Finals pipeline? Rock teams look solid
The Rock Valley Conference has not won a WIAA state football title since coach Dan Thorpe led Beloit Turner to the Division 4 championship in 1988.
Does the drought end this season?
Rodney Wedig, coach of Walworth Big Foot's 2007 conference champions, thinks so.
Wedig's previously unbeaten Chiefs lost a 28-23, second-round heartbreaker in Division 4 to Rock Valley rival Evansville last Saturday. With Evansville (9-2) set to host Rock nemesis Brodhead-Juda (9-2) in a third-round game at 3 p.m. today, the conference is assured of a team in the state semifinals.
Wedig thinks today's winner has an excellent shot at a state title.
"If you look at our division, those two teams can play with anyone else," Wedig said. "That's what was so disappointing about losing to Evansville. I really liked our chances of running the table if we could've gotten by Evansville.
"I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Rock Valley wins a state football championship. This league has gotten so tough."
Brodhead-Juda and Evansville are no strangers to each other. Until the Chiefs emerged as contenders the last two years, following two strong seasons by Palmyra-Eagle (2001-02), the Cardinals and Blue Devils had been battling each other for the Rock Valley title on an almost-annual basis since 1992.
This is the fourth meeting between the two in the last two years. Evansville has won the last three games, including a miraculous 16-14 victory in the second round of the playoffs a year ago on Andrew Keister's "Hail Mary" 35-yard touchdown pass to Pat Allen on the final play of the game.
Brodhead-Juda coach Jim Matthys said last season's playoff loss is ancient history.
"To be honest, we haven't said too much about it," Matthys said. "These are two different teams with different players.
"I'm sure it's something that you don't forget about, but that game is not going to have any bearing on the outcome of this game."
Evansville thumped Brodhead-Juda, 40-20, during the regular season, but Blue Devil coach Ron Grovesteen isn't putting much stock in the victory. He knows Evansville is about to face a high-scoring Cardinal team that is running on all cylinders.
Brodhead-Juda is racking up huge rushing yardage behind behemoth Gary McAdory and breakaway tailback Tyler Lincoln. Those two have combined for over 2,500 yards on the ground and 35 touchdowns.
In two playoff games, Brodhead-Juda has scored 88 points, thanks to what Matthys said was "stepped-up" line play.
Grovesteen would rather be facing the Cardinals at Camp Randall Stadium with a state title on the line, but he knows that would never happen due to logistical reasons.
"We've seen them so many times in the playoffs that it seems it has become routine," Grovesteen said of the fourth postseason meeting. "It's too bad that we have to play them so soon. But we do, and we better be ready.
"We know we have to limit our mistakes because you can't give Brodhead any extra chances. It'll be a typical hard-hitting game between two good football teams."
Two good teams with strong aspirations of bringing a state title back to the Rock Valley.
What: Brodhead-Juda (9-2) vs. Evansville (9-2) in WIAA Division 4 football third-round playoff game.
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Evansville High School.
Radio: WCLO, 1230 AM; WEKZ, 1260 AM.