Before we get to this week's game of the week, make sure to check out our recap 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 🔊: Lake Mills L-Cats football coach Dan Ferkovich discusses the upcoming showdown with fellow unbeaten Lodi
🏈 LISTEN 🔊: Stoughton Vikings football coach Dan Prahl previews a big Badger South clash with Monroe
⚽ LISTEN 🔊: Middleton boy's soccer coach Ben Kollasch has a tough schedule this week, facing two of the state's top seven teams in the span of five days
⭐ Big Five Games - Week 5, 2017 ⭐
1. Capitol North: Lodi (4-0) at Lake Mills (4-0)
2. Rock Valley: Clinton (4-0) at Jefferson (4-0)
3. Big 8: Middleton (3-1) at Verona (3-1)
4. Badger South: Stoughton (4-0, 2-0) at Monroe (2-2, 1-1)
5. Badger North: Portage (2-2, 2-0) at Waunakee (4-0, 2-0)
Middleton (3-1) at Verona (3-1) - 6:45pm Friday
Last Year: Middleton racked up over 400 yards of offense, but Verona won 10-7 despite being out-gained nearly two to one.
Last Week: Davis Roquet of Middleton spread it around, throwing touchdowns to three different receivers while completing 15 passes to six different players, in a 42-7 Middleton victory over Janesville Craig... Jaden Stephens scored tow touchdowns in a 23-17 win by Madison West over Verona. The Wildcats could only muster 193 yards of total offense in defeat.
Coaches' Corner: Coach Richardson bemoaned the preparation for the Wildcats' game against Madison West. "It was a good week of practice, we thought," he said. "Maybe it was the first week of school or something." After Verona's seniors rallied the troops in the first practice this week, here's betting that the Wildcats come out fired up for this one. Verona feels as though perhaps the loss will galvanize them. Richardson also pointed out that the team this year is "roughly a 60/40 pass" split in terms of offense, which means the Wildcats will test the Middleton Cardinals' secondary... Middleton's Tim Simon believes his team has overcome bigger things than a week two loss over Sun Prairie, whether it's the story of top receiver Brogan Brunker, who battled back from a serious and rare condition only to suffer a training camp injury, or one of his senior captains who unexpectedly lost their father this past week. Beyond the parallels of bouncing back from a defeat, the Cardinals have found some rhythm on both sides of the ball, and look every bit the Big 8 contender they were projected to be in the offseason, before Middleton was beset by injuries.
Three Keys: 1. Middleton will want to establish the ground game against Verona, given that West was able to last week and that Verona's defensive strength appears to be in the back half. James Pabst had a good showing against Craig last week. 2. Verona will need to resist the urge to give up on their running attack. Middleton's linebackers fly around the field, and if the Wildcats settle for passing two out of three downs, the Cardinals can tee off with blitzes and floods to get after Aaron Young. 3. Verona's defense has a very opportunistic secondary. Bui Clements scored on a fumble return for a touchdown last week, and Tucker Teskey had two interceptions against Madison Memorial the week before. Middleton fell out of their game against Sun Prairie due to costly turnovers, and Verona is good at forcing them in the pass game.
Five Players To Watch: Davis Roquet has been a little up-and-down as QB-1 for Middleton, but last week was definitely up, and showed his arm on some big plays in the games we saw early in the year. If he has another 200+ yard, three-touchdown performance and avoids turnovers, it's going to be a long day for Verona... Aaron Young has shined as the starting quarterback at Verona, and adds some value with his ability as a kicker and punter as well. Middleton will be the best test yet for this Wildcats offense... Shane Bick seems like he's always in the backfield or making a play, and his presence in a very talented linebacker group will help dictate how well the defense performs. If Middleton can get after the quarterback, look out... Bui Clements seems to make one or two great plays every game, but doesn't get tested all that often. That won't be the case here, as Middleton will challenge on some short timing routes and inside slants that will give Clements a few more plays on the ball than he would have in most other games... While each team's backfield will be a key, Verona's Joe Riley will need to exceed his 55 yards rushing last week against West in order for the Wildcats to be successful on offense. Without a running game threat, Middleton's blitz-happy linebackers will enjoy free passes up the A-gap all game long on passing downs and force Verona to swing for the fences.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on The Big 1070!
Here's the rest of the area previews.
⭐ = BIG FIVE SPOTLIGHT
✔ = PLAYOFF CLINCHING SCENARIO
Big 8 (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ Middleton (3-1) at Verona (3-1): An intriguing game of evenly-matched teams that have dealt with their own forms of adversity. See more on this Madison Taxi Game of the Week above.
Madison La Follette (3-1) at Madison West (3-1): La Follette's remaining schedule is absolutely brutal, as they will face the other four teams with a winning record in the Big 8 yet this year, including West this week. After their loss to Memorial last week, they will need to defeat at least one of those four teams to make the playoffs. West has already played Middleton and Verona, splitting those games, and has also taken down two of the friskiest bottom-half teams in the Big 8 in Madison Memorial and Beloit Memorial. There's probably more on the line for La Follette in this game than West, given the remaining schedules, but both teams, if they got a win Friday, would be one step away from a playoff spot.
✔ #3/#4 Sun Prairie (4-0) at Beloit Memorial (1-3): Beloit Memorial shed a conference losing streak dating to 2013 with a win over Madison East last week, but the competition will go up a notch this Friday with Sun Prairie coming to town. The Cardinals were challenged by Middleton for two quarters-plus in week two, but have been seemingly breezing by the competition to date. Sun Prairie's schedule still has La Follette, Verona, and West on it, so they by no means have an easy run to a conference championship.
Janesville Parker (1-3) at Janesville Craig (1-3): The Battle For Monterey is important for the winning team because it keeps them alive for a playoff spot, while the losing team will have virtually no room for error the rest of the way. Parker has struggled a bit offensively early this season, which is to be expected given that they were replacing all but one starter on that side of the ball. Craig, meanwhile, has shown in spots they can move the ball, but turnovers seem to be the issue in slowing down the Cougars.
Madison Memorial (1-3) at Madison East (0-4): Madison Memorial has already cleared the difficult front-loaded part of their schedule, which means the Spartans still have a great shot to make the playoffs. Even if they lose to Sun Prairie, if they can sweep the Janesville schools, Beloit, and East, they'll clinch a playoff spot--something that, like last year, seemed almost unimaginable given how the year began. The win over La Follette gives them new life. East, meanwhile, has had a half season to work through some things, still searching for win number one. Part of program rebuilding includes taking some early lumps, but the Purgolders are led by a coach who is an alum and is very passionate about his school.
Badger North (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ Portage (2-2, 2-0) at #1/#3 Waunakee (4-0, 2-0): Who would have predicted a mid-season all-Warriors battle for control of the Badger North? Two veteran head coaches, Pat Rice of Waunakee and Bob Hepp of Portage, will match wits in a game with the winner in sole possession of first place in the Badger North. Portage has used some good starts and the ability to score in bunches to be competitive, even in some tough crossover games with the Badger South in August. Waunakee, meanwhile, has dominated its first four games, getting a test from Mount Horeb/Barneveld early before pulling away in the second half.
#9/#9 Mount Horeb/Barneveld (3-1, 1-1) at Baraboo (0-4, 0-2): Baraboo's season is suddenly on the brink after a pair of tough losses, and it doesn't get any easier with Mount Horeb/Barneveld coming to town. The Vikings responded well after losing against Waunakee to begin conference play, and have intent on staying at arm's length from the Warriors as the season progresses. MH/B's powerful run-pass option offense has one of the state's most productive backs and a terrific dual-threat quarterback, which could cause some issues for the Thunderbirds, who are seeking their first win this year.
DeForest (2-2, 1-1) at Sauk Prairie (1-3, 0-2): Like Baraboo, Sauk Prairie needs a win to begin thinking postseason, and it won't be easy against the battle-tested Norskies. DeForest has earned wins over Reedsburg and Monroe, both tough playoff teams from a year ago, but losses to Oregon and Waunakee. Defense rules for DeForest, so it's on the Eagles to keep the chains moving to get the win and get back into the playoff discussion.
Beaver Dam (1-3, 1-1) at Reedsburg (1-3, 1-1): If it's not a trophy game yet, it should be. The Beavers (Reedsburg) battle the Golden Beavers (Beaver Dam) in what essentially is a 'playoff' game, as both have yet to face Waunakee. Beaver Dam already played Mount Horeb/Barneveld, so there's probably a little more pressure on Reedsburg in this one. Reedsburg had to push late to get a 17-point win over Sauk Prairie.
Badger South (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ Stoughton (4-0, 2-0) at Monroe (2-2, 1-1): Stoughton's impressive victory over Milton pushed them into top contender status in the Badger South. The Vikings will have to earn a win over last year's Badger South champion, Monroe, in order to cement that lofty perch. Monroe's offense has taken some time to come around, but the Cheesemakers showed their grit, winning by one point over Watertown last week. Can Stoughton's speed out-match Monroe's line play and linebackers?
Milton (3-1, 1-1) at Oregon (2-2, 1-1): Another de facto playoff game, this sneaky-good contest pits Oregon, fresh off of a big win over Fort Atkinson, against Milton. The Red Hawks were drubbed by Stoughton last week. Both teams are on the rise and appears on paper to be evenly-matched, so if you're looking for entertainment Friday night, make the trip off of Highway 14 for this one.
#9/#9 Monona Grove (4-0, 2-0) at Fort Atkinson (1-3, 0-2): Fort Atkinson's lines should provide a good challenge to the Silver Eagles, who barely had to operate on offense this past week in a rout of Edgewood. The Blackhawks will have to keep pace with the frenetic Monona Grove offense, although if the past games between these schools or the results are any indication, we could see points aplenty.
Watertown (2-2, 1-1) at Edgewood (0-4, 0-2): Edgewood got a good look at a top-flight passing attack in Monona Grove, despite only seeing a dozen or so passes. They'll see considerably more than that against Watertown. The Goslings got nipped by Monroe last week, and look to bounce back in a big way against Edgewood. The Crusaders were out-matched by Monona Grove last week.
Capitol North (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
⭐ #3/#1 Lodi (4-0) at #4/#6 Lake Mills (4-0): One of the state's very best games, Jacob Heyroth and the Lodi defense will have a big challenge in facing Ben Dunkleberger and the L-Cats' offense. Both teams have what it takes to go deep into the playoffs, but only one can win this mid-season clash.
Lakeside Lutheran (3-1) at Poynette (2-2): Lakeside Lutheran's path through non-conference was an interesting one, facing a few different styles and some pretty good teams. Poynette has played in some exciting games, especially early in the season. With the attention on the Lodi/Lake Mills game, this one slides under the radar a bit, but should still be important come playoff time.
Columbus (1-3) at Luther Prep (3-1): Luther Prep's only loss so far has been to St Mary's Springs, which is one of the state's best programs. Columbus' only win was over Adams/Friendship, now 0-4. What a difference a year makes, but now that the count is 0-0, there's no time to decide games on paper.
Capitol South (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
Belleville (3-1) at New Glarus/Monticello (2-2): Belleville finished last year 5-4, but missed the playoffs thanks to a 1-3 conference record. New Glarus/Monticello rolled to a 4-0 conference record and made the playoffs. Virtually every Capitol South game will be an even match-up with some fantastic two-way players, but Belleville's defense will be tested by the Knight's many weapons on offense.
Cambridge (3-1) at Waterloo (2-2): Waterloo quietly went 3-1 last year in conference play, while Cambridge, historically a very successful team, fell to 0-4. Cambridge has played an ambitious non-conference schedule and appears to be back on track, after wrapping up non-conference play with a big win over Wisconsin Dells.
(non-conference) Marshall (2-2) at Mineral Point (3-1): Marshall's insane schedule continues against one of the best teams in the SWAL, fresh off of a win over Darlington. Marshall has played both Lodi and Lake Mills (losses) while earning wins over Parkview (in a crazy game) and Adams/Friendship, a 9-1 team a season ago.
Rock Valley (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll/AP Poll)
✔ ⭐ Jefferson (4-0)* at #3/#11 Clinton (4-0)*: Clinton's smash-mouth running game takes on one of the area's best defenses in one of the best statewide games this week. Jefferson has been under-the-radar compared to Clinton (a Level 4 team last year) and Turner (having some unprecedented success so far), but the coaches picked them to win the league. The winner clinches a playoff spot.
✔ #9/UR Turner (4-0)* at Big Foot (1-3): For the Chiefs, with the season in the balance, they'll have to take down the upstart Trojans in order to avoid a run-the-table scenario. For Turner, playing a good team with their backs against the wall will be a new sort of challenge. Turner clinches a playoff spot with a victory.
McFarland (2-2) at Brodhead/Juda (0-4)#: While five losses doesn't mean automatic elimination, the Cardinals' quarter-century-long playoff streak is in serious jeopardy at the midway point of 2017. They overcame it a season ago. McFarland has garnered some attention with some battles against East Troy and Evansville earlier this year.
Edgerton (1-3) at Evansville/Albany (1-3): Evansville/Albany isn't throwing in the towel on the season, having lost to the conferences' three undefeated teams so far. With those games out of the way, the Blue Devils are very much still in the hunt. Edgerton still has some tough games ahead, so their playoff hopes rest on games like this one.
East Troy (3-1) at Whitewater (0-4): East Troy has some incredible line play, and a powerful rushing attack. If Whitewater wants to hang in this one, they'll have to match that intensity up front. East Troy has played in some absolute barn-burners, up until Clinton shut them down last week.
Parkview (0-4, 0-2) at Markesan (3-1, 2-0): Parkview has battled in some close games this year. They'll need to score plenty of points to keep up with Markesan, who average 29 points per game.
Wayland Academy (0-2, 0-2) at Lourdes (2-2, 1-1): Lourdes has certainly been capable scoring points, putting up over 30 per game. Wayland Academy has gotten its first couple of games out of the way, but like Parkview will need to find some points to keep up in this one.
#6/UR Johnson Creek (4-0, 2-0) vs 1-3 Rio (1-3, 1-1): Johnson Creek is getting plenty of recognition as a dominant small school in Wisconsin, up to sixth in the Coaches' poll. They'll need a win here to keep pace with Fall River.
#2/#15 Oakfield (5-0, 2-0): Bye week
Phillips (2-2) at #6/UR Wisconsin Heights (2-1, 1-0): Wisconsin Heights is coming off of a huge overtime win against Abundant Life/St. Ambrose. Phillips brings a battle-tested squad south for a big contest. The Loggers have piled up 75 and 53 points in their two wins, but have also dropped games to Oakfield and Stephenson (MI), two solid programs.
#7/UR Abundant Life/St. Ambrose (3-1, 1-1) at Lake Forest Academy (3-0): After seeing their 12-game conference winning streak snapped, the Challengers will try to regroup across the border against a school with three lopsided wins under their belt.