Upon Further Review: Playoff teams make adjustments, avenge losses
It's difficult to beat a team twice in three weeks.
The football programs at Walworth Big Foot and Oregon proved that Friday night.
Both the Chiefs and the Panthers went on the road as the lower seed and upended an opponent that had beaten them in Week 8 of high school football's regular season.
Big Foot lost 20-14 at East Troy in a Rock Valley crossover game Oct. 9, but the Chiefs held on to beat the Trojans 7-6 in a Division 4 first-round game Friday. Oregon lost 16-7 at home to Milton in a Badger South game in Week 8 only to go on the road Friday night and pull off a 14-7 victory.
“What a difference a couple weeks makes,” Big Foot coach Greg Enz said a couple hours after his team's victory Friday.
The Week 8 loss kept the Chiefs from winning the outright Rock Valley South title, and that outcome surely cemented Big Foot as the No. 5 traveling to face the No. 4-seeded Trojans at the regional seeding meeting eight days later.
In that two-week span, however, a Big Foot quarterback returned, and the Chiefs made defensive adjustments. And Big Foot got a little help from Mother Nature when the teams played in the rain to open the postseason.
“I don't think you can underestimate the conditions,” Enz said. “It really rained pretty hard for most of the first half. East Troy was staying in shotgun and believed that's what they needed to do.”
The result was an East Troy passing attack that completed just 13 of 27 passes for 109 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
But Big Foot's defense deserves credit, too. The Trojans racked up 319 rushing yards in the teams' first meeting, but they carried 37 times for just 63 yards in the rematch.
“We put a five-man front on them, which affected their run game,” Enz said. “That's what has made East Troy better—they've got a real sound run game and very athletic offensive linemen.
“We were a little more sound.”
The Chiefs only completed 5 of 15 passes and threw two interceptions, but they doubled up the Trojans on the ground in what became an old-fashioned battle of field position.
Big Foot got sophomore Jackson Enz—who missed much of Week 8 and the regular-season finale with a knee injury—back in the fold just as it lost Zak Greco from that spot with a shoulder injury.
“Having Jackson back, with Zak's injury, was huge,” Enz said. “We did what we could against their defensive front, but they were still pretty fast.
“And it was hard to throw the ball—for their kids and for us. The ball was doing some very odd things.
That included East Troy's missed extra-point attempt in the third quarter, which ultimately decided the game.
In Milton, the deciding factor was a big play from Oregon's Lucas Mathews. His 69-yard run early in the fourth quarter helped the Panthers win their rematch.
Oregon rushed for just 100 yards total in the first meeting, but the long run Friday gave them 196.
Of course, the biggest difference over the course of two weeks was the outbreak of cryptosporidium that hit the Milton football program hard.
Head coach Bill O'Leary wanted no part of talking about the outbreak after the game. Perhaps he was sick—pun intended—of talking about it, or perhaps the head coach simply didn't want to make any excuses.
Whatever the reason, there's no denying it played a role in Milton's first-round loss.
Southern Lakes Conference starts hot
The Southern Lakes Conference playoff teams didn't seem to get a lot of love during the playoff seeding meetings, but they showed well in the first round Friday.
The conference went 4-1, with all four Division 2 teams—Lake Geneva Badger, Union Grove, Wilmot and Waterford—not only moving on, but doing so in dominating fashion. They won their games a combined 129-21.
Seventh-seeded Union Grove pulled off one of the top upsets—seed-wise—in the state, beating second-seeded Greenfield 27-6. It was just the fifth playoff victory all-time for the Broncos, who will travel to Waterford in the second round.
Delavan-Darien, which got into the Division 3 field despite a losing league record, lost to Kewaskum, one of the top teams in the state.
When Evansville/Albany travels to Waukesha to face Catholic Memorial on Friday, it'll be a battle between two teams that have combined for nine shutouts this season, including one each in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blue Devils are 10-0 after shutting out Pewaukee 14-0. It was their fourth shutout this year.
The Crusaders shut out Cudahy 44-0 for their second straight blanking and fifth overall. They're 8-2, with the two lone losses coming to Division 1 powers Arrowhead and Muskego.
Eric Schmoldt is the sports editor of The Gazette.