#6 Oregon (6-3) at #3 Stoughton (8-1) - 6:45pm Friday - Division 2, Group C
Last Year: Well, let's flash back to Week 6, when Stoughton edged Oregon 30-27 on Homecoming in the Battle For 138. Oregon had a late pass deflected away at the last second into the end zone, before narrowly missing a long 40-yard field goal to tie it. Penalties were plenty in this game, forcing several long down-and-distances, but it didn't seem to slow either offense. Both teams have indicated that they'll want to avoid the nearly two dozen holding calls in the first meeting. Obviously. (You can listen to the game above).
Last Week: Stoughton wrapped up an 8-1 season with a 36-10 decision against Fort Atkinson, led by Brady Schipper with over 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns, as the Vikings pulled away in the second half with 20 unanswered points. Oregon had only one score in their game against Monroe, but won 7-0. Oregon had already clinched the playoffs the week prior, but the win gave them a third-place finish.
Season To Date: Stoughton has enjoyed one of the best seasons the school has ever had in school history, and has notched their third playoff appearance in four years, and fourth all-time. The Vikings have leaned on a solid defensive front to combat some of the tough running that can be found in the Badger South. In the past few weeks, beginning with Oregon, the Vikings had to deal with an assortment of good passing teams, including Watertown and Monona Grove. So, the Vikings come in to this rematch with more experience defending the pass. Oregon has lost only three games, but their losses came against two #3 seeds and a #1 seed in the playoffs. In over half their games, the Panthers have given up two scores or less. Oregon has had to re-tool on the fly as well, losing top running back Brett Wannebo in Week 4.
Coaches' Corner: Stoughton got its first taste of a passing threat when they faced Oregon in Week 6. The Vikings then had to play Watertown and Monona Grove to follow, and those games all came as they tried to replace outstanding defensive back Jordan DiBenedetto. Stoughton's defense is geared towards stopping the run, and the Vikings are built to control the clock with their home-run hitting rushing attack. So, there's an emphasis on line play, and one of the highlights of the Vikings is how well their lines work together. "I think that's the biggest thing, is that they communicate well," said Vikings Coach Dan Prahl. On offense, Brady Schipper uses his patience and vision to find running lanes to carry the load for the Vikings... Oregon was a predominantly run-first team through Week 4, when they lost Brett Wannebo to a season-ending injury. The Panthers have won five of their past six games, and Panthers Coach Dan Kissling has been thrilled with the balance the offense has found. "If you would have told me we'd have as many yards passing as we do now at the beginning of the year, I wouldn't have believed you," said Coach Kissling. Oregon's capable of finding play-making ability from all corners of their offense, and most of their lines boast experienced players that will be in the mix for all-conference awards.
Three Keys: 1. For both teams, penalties soured otherwise solid performances in their first meeting. While both teams were able to, for the most part, overcome those setbacks, I bet both coaches are looking for a more disciplined approach this time out, as the penalty count was roughly two dozen between the squads in Week 6. 2. For the first time in three weeks, the weather will be dry, so holding on to the football will be a little easier. This should also benefit the passing game, so Oregon won't have to hold back on some of its pass calls and may be able to play the same sort of style they did when they took Stoughton to the wire a month ago. 3. Last time out, this was a heavy, back-and-forth game befitting of a rivalry. One of the best ways to control emotion and momentum is to sustain drives, and with Brady Schipper, the Vikings have an all-everything back capable of not only extending drives, but scoring from anywhere on the field.
Five Players To Watch: Little doubt that the single most important player in this game is Brady Schipper. His patient running style, his ability to explode past the second level, and the endurance he has to carry the ball 20-30 times per game, or more, will dictate how this game goes for Stoughton. You can credit the great line in front of him as well, but Schipper will need to carry this offense every time out in the playoffs... Nobody expected the Oregon Panthers to be more Oregon Ducks than the team we've all come to follow here in southern Wisconsin, but Cedric Girard has assumed a greater role in moving the football since the injury to Brett Wannebo. Now that the Panthers have had a few weeks to assimilate to their identity, there shouldn't be any surprise if Oregon again passes on about 60% of its downs against Stoughton... One of the absolute wild cards in this game will be Jordan Malueg for Stoughton. If the Vikings can get some form of balance on offense, look out... Kardelle Phillips is a big-time two-way playmaker for Oregon. He's not quite the explosive presence that Brady Schipper is, but he's still found his way into the end zone plenty of times in the Panthers' bounce-back season, both through the air and on the ground... Tommy McClain leads a tenacious defense for Stoughton, and might be on the short list for conference defensive lineman of the year. If the Vikings can force Oregon away from effectively running the football, it could open up McClain and the defense for some pass rush success.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on The Big 1070!