Football Weekend: Clinton eyes another magical postseason run
Hard to believe that the end of the regular season is upon us, but considering the season started in what seems like the middle of June, I guess it's not so far-fetched.
I'll glance into my crystal ball in next week's Football Weekend to share my picks on the upcoming playoffs, but for this week, let's look at the short list of area teams that are playoff-bound and what we can expect.
With no disrespect to Lake Geneva Badger, Clinton is the ONLY team that falls into this category. The Cougars are built for a long playoff run, and when I say contender, I mean contending for a state title.
Clinton profits come playoff time because it slips to Division 5 after playing mainly Division 3 and Division 4 opponents during the regular season. The Cougars advanced to the state semifinals a year ago before losing to Cedar Grove-Belgium.
Clinton is not as explosive on offense as a year ago but is better defensively. With three-year starting quarterback Tyler Halsted expected to return for the playoffs, and with the state's leading rusher Zach Krause capable of taking over a game in adverse weather conditions, the Cougars could find their way to Camp Randall.
Capable of winning a couple games
Badger and Beloit Turner fall into this category.
The Badgers have been to back-to-back state Division 1 semifinal games and have a number of players on the roster with playoff experience.
Badger has had to come from behind in several games this season, and that's much tougher to do come playoff time.
Turner has the offensive weapons to compete in Division 4 but has battled inconsistent play all season. The Trojans look good one half and seem to struggle the other. A 7-6 loss to unbeaten Clinton proves that Turner is capable of playing with any team in the D4 field.
As we wrap up the regular season, here's a look at three area games, two of which have playoff implications.
Janesville Craig (4-4) at Verona (5-3), Big Eight, 7 p.m. Friday, Verona High School--The Cougars look to clinch a WIAA Playoff berth, while the Wildcats hope to improve their seeding.
This is not your typical Verona offense. The Cardinals still run a variety of traps, sweeps and counter plays, but this season the passing game has evolved thanks to the arm of quarterback Aaron Young. The senior has thrown for 1,302 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"He's very athletic and has a strong arm," Craig coach Adam Bunderson said of Young. "He gives another dimension to that offense that you're not used to seeing."
Craig's defense has been the one constant for the team this season, and Bunderson knows it will have to have its best game of the season if the Cougars are to become playoff-eligible.
Craig has allowed 21.5 points a game, but take away two lopsided losses to Sun Prairie and Middleton, and that number is much lower.
"Our defense has carried us, at times," Bunderson said. "We're very athletic at a number of positions and have several playmakers.
"Offensively, we've kind of been a work in progress all season. Hopefully, we can put all phases of the game together Friday night."
Best guess: Verona 27, Craig 14.
Madison West (6-2) at Janesville Parker (1-7), Big Eight, 7 p.m. Friday, Monterey Stadium--The Regents are the surprise of the Big Eight. First year-coach Brad Murphy and his team have only lost to unbeaten Sun Prairie and once-beaten Middleton.
West has a balanced offense thanks to quarterback Keishawn Shanklin and tailback Jaden Stephens.
Parker is wrapping up a disappointing season in which the offense never got on track. The Vikings are averaging only 7.5 points per game.
Parker can look to the end of last season for a little incentive. The Vikings scored 52 points in beating West int he season-finale a year ago.
Best guess: West 20, Parker 0.
East Troy (4-4) at Brodhead/Juda (2-6), Rock Valley, 7 p.m. Friday, Brodhead High School--The Cardinals' streak of a state-record 25 straight playoff appearances came to an end this season, but they can spoil the Trojan's hopes with a win.
East Troy is averaging 35.1 points a game thanks to all-everything quarterback Jake Dessart. The junior has rushed for 1,301 yards and thrown for another 989. He has accounted for 28 touchdowns.
Brodhead/Juda's youth was too tough to overcome in its bid for a 26th postseason bid. The usually potent running game that has produced so many 1,000-yard rushers over the years is averaging less than 50 yards per game.
Best guess: East Troy 34, Brodhead/Juda 20.