Game(s): Madison Memorial at Middleton; North Crawford vs Belmont, Black Hawk vs Owen-Withee, River Ridge vs Shullsburg at UW-Platteville
We are off and running in 2017.
Before we get to the games, let's take a look at our three running features for the season...
#WishboneWatch: Madison Memorial and Middleton combined for zero combined plays out of the traditional wishbone offense. We saw a few plays run out of a heavy/power I-formation, however.
Then, I went to the Six Rivers Jamboree Saturday.
No wishbone, but some excellent single wing and truly great triple option plays. Any time a wing or back connects on a kickout block to the outside, I jump out of my chair like you wouldn't believe.
Concession Rankings: I only have two for this list so far, but one of them is a college venue so it doesn't really qualify in the spirit of my concession rankings. So, Middleton stands alone after week one. The Cardinals offer a TON of variety and also carried Starburst, so high marks in my book. The biggest plus though was lemonade on a warm evening. Good job, Middleton!
Down and Distance: Admittedly weak this week. Lodi, Belleville, and the "state line" all got mentioned on long down-and-distance, which is again, pretty lame when I think about it in hindsight. Better go study a globe.
The Games: Friday night was the debut of Hall of Fame coach Mike Stassi as a broadcaster. The former Monona Grove coach was a little worried when I brought up the hazing rituals for newbies, but a photo op is all I needed. Coach Stassi debuted with our Middleton vs Madison Memorial game:
As far as the game, Middleton's depth stood out to me the most. They had lost five projected starters to injuries, and yet did a great job creating turnovers on defense (two picks, two fumbles, two plays on punts), which then led to some easier offense (29 of 36 points scored off of turnovers). That's really about all I can say about the Cardinals--I think everyone knows what they're getting offensively, with the talent in the backfield they have. The speed of the linebackers and secondary was impressive too.
For Madison Memorial, Jason Ceniti is a talent as a pass rusher. He was in on over a half-dozen big plays defensively for the Spartans. Jeremiah Jordan was a load in this game too. Oof. Saw a bunch of playmaking and contributors in their younger classes, meaning that Memorial is only going to get better as the season goes along.
I don't know that if these two teams play nine more times, that Middleton wins by 29 in each one of them. The Spartans are going to be a tough out for any team that lacks the size that the Cardinals brought to this game. Memorial's best players in this game were mentioned--Ceniti and Jordan are going to be tough to contain for opposing offenses.
Middleton got great skill position efforts from Davis Roquet, Cole Ragsdale, Jimmy Frusciante, Shane Bick, and Kevin Miecher. Their running backs, Dion Huff and James Pabst, are a fantastic one-two punch. Along the lines, Ryan Fortney and Ryan Lewis did a solid job getting into the backfield on several plays. Davis Roquet completed passes to eight different targets. Good game for the Cardinals.
BONUS COVERAGE: I took in three high school football games at UW-Platteville on Saturday, although one team had impossible jerseys to read.
I was really impressed by Belmont in the second half of the first game of the triple-dip. They really got physical and out-scored North Crawford 21-6 in 23 minutes. Game went down to the wire, with Belmont pulling ahead with 82 seconds left.
In the second game, Black Hawk dominated after an opening score from Owen-Withee, routing the Blackhawks 51-14. Yes, the Blackhawks were routed by a team from Black Hawk. Fun!
I think Black Hawk looks exactly like a Division 7 state finalist contender. They check all the boxes for small-school football. They're big, they're fast, they are very physical at the lines, and they execute well. Owen-Withee is not a bad team at all, either. They will pile up plenty of wins in the Cloverwood.
Elsewhere, I was a little taken aback by the lopsided score already in the second quarter between Sun Prairie and Madison East. It'll be an interesting discussion this week with Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski about what can be taken away from that contest. The Cardinals' highly-touted defense certainly looks sharp, and they'll get their hands full with Middleton this week.
The other Big Eight scores didn't necessarily surprise me. La Follette and Craig were both teams making a big transition (La Follette player-wise and Craig coach-wise). Lancers coach Scott Swanson says there's still a battle at quarterback, although Kayvion James-Ragland had a big game in the opener, going for three touchdowns. Parker comes to town this Friday, which should be a great second test for the offensive unit of La Follette.
Verona's win, 21-0 over Parker, seems a bit ho-hum, but the big thing here is that Verona brought back its entire offensive line but only a handful of other experienced players. They're rolling with 40 seniors and the majority of their starting lineup is all-new.
Lastly, West got it going late in a 20-0 win over Beloit Memorial. Purple Knights coach Rodney Wedig said after the loss that they need to clean up some of the turnovers. It was encouraging to see a program that is in the midst of a 31-game conference losing streak hang tough with a really good Regents squad.
Likewise in the Badger conference, not much really stood out. Portage hanging 28 on Stoughton (although losing 43-28) counts as a mild surprise. The Warriors are under new coach Bob Hepp, while the Vikings are expected to be a top team in the Badger South this year. The other mild surprise was Oregon topping DeForest, but the Panthers bring back loads of experience from a season ago, when they went 1-8 amid an injury-plagued season.
Ripon beating Columbus might have been a surprise in non-conference Capitol play, but the Cardinals are under a new head coach and working in plenty of new starters. Most of the Capitol asserted themselves well in their opening games; if you toss out Lake Mills' win over Marshall (a Capitol crossover game), the conferences went 7-2 in non-conference play (the other loss being Poynette's last-second heartbreaker against Palmyra/Eagle).
In the Rock Valley, there were four storylines to follow. Zach Krause led Clinton to a big win over Evansville/Albany to open the season, in a match-up of last year's co-champs. Clinton scored 14 in the second half while giving up 0 to come back and win the game. Big Foot got an incredible game from Jackson Enz to top rival Brodhead/Juda 47-27. A shootout emerged when East Troy and McFarland got together, a little surprising given that East Troy figured to be a physical, control-the-clock sort of team given their great lines. 47-42 was the final. Lastly, Edgerton hung around but lost to Turner, but Coach Gregory sounded upbeat despite the loss, given that Turner is expected to be a top team in the league this year.
Everyone is talking about the 106-0 8-player football score up north, but locally Oakfield hammered Wisconsin Heights 40-0, while Abundant Life/St. Ambrose escaped with a one-score win over the Resorters of Elkhart Lake/Glenbeulah. Those two winning teams figure to be in the mix for the top 8-player football team in southern Wisconsin, but it was a bit of an eye-opener to see Heights get shut out. Oakfield is one of the success stories of 8-player football in Wisconsin.
Looking Ahead: I will be at an interesting Middleton at Sun Prairie game for our Friday broadcast. I want to see this Sun Prairie defense in action. They will have their hands full with Middleton's backfield. I'm also curious to see if Middleton's defense can continue to make these great plays on a regular basis. It's still worth noting that MIddleton is playing without five starters this year.
The other big game I would want to be at is Waunakee at Watertown. Two of the state's very best quarterbacks go at it, but more importantly, the Goslings' spread attack against Waunakee's big-time secondary will be one of the most interesting battles of any game this season.
Some other big games of note: Monroe taking on DeForest intrigues me because of the histories of these respective programs. Both were playoff teams last year and play a physical brand of football. Mount Horeb/Barneveld and Oregon will face off too, a game that is much more interesting if you factor in that Oregon has already matched its 2016 win total and brings back a very experienced core, while MH/B will be prepping for their huge battle with Waunakee after this game finishes.
New/Glarus Monticello playing Lake Mills is a fantastic Capitol crossover game. The Glarner Knights have weapons everywhere but not as established as the L-Cats' fantastic QB-WR duo. Columbus meeting up with Platteville is another really good game between teams that have had success in the past few years. Boscobel meeting Belleville in a game honoring a 45-year anniversary of a prominent game in their histories is really neat.
In the Rock Valley, Evansville/Albany gets Jefferson this week, which should be a great game for those who like defense.