-1) at #9/#9 Monona Grove (3-0, 1-0) - 6:45pm Friday
Last Year: Both coaches repeatedly brought up the two-point conversion at the end of the game. Coach Beckwith said the game was decided by six inches. Monona Grove held on for a wild 42-41 victory that saw 11 lead changes or ties, stopping Fred Richards on a two-point conversion that would have won the game for Edgewood in Week 8.
Last Week: Monona Grove turned on the jets in the second half en route to a big 49-13 victory over Oregon in their Badger South opener. Jackson Thomsen picked up 275 yards rushing and four scores, while Alec Ogden accounted for three touchdowns. Edgewood was drubbed by Brady Schipper (255 yards, four touchdowns) and the Stoughton Vikings in their own conference opener, 37-0.
Coaches' Corner: Edgewood is dealing with some injuries and will be short-handed again this week against one of the other top teams in the Badger South. After getting only 102 yards--54 of them on one play--the Crusaders will be looking for more consistency offensively, attempting runs on roughly 60% of their plays last week. Monona Grove is widely regarded as an air-it-out team, yet the Silver Eagles had a thousand-yard rusher last year who is almost halfway to that mark in 2017 already (Thomsen). Monona Grove is only throwing 43% of the time on offense in 2017.
Three Keys: 1. How will the young skill position players for Edgewood handle the seniors across the board for Monona Grove? The Crusaders came into the season working hard at finding solutions to those spots, and they have a tall task in front of them this week. 2. The same experience contrast can be seen along the lines, where Edgewood returns some notable players with experience up front, while Monona Grove had to completely rebuild their lines. 3. You get the sense that each coach wants a "short" game, meaning more runs to keep the clock moving. Last year, Edgewood ran 68 plays for 610 total yards, while Monona Grove ran only 52 plays for 467 yards. For Edgewood, they averaged nearly 20 yards per pass while running 48 times versus those 20 passes. That will be the goal again for the Crusaders.
Five Players To Watch: Monona Grove senior running back Jackson Thomsen is probably giddy at the prospect of facing the Crusaders' defense, after gaining 98 yards a season ago against Edgewood and 275 yards last week against Oregon... Thomsen is somewhat under-the-radar, despite eight touchdowns rushing, compared to the exploits of Monona Grove senior quarterback Alec Ogden, who has racked up 891 yards passing in three games this season with eight touchdowns against only one interception. Ogden has also rushed for 156 yards and three scores... Silver Eagles' junior middle linebacker Trenton Herber leads the team in tackles with 30, doubling up the second-best in the category on Monona Grove's roster. Herber also has two tackles for a loss and a sack... Edgewood junior running back Greg Zentmeyer will carry the load for the Crusaders, having toted the rock 37 times in the first three games. Zentmeyer also is second on the team in receptions... Edgewood senior Jack McNeil is listed as the team's QB-1 and also as the starting tight end, where he made all-conference a season ago. McNeil, back from injury, played in his first game last week. He also was an all-conference defensive lineman a season ago, but is not in the two-deep as of yet.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on The Big 1070!
Here's the rest of the area previews.
⭐ = BIG FIVE SPOTLIGHT
Big 8 (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ Madison West (2-1) at #8/#13 Verona (3-0) ⭐ : Madison West was shut out last week at Middleton, and their tough mini-road swing continues as they now play at Verona. While Middleton is rounding into form, after some early injury trouble, Verona has been finding its identity offensively, getting a balanced contribution from their run and pass game against Memorial in a big win last Thursday.
🏈 LISTEN 🔊: Madison West Football Coach Brad Murphy
#3/#4 Sun Prairie (3-0) at Janesville Parker (1-2): Parker's defense will be tested against the Cardinals, particularly on the edges, where the Vikings have been working to replace a few starters from last year. Sun Prairie's defense might be the best in the Big Eight, so the young Parker offense will have to find ways to get points, perhaps creatively.
Madison La Follette (3-0) at Madison Memorial (0-3): Last year, these teams entered week four with the same records, and the Spartans surprised the Lancers with a 7-6 victory. After surviving a scare from Beloit Memorial last week, the Lancers won't be overlooking anyone going forward. This game represents a crossroads of sorts: a La Follette win puts them on the bubble for the playoffs (4-5 has gotten teams in before), while also forcing Memorial into a difficult scenario in which they'd have to win out in order to advance to the postseason.
Janesville Craig (1-2) at Middleton (2-1): Middleton's injury woes weren't apparent in their shutout of the Madison West Regents, and as the Cardinals come together, Janesville Craig awaits coming off of a game with the other Big 8 Cardinals of Sun Prairie. Sun Prairie's blueprint was swarming, physical front seven play on defense, in their win over Middleton. If Craig learned anything from the loss last week, it's that gaining an advantage up front will be critical for wins moving forward.
Beloit Memorial (0-3) at Madison East (0-3): Beloit Memorial nearly snapped its losing streak against La Follette in a wild comeback, only to fall a little short. Could they do it against Madison East, the last Big 8 team that Beloit Memorial has defeated? For the Purgolders, the start to the season hasn't been great, but they will have opportunities for success in their final six games.
Badger North (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ #1/#3 Waunakee (3-0, 1-0) at DeForest (2-1, 1-0) ⭐: The winner of this game will be halfway to the playoffs. Waunakee's path to the playoffs takes them on the road against their toughest challengers for the conference title, and this week it's rival DeForest. For the Norskies, they have the opportunity to upset Waunakee on their home field and at least momentarily delay the Warriors' march to the playoffs.
Beaver Dam (1-2, 1-0) at #10/#8 Mount Horeb/Barneveld (2-1, 0-1): Mount Horeb/Barneveld lost an emotional game against Waunakee, and must regroup to take on Beaver Dam, who earned their first win of the season over Baraboo last week. Beaver Dam features a solid defense, but the Vikings established in their first three games that they have a workhorse running back who has over 600 yards rushing on the season.
Baraboo (0-3, 0-1) at Portage (1-2, 1-0): Portage hasn't had a ton of success in recent years, so their early dominance of Sauk Prairie last week raised some eyebrows. It seems veteran head coach Bob Hepp is working his turnaround magic at now his sixth stint at four programs. Baraboo took a tough loss last week, but the Thunderbirds are a team to watch out for down the stretch, as they play loads of younger players gaining valuable varsity experience as the season progresses.
Reedsburg (0-3, 0-1) at Sauk Prairie (1-2, 0-1): Reedsburg has had a challenging schedule early, but it's still a little jarring to see 0-3 next to their name. For both programs, this is a big milestone, as the loser of this game will have little margin for error the rest of the season, as neither has faced Waunakee. For the winner, it's new life for the rest of the season.
Badger South (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ Milton (3-0, 1-0) at Stoughton (3-0, 1-0) ⭐: Both teams came into the year with a different set of high expectations. For Milton, it was to honor tradition, only one year removed from their last conference title. For Stoughton, it's to establish tradition, as the school has had only three playoff appearances in school history for football. Milton has out-scored its opponents by 30 in the second half, including shutouts in the third quarter so far this year. Stoughton, by contrast, has done much of its damage early, with a 42-point advantage in the first half, while being out-scored in the fourth quarter. It's a small sample size, but worth noting (22 of Stoughton's 42 points allowed have come in the final frame).
Edgewood (0-3, 0-1) at Monona Grove (3-0, 1-0): Our Madison Taxi Game of the Week has the Edgewood Crusaders visiting the Silver Eagles. It's a homecoming for our own Mike Stassi! Last year, this was an exciting, high-scoring game in Week 8, in the early part of Monona Grove's run to state. The Silver Eagles stopped a late two-point conversion to hold on and win 42-41. Edgewood is dealing with some injury woes, but still boast solid lines and a grind-it-out offense that will shorten the game. Monona Grove will get a good test up front to see how their rebuilt lines are acclimating nearly halfway into the season. (More on this game above).
Monroe (1-2, 0-1) at Watertown (2-1, 1-0): The defending Badger South champs fell to Milton last week, after losing by 20 to Reedsburg the week prior. Watertown rebounded from a blowout loss to Waunakee, picking up a high-scoring victory against Fort Atkinson. Can Monroe find its offense in a critical game against the Goslings? Or will Watertown take permanent marker to the record books a second week in a row on offense?
Oregon (1-2, 0-1) at Fort Atkinson (1-2, 0-1): It seems like Fort Atkinson plays in nothing but shootouts lately. Oregon has enough firepower to go that route, but both teams would probably prefer to keep the scores in check a bit. The Panthers are only 1-2, but have already won as many games as they did last year in an injury-mired campaign. Fort Atkinson continues to find ways to move the ball year after year, so Oregon will be tasked with slowing the powerful Blackhawks' offense down.
Capitol North and Capitol South (non-conference and crossover games)
Conference play has not yet started for the Capitol Conferences. In crossover games, the Capitol North leads 3-0, and in the remaining non-conference games, the Capitol North is 9-6 while the Capitol South is 10-2.
⭐ Belleville (3-0) at #4/#6 Lake Mills (3-0)⭐ : Belleville hasn't faced the sort of schedule that Lake Mills has, but this remains an interesting game because it matches up a pair of undefeated squads. The L-Cats have a dynamic passing attack led by Ben Dunkleberger, who will match up against the defense of the Wildcats, which has done well to start the year, only giving up about 12 points per game.
#3/#2 Lodi (3-0) at Marshall (2-1): A pair of playoff teams a year ago, this represents a big test for the Marshall Cardinals, who have played a difficult schedule already. Lodi might be the best team the Cardinals see this year. For Lodi, they'll be playing a tested, playoff-caliber team, albeit in a smaller division. The Blue Devils' stellar defense will need to be ready for the talents of Josh Wehking and Kelvin Opaku.
Waterloo (2-1) at Luther Prep (2-1): Both squads suffered their first losses last week, blowouts to boot. It's a very interesting crossover game since each team faced quality opponents last week, and Waterloo finished second in the Capitol South while Luther Prep missed the playoffs. For the Phoenix, it's their final tune-up before conference play begins.
Mauston (1-2) at New Glarus/Monticello (1-2): New Glarus/Monticello started the year with high expectations, and they still remain despite a 1-2 start, as the Glarner Knights have played some decent competition early. Mauston, meanwhile, looks to get back to .500 after a loss last week.
Cambridge (2-1) at Wisconsin Dells (1-2): Another Capitol vs South Central match-up, Wisconsin Dells battled Belleville close last week. Cambridge lost in a back-and-forth battle with Horicon/Hustisford last week, and enter week two of their three-game road trip.
Lakeside Lutheran (2-1) at Wautoma (2-1): Both teams are coming off of wins, Wautoma in dominant fashion over Capitol South member Waterloo and Lakeside Lutheran over defending Capitol South champion New Glarus/Monticello. Another intriguing non-conference match-up in our third South Central-Capitol contest of the week.
Winnebago Lutheran (2-1) at Poynette (2-1): Both teams needed a replacement game after their respective week four opponents cancelled their seasons. It ends up being a pretty solid contest on paper, with both teams coming off of wins last week.
Adams/Friendship (0-3) at Columbus (0-3): Life comes at you fast. Both teams rolled to undefeated regular seasons a year ago and won their conferences. Now, each team seeks to end four-game losing streaks dating to last year before they begin their conference title defenses next week.
Rock Valley (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ #3/#17 Clinton (3-0) at East Troy (3-0) ⭐ : There's great potential for another high-scoring game here, although Clinton's defense will be stronger than the ones the Trojans have faced so far. Both teams own talented front lines and vaunted run games. East Troy has been the biggest surprise in a Rock Valley Conference full of them, both good and bad, and the Trojans fall into the former category after putting up 47, 48, and 62 points in their first three games. Clinton was the surprise team of last season, rolling all the way to the state semifinals as a D5 team playing mostly D3 and D4 opponents during the year.
Big Foot (1-2) at Jefferson (3-0): How will the Chiefs respond after the shellacking they took last week? Jefferson's defense is regarded to be roughly as good as Clinton's. Unlike the Clinton-East Troy game, this one actually has potential to be a lower-scoring contest. Big Foot's offense centers around Jackson Enz, and he'll have his hands full with the Eagles' top-notch defenders. It's a big game for both: Big Foot falling to 1-3 forces them to scramble for the next five games, while Jefferson, picked as one of the conference favorites before the year, looks to stay in the conference title hunt.
Brodhead/Juda (0-3) at #9/UR Turner (3-0): It's crossroads time for several Rock Valley teams. 3-0 squads like Turner can get a fourth win, putting them on the bubble for a playoff spot already less than halfway through the season. 0-3 squads like the Cardinals, however, will need to win out if they lose this week in order to clinch a playoff spot, which is not an easy task in the Rock Valley. Turner was a team picked to be on the rise, but what a rise it would be if they started 4-0, taking down a pair of playoff teams from a year ago in Evansville/Albany and Brodhead/Juda along the way.
Evansville/Albany (0-3) at McFarland (2-1): This might be the biggest game McFarland has hosted in some time, since they're getting to host last year's conference co-champs with a chance at taking a huge step towards the playoffs with a win. That being said, the Blue Devils have faced arguably three of the toughest teams in the conference so far--each currently 3-0--and have lost by a total of 25 points in three games. It won't be easy. Evansville/Albany desperately needs a win after coming up just short in their first three games.
Whitewater (0-3) at Edgerton (0-3): The winner of this game will keep some hope for a playoff run alive, while the losing team will need to win out to clinch a playoff spot. Edgerton has demonstrated better success in the early going, especially on offense. Whitewater isn't a pushover though, so it could get interesting here.
Trailways-Large: Parkview (0-3, 0-1) at Montello/Princeton/Green Lake (0-3, 0-1): Each team looks for its first win. Parkview had played in some close games to start the year, but lost to Pardeeville last week 36-14.
Trailways-Small: Fall River (2-1, 1-0) at Wayland Academy (0-1, 0-1): Wayland Academy's full-time return to 11-player football met with defeat in their first game back, but only a 14-point setback. Fall River will present a challenge this week, as they took down Lourdes Academy 24-20 last week.
Trailways-Small: #7/UR Johnson Creek (3-0, 1-0) at Cambria-Friesland (1-2, 1-0): Johnson Creek is being rated in state polls and demolished Deerfield a week ago. After getting its first win of the season last week, Cambria-Friesland will have a tall order this time out to double their win total.
Great 8: #2/#13 Oakfield (3-0) at Elkhart Lake/Glenbeulah (0-3): A game that should be closer than the records indicate, Oakfield is, at least early on, establishing itself as one of the top 8-player football programs in the state a year ahead of the playoffs.
Great 8: #3/UR Abundant Life/St. Ambrose (3-0) at Wisconsin Heights (1-1) (Saturday): This could be one of the more interesting games this week, with the Challengers playing opponents much closer than they did a year ago, eking out a two-point win over Elkhart Lake/Glenbeulah a week ago after facing them in week one as well.
🏈 LISTEN 🔊: Abundant Life/St. Ambrose Football Coach Chad Henning