Janesville Craig will get another chance to play at Monterey Stadium after all.
The Cougars’ 41-27 loss to Big Eight Conference co-champion Madison Memorial on Friday night appeared like it might hamper the team’s chances to earn a home game in the WIAA Division 1 playoff bracket.
But Craig was again sent east, away from its conference cohorts, and earned a No. 4 seed in its grouping. The Cougars will host No. 5-seeded Kettle Moraine in a first-round game at 7 p.m. Friday night.
The winner will likely travel to top-seeded Muskego in the second round. Muskego will host eighth-seeded Milwaukee Hamilton/Audubon in the first round.
“I think our guys will be jacked to play at home again,” Craig coach Adam Bunderson said. “Every time you think it’s your last home game, it can be emotional. And our seniors were pretty emotional (Friday).
“So knowing they get to play at home again, I think, will be huge for our guys.”
Craig is 6-3, with its losses coming to Memorial, conference co-champion Sun Prairie and Middleton—which plays at Sun Prairie in a D1 opener.
Kettle Moraine went 5-4 overall and 4-4 in the rugged Classic Eight Conference, finishing tied for fourth behind unbeaten Muskego, Waukesha Catholic Memorial and Hartland Arrowhead. Kettle Moraine lost to those three teams, as well as Mukwonago, during the regular season, but closed out the year on a three-game winning streak.
“They play in a tough conference, just like we do,” said Bunderson, who was heading home to watch film on Kettle Moraine after the seeding meeting Saturday. “They have some quality wins and play some tough competition.”
Bunderson said he knew after seeing the grouping early Saturday morning that Muskego and Franklin would get the top two seeds and that Craig, Mukwonago and Kettle Moraine would be fighting for the three, four and five spots.
The second-year Craig coach declined to say how voting went down within the meeting but was obviously pleased to be one of the teams that earned a home game.
The Cougars are in the postseason for the second consecutive year and 14th time overall. They’ll be looking for their third-ever playoff victory and first since 1999.
This will be Craig’s first home playoff game since 2008, when the Cougars lost 37-21 to Kenosha Tremper in the first round.
“I think talent-wise, we’ve got a shot to win in the playoffs,” Bunderson said. “It’s a matter of putting a complete game together—not having the turnovers, not having the penalties.”
On the other half of that grouping, Lake Geneva Badger—which beat Union Grove on Friday night to earn its 12th straight playoff appearance—is the No. 6 seed and will travel to face Mukwonago. The winner will likely play second-seeded Franklin, which opens against Milwaukee Marshall/Carmen Northwest/Juneau/Languages.
The Edgerton Crimson Tide will carry their eight-game winning streak into the Division 4 playoffs, where they secured a No. 2 seed Saturday after finishing out the regular season with a victory over Big Foot on Friday.
Edgerton hosts seventh-seeded Wautoma at 7 p.m. Friday. Wautoma went 6-3 overall and 4-1 to finish in second place in the South Central Conference. Wautoma lost to Mauston, which went unbeaten to win the conference, and nonconference games against Berlin and Lakeside Lutheran—by matching 35-0 scores.
“I like the match-up for us,” Edgerton coach Mike Gregory said. “They’ve got a really good running back, but we’ve played very well defensively all season.
“We’re going to have to play better than we did Friday night, and I think we will. It’s the playoffs.”
The winner of Edgerton and Mauston faces the winner of sixth-seeded Lodi—the defending D4 state champions—and third-seeded Lake Mills.
In the other half of that bracket, Beloit Turner could be the most talented No. 8 seed in the entire state, if it was not shorthanded.
The Trojans opened the year 4-1 and looked like Rock Valley Conference contenders, but they suffered from suspensions and injuries and lost their final four games by combined scores of 187-44.
Turner opens at top-seeded Lakeside Lutheran, whose lone loss came in Week 3 to Lake Country Lutheran.