Round one of the WIAA football playoffs yielded few major surprises.
All the top-seeded teams advanced with little resistance, and, as expected, the majority of No. 1 vs. No. 8 seed games were blowouts.
One of the two big upsets statewide Friday night involved a team not far to our west. Seventh-seeded and Badger South Conference member Monroe upset second-seeded Onalaska in a Division 3 opening-round game. One other No. 7 seed went on the road and won as Winneconne stunned No. 2 seed Sheboygan Falls in Division 4.
Ten teams seeded sixth went on the road and picked up wins against No. 3 seeds.
In a battle of Big Eight teams, sixth-seeded Sun Prairie won at third-seeded Verona 51-28.
In one of the more puzzling games of the opening round, top-ranked and defending Division 1 champion Muskego pasted Milwaukee Pulaski 49-0.
A comfortable margin but nothing crazy, right? Wrong. The game was called at halftime. Both coaches agreed that playing the second half was meaningless.
Muskego raced out to an early 35-0 lead against an obviously undermanned Pulaski team.
Pulaski plays in arguably the weakest Division 1 conference in the state in the Milwaukee City Blackbourn. Milwaukee Reagan was the conference champion with a 6-0 record but lost its Division 1 playoff opener to Wilmot 42-14.
Milwaukee South was second in the Blackbourn but chose not to participate in the postseason for the second straight year because of a lack of numbers. The Cardinals had fewer than 25 players, including freshmen and sophomores, available and chose instead to play a 10th game Thursday night. South lost that game 40-0 to Wauwatosa East.
South beat Pulaski 21-18 during the regular season.
Knowing they would be in Division 1 and likely have to open the playoffs at top-ranked Muskego, why would Pulaski not choose the same route as Milwaukee South and play a more meaningful 10th game against a team that failed to make the playoffs?
What would the Pulaski players or program have to possibly gain by going on the road and being embarrassed? Why have your senior class go out like that instead of playing a competitive game that it might have a chance to win?
Milton coach Rodney Wedig, whose team won its Division 2 playoff opener against La Crosse Central, said it was probably a tough spot for the Pulaski coaching staff.
“You never know what the situation might be like,” Wedig said. “I certainly can’t speak for them or the decision they made to be in the postseason rather than schedule a Game 10.
“But if it was me and knowing what we were up against, I would rather play that 10th game and not be in the playoffs. Make that 10th game a trophy-type game against another team that missed the playoffs. That way you’re playing for something.
“I’m not sure what was gained playing against Muskego, especially considering they called it at halftime. That doesn’t help either team.”
Wedig also believes the WIAA has to do something about brackets being solely based on a school’s current enrollment. He thinks that’s an unfair advantage, especially for the private schools.
Waukesha Catholic Memorial is the prohibitive favorite to win the Division 4 state title. The defending Division 3 state champions opened up the playoffs with a 65-0 win over Obama SCTE. Catholic Memorial plays in the Classic Eight Conference, which is unquestionably the best football conference in the state with the likes of Muskego, Waukesha West, Kettle Moraine and Hartland Arrowhead.
“I think at some point the WIAA has to look at some other things besides just enrollment,” Wedig said. “Schools like Catholic Memorial certainly have an advantage, because when you look at their enrollment (606) compared to another school that size, it’s just not the same and everybody knows it.
“I don’t know what the solution might be, but the enrollment aspect of each division has to be addressed.”
John Barry is a sports writer for The Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.