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A referee motions to players during the Craig vs. Parker football game Aug. 30, 2019, at Monterey Stadium.

Blackout will be the theme Friday night at Monterey Stadium.

But not the kind of blackout where fans are asked to wear black to support their team.

No, this is a different kind of blackout. This one involves a dark and empty stadium.

Despite being in the middle of the high school football season, Monterey Stadium will sit idle Friday night.

Madison La Follette and Janesville Parker were scheduled to play a Big Eight Conference game at the usual time and place. But that game will now take place Saturday night at Monterey, because only three officials were available to work the Friday night game. A high school officiating crew consists of five officials—the referee, umpire, back judge, linesman and line judge.

“I have tried since early August to get two others to work (Friday’s game),” said Janesville School District Athletics Assistant Chris Nicholson. “We offered mileage but still had no takers.

“We could not wait until the week of to move it, as I had to secure a crew to work the game.”

So the decision was made last week to reschedule the game for Saturday night.

A shortage of qualified officials at the high school and middle school levels has been an ongoing problem nationwide not only in football but in a number of sports. The WIAA has implemented a number of programs to try and recruit new officials but with limited success.

“I wish more people realized how stressful this is,” Nicholson said of trying to schedule officials for 25 sports programs city-wide between Craig and Parker high schools, along with Edison, Franklin and Marshall middle schools. “We are moving games around left and right now.”

Clayton Kreger is not only Parker’s head football coach, but he’s the school’s athletics director, as well. He looks at the shortage of officials and the postponement of Friday night’s game as a two-sided coin.

“As a coach, we tell our players, control the controllables,” Kreger said. “Life is too short to worry about those things that we have no control over. We can control our purpose, commitment, attitude, energy, and effort. In football, we cannot control who we play, where we play or when we play.”

But as an athletic director, Kreger knows the lack of qualified officials is a problem that is not going away.

“I can tell you that the Big Eight athletic directors are constantly working to attract and retain high quality officials for all of our athletic competitions,” Kreger said.

{span dir=”ltr”}”High school athletics can be a pivotal point in a young person’s life, and I understand that without officials, our kids would not have that opportunity. There is no doubt a shortage of officials in some sports currently, and as an athletic director it is my job to promote more people to ‘stay in the game’ and become an official.”{/span}

Here’s a look at three area games, including Milton’s bid to stay unbeaten as it travels to Badger South powerhouse Monona Grove:

Janesville Craig (1-2) at Sun Prairie (2-1), Big Eight, 7 p.m. Friday, Ashley Field—These teams meet for the last time as Big Eight opponents in a series the Cardinals have dominated. Sun Prairie has won four straight and nine of the last 10.

The 10th-ranked Cardinals are led by Brady Stevens. The junior quarterback has thrown for 590 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I think we match up a little bit better defensively with Sun Prairie than we did with Verona, but they still present plenty of problems,” Craig coach Adam Bunderson said. “They’re more of a smash-mouth offense, where they like to pound on you, but their quarterback throws a nice ball.

“And defensively, I think Sun Prairie is better than Verona. They’re really quick to the ball.”

Craig counters with an offense that moved the ball consistently in the first half against Verona but then bogged down when forced to play catch-up.

Quarterback Eric Hughes leads Craig. The senior has rushed for 258 yards and has five touchdowns.

Best guess: Sun Prairie 34, Craig 6

Madison La Follette (2-1) at Janesville Parker (0-3), Big Eight, 7 p.m. Saturday, Monterey Stadium—The Lancers have won seven straight in the series.

Ben Probst is the catalyst for La Follette. The senior has thrown for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wideouts Dakovin Prather and Charlie Kunkel have combined for 506 yards receiving and 10 TDs.

“La Follette is a good football team that is 2-1, and in their loss put some long drives together against (unbeaten) Memorial,” Kreger said. “Defensively, we need to be able to stop the throwing game.”

Parker will be bolstered by the return of several players who missed the first three games due to injuries or suspension.

Best guess: La Follette 27, Parker 7

Milton (3-0, 1-0) at Monona Grove (1-2, 1-0), Badger South, 7 p.m. Friday, Monona Grove High School—The unbeaten Red Hawks find out if they’re contenders or pretenders as they go on the road to play the two-time defending conference champions.

The Silver Eagles started the season an uncharacteristic 0-2 but opened up Badger South play last Friday with a win over Monroe.

“This is a perfect measuring stick for us,” Milton coach Rodney Wedig said of playing Monona Grove. “They’ve been the dominant program in our conference for a long time.”

Milton is averaging 45.3 points per game and has been stingy on defense, allowing only 22 points in three games.

Nick Huber has rushed for seven touchdowns, while quarterback Evan Jordahl has seven passing TDs.

Best guess: Milton 21, Monona Grove 13

Week 4

GAMES FRIDAY

(7 p.m. starting times)

BIG EIGHT

Janesville Craig at Sun Prairie

Beloit Memorial at Madison East

Madison West at Verona

Middleton at Madison Memorial

ROCK VALLEY

Evansville at Beloit Turner

Edgerton at Clinton

McFarland at East Troy

Brodhead/Juda at Jefferson

Walworth Big Foot at Whitewater

BADGER SOUTH

Milton at Monona Grove

Watertown at Monroe

Edgewood at Oregon

Fort Atkinson at Stoughton

SOUTHERN LAKES

Elkhorn at Lake Geneva Badger

Union Grove at Burlington

Wilmot at Waterford

Delavan-Darien at Westosha Central

TRAILWAYS LARGE

Orfordville Parkview at Montello/Princeton/Green Lake

GAME SATURDAY

BIG EIGHT

Madison La Follette at Janesville Parker

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