#3 Madison West (8-2) at #2 Middleton (9-1) - 6:45pm Friday - Division 1, Group C
Last Year: Early in the year, Middleton shut out Madison West 36-0 in a bounce-back game following the Cardinals' loss to Sun Prairie in week 2. It was the first win of Middleton's current eight-game streak, and they did it then as they have all year: dominating defense, control of the line of scrimmage, and shortening the game. Expect a fast-moving contest on Friday night as both teams like to establish the run and let field position and turnovers dictate some of the outcome.
Last Week: Madison West salted away a 21-9 win over Sussex Hamilton, thanks to their outstanding defense and ball-control offense, to advance. Middleton pounded banged-up Madison La Follette 41-8 to extend their winning streak and make it back to Level 2 for the second straight season. Middleton also eliminated La Follette from last year's playoff field.
Season To Date: Madison West is all the way back from a 1-8 season prior to Brad Murphy's arrival last year from Monona Grove. Murphy has led the Regents to the playoffs in back-to-back years, and for the second straight year, picked up the Madison City Coach of the Year... Middleton dropped an early-season contest to Sun Prairie, but Middleton hasn't lost since and has been getting healthier each week. One notable player back is all-everything lineman Jarrett Horst, who missed most of the season with a fracture in his foot.
Coaches' Corner: Madison West has had an interesting season. Their playoff win over Sussex Hamilton validated the strength of the Big Eight at the top, as Hamilton was a trendy upset pick in Level 1. The Regents deliberately shorten games with a nearly 4:1 run:pass ratio, running mostly read-option mixed with the occasional trick or gadget play. Jaden Stephens is a workhorse, who is spelled by bruising runner Armani Warfield and quarterback Keishawn Shanklin. Shanklin is also a top-notch receiver and will flare out on some plays when Stephens or Ezra Thompson throw the ball. Defensively, since West uses mostly the same players as they do on offense, the Regents are very strong up the middle, with Patrick Horvath and Sam Smith up front and Armoni Warfield and David Maravilla at linebacker. West only has a little more than two dozen players on varsity... Middleton doesn't have that numbers crunch, but they play much like any successful school in the state: a strong, established running game behind a now-experienced offensive line; enough special teams weapons to flip the field; and a physical, fast defense that has allowed just five points per game outside of their loss to Sun Prairie all the way back in Week 2. The Cardinals' offense has a 1,000-yard passer in Davis Roquet, and two running backs close to topping 1,000 yards rushing on the season in James Pabst and Dion Huff. Pabst and Huff have combined for 29 rushing touchdowns this year. Defensively, linebackers Shane Bick and Jimmy Frusciante have combined for 18 stops behind the line of scrimmage, and defensive end Ryan Lewis has six sacks this year.
Three Keys: 1. West and Middleton will both try to establish the run, so the pressure is on the linemen and fullbacks to pick up blocks at the second level. Both teams have incredible linebackers, and kicking those playmakers out of a play will help spring some longer runs to keep the chains moving. 2. Coaching cliche #1 is to win the turnover battle. West threw two interceptions in Week 3 against Middleton, which helped turn the game from a slugfest into a rout. In a game of field position, turnovers will be even more magnified. 3. Both teams like to run the ball, but do it differently. West uses read-option to find running lanes, but usually between the tackles. Middleton lines up in traditional I-formation, or motions to bunch sets to unbalance a set only to counter off of the power side of the field. Middleton is one of the true pro-style offenses left in high school football, and the only thing missing is a consistent go-to receiving threat. Bryce Carey is the team's leading receiver, but seven players on the team have caught the team's nine touchdowns through the air. West is capable of scoring from anywhere with their speed and athleticism. Power on speed.
Five Players To Watch: Dion Huff and James Pabst are an outstanding backfield tandem, going for a combined 1,800 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground (and another 200 yards and a score through the air). If that is one player's production, they are all-state and collecting a suitcase full of awards. Can they get going against the tough West defense?... Armoni Warfield might not get as many rushing opportunities as his backfield teammates, but he runs hard. Part of the reason for his limited workload is that he's one of the key players defensively for the Regents as well. Warfield will be important to the Regents' success... Pick a member of Middleton's front seven, and there are several standouts, but none bigger than Shane Bick, who has played well in the face of adversity and has made some of the most important plays of the season for the Cardinals... Keishawn Shanklin tossed two picks against Middleton in the first meeting. That can't happen Friday night, and Shanklin will be counted on to deliver plays on the ground and through the air, even as a receiver on certain plays.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on The Big 1070!