Brodhead/Juda 'committee' carries Cardinals back to playoffs
The Cardinals are fixtures in the postseason, having qualified a state-record 19 straight times. Brodhead/Juda hosts Prairie du Chien in a Division 4 first-round game Tuesday night.
Coach Jim Matthys, however, is quick to point out that this year’s team is not cut out from the same mold as previous playoff teams, including coach Gary Larsen’s 2003 Division 4 state runner-up team. The Cardinals are talented on both sides of the ball, but they don’t have the one superstar player of years past. That may be working to the team’s advantage, according to Matthys.
“I think back to last year’s playoff loss to Lodi, where they put 11 guys in the box to try and stop Ethan (Douglas),” Matthys said. “Ethan was an outstanding back, but we were probably too one-dimensional, and that cost us.
“This year, we’re getting contributions from a lot of different kids on offense. In fact, against Turner in our last regular-season game, we had nine different kids score. That makes us much harder to defend, because you can’t play us straight up.”
Brodhead/Juda is 7-2 on the season, with the losses to unbeaten River Valley and defending Division 4 state champion Walworth Big Foot (7-2). River Valley is the same playoff bracket as Brodhead/Juda, setting up a possible Level 2 rematch.
“We’re not afraid of playing anybody, and that’s a real credit to the seniors on this team for taking ownership,” Matthys said. “We were in both of those games we lost, and at that time, I knew both of those teams were going to be awfully good by the end of the year.”
The Cardinals are 20-18 all-time in the postseason. That figure and the current 19-year streak of qualifying has the community buzzing again.
“It’s playoff time, and you can feel it around town and at school,” Matthys said. “It’s an exciting time, and that’s why we talk to the kids before the season starts. They need to know how important the legacy they leave behind is.”
Brodhead/Juda finished second to Big Foot in the Rock Valley South, losing 21-20 to the Chiefs in overtime in a conference opener.
For the first time since Matthys can remember, the Cardinals did not have a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Yet four players are close to, or have surpassed, 500 yards rushing. Quarterback David Earleywine has been rock solid, with a better than 50 percent pass completion rate and a gaudy rushing average of more than seven yards a carry.
“Early on this season, we were still trying to find ourselves,” Matthys said. “Now, we’re playing pretty well. It started with a big (21-8) win over Evansville, another playoff team, and has continued since.
“And it’s a nice combination between the two schools,” he said of the Brodhead/Juda co-op “Last year, I’m not sure we had one kid from Juda that was a big contributor. This year, we have five.”
So the postseason beat goes on for Brodhead/Juda.