#6 Stoughton (5-0, 3-0) at Oregon (3-2, 2-1) - 6:45pm Friday on 1070 AM and iHeartRadio
Last Year: The Battle for 138 was actually waged twice. In the regular-season meeting, penalties plagued Oregon, but the Panthers still had a chance to win it in a wild back-and-forth game, which we broadcast on The Big 1070. Oregon answered every Brady Schipper touchdown with a score of their own, except the final one. The Panthers' pass on the post was deflected at the goal line, and the Vikings ran out the clock for a 30-27 win. The second meeting was the first-ever home playoff game at Collins Field for Stoughton, but it lacked the drama of the first meeting. Stoughton's defense kept Oregon off the board until a late 62-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, which accounted for 40% of the yardage gained by the Panthers on the evening. Brady Schipper scored three more touchdowns against Oregon to boost Stoughton to a 28-7 home playoff victory, the first in school history, which we also carried on The Big 1070.
Last Week: Stoughton stayed undefeated, but drew a big challenge from winless Monroe last week. Much like the Week 2 match-up against Baraboo, Stoughton trailed at halftime, but rallied in the second half to win, capped off by a fourth-quarter touchdown. Cade Spilde booted two field goals in the Vikings' 13-6 victory, and despite out-gaining Monroe nearly two-to-one, Stoughton had to sweat it out to keep their record perfect... Oregon used three Dylan DiMaggio touchdowns to go with over 400 yards of offense as a team to stifle Milton 38-13 and win their second straight since a 21-7 setback against the Badger South's other undefeated team, Monona Grove, back in Week 3 (heard on The Big 1070). Keion Szudy had a 66-yard touchdown run to go with his 185 yards rushing in the game.
Season To Date: It's been a solid but unspectacular start for the Stoughton Vikings, despite being ranked #6 in the state and undefeated at 5-0. That's partly because the Vikings haven't played a team with a winning record yet, either when they played or at this juncture of the season (opponents are currently 5-20 overall, 5-15 if you take out the losses to Stoughton). Stoughton's schedule gets much tougher the next three weeks, as they face the only three teams in the conference with winning records so far (and two of them on the road)... In terms of strength of schedule, Oregon has been dealt the opposite hand. They've already tangled with DeForest, Mount Horeb/Barneveld, and Monona Grove in the season's first three weeks, going 1-2 in that stretch but only being outscored by 15 combined in the three games against teams currently holding a cumulative 12-3 mark. The Panthers have put up 78 points in two weeks over Fort Atkinson and Milton, and are scoring 26.8 points per game on the season.
Coaches' Corner: Stoughton Vikings coach Dan Prahl points to the black board with the Vikings adornments at the entryway to their locker room. It shows Stoughton's all-time playoff appearances: four, with three of them coming since 2014. "We're trying to change the culture," he says in nearly every interview, and so far in his fourth season, he's managed to coax a respectable record out of the program that historically hasn't fared as well as most of the other Madison suburbs. Prahl's Vikings got their first playoff victory last year, and he's 22-13 overall as a head coach. He's also 3-1 against his alma mater, Oregon, since taking the head coaching job, where his father Robert coached for 27 years and was inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame in 2015... Speaking of WFCA Hall of Fame coaches at Oregon, current Panthers coach Dan Kissling is the son of Erwin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992. The former Wisconsin high school player of the year is now in his ninth season at the helm of the Oregon program, and for the past few seasons (with one injury-plagued exception in 2016), have been one of the most competitive teams out of the Badger South. 20 of his 29 wins as a head coach have come since the start of the 2014 season, The Panthers have notched a playoff win in that stretch as well, with three appearances in four seasons.
Three Keys: 1. Last year, this game was Stoughton's Homecoming, which created the most raucous atmosphere the school had ever experienced for football (which would be topped only two weeks later when Stoughton and Monona Grove squared off in a showdown of undefeated programs). This year, Oregon will have to manage the distractions and emotions that come with Homecoming week, and rivalry week to boot. For Stoughton, the Vikings could clinch the fifth playoff berth in school history with a win. 2. Both coaches pointed out that Stoughton missed opportunities to finish drives in their most recent games, particularly against Monroe, and that the trend will eventually correct itself. If the Vikings can trade field goals and stalled drives deep in opponent territory for touchdowns, Stoughton could pile on some points. 3. In a bit of a reversal from last year, the biggest home-run threat for either team now resides in Oregon's backfield (except when he's lined up in the slot, or split out wide, or...) in Keion Szudy. Both offenses, though, are very balanced this year, and that creates opportunities for misdirection, and also eliminates entire defenses keying on one superstar back.
Five Players To Watch: He was mentioned above, but Keion Szudy is the game-changing back in this year's head-to-head match-up now that Brady Schipper has graduated. Oregon has gotten some big plays out of Szudy, who can stretch defenses from multiple positions on the field... Jack Nelson and Jack True are built like northwoods lumberjacks, and the duo provide the identity for the Stoughton Vikings offense. There aren't many teams in the state that can point to a side of their line having players of similar size (a combined 525 pounds) and talent... John Klus is the linchpin of a solid group of linebackers that like to fly to the ball. His stat line in any game is eye-popping, and before skeptics dismiss 18 tackles here or 21 tackles there in a contest, watch a game film and follow the ball when Oregon is on defense. Pretty much every play, there's #32 in on the action... Brady Schipper was a big name and a productive back for the Vikings, but this year, the quarterback has been the star of the Stoughton show. Adam Hobson has thrown for 10 touchdowns and run for another four in just five games, helping balance an offense that was run-dominant a year ago.
Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on 1070 AM and thebig1070.com!