1. Rivalry week
In conferences where schools are pretty much all close in proximity, rivalry games are a regular occurrence. But this week treats us to two of the better ones in the area, with Rio making the 11-mile trek down Highway 60 to Fall River and Cambria-Friesland making the 5½-mile trek down County Highway P to Randolph. Rio and Randolph are in the bottom half of the conference and already out of the playoff mix. But when pride — and bragging rights — are on the line, sometimes that’s all that’s needed to produce a good game. It might not show on the scoreboard, but expect the Vikings and Rockets to go down swinging. Although in the case of the Pirates, don’t expect much of a letdown considering they’re playing for the outright Trailways Small Conference championship. Having already secured a share of it, they’re conference champs for the first time since 2013 and only the third time in school history to go along with their 1966 crown. But having it to themselves is the ultimate prize.
2. Trailways Large still unsettled
Markesan has looked like the cream of the crop in its conference all season, winning easily over the two contenders it’s faced — 28-7 over Dodgeland in Week 4 and 34-6 over Horicon/Hustisford in Week 6. But that’ll mean nothing if Pardeeville heads to town and springs the upset Friday. In fact, it’ll mean a three-way tie if the Bulldogs win and Dodgeland wins at Horicon/Husty. The Hornets, though, have the most lethal one-two punch in the area, with QB Carson Clark playing at an All-State level (58.6 completion percentage, 1,449 yards passing, 23 TDs against only four interceptions, 700 rushing yards, five rushing TDs) and WR Drew Bernhagen looking like a star (32 catches, 772 yards, 11 TDs). Pardeeville’s secondary has its work cut out for it.
3. Postseason tuneup for Mayville
The Cardinals haven’t been in the playoffs since 2009, but when the dust settles and the first-round pairings are announced Saturday, they’ll have a date with someone, somewhere. So what could be better, you ask? Well, this: Mayville gets a dry run this week in a glorified scrimmage against a talented Pittsville team (7-1 record) out of the Central Wisconsin Small Conference. The teams will match up against each other after their scheduled Week 9 opponents forfeited. Getting the chance to iron out some kinks and perhaps try out a few new wrinkles in the playbook a week before the postseason kicks off could prove valuable come Week 10.
4. Opportunity knocks for BD
No one expects the Golden Beavers to give Waunakee a scare. No one has all season — and it’s entire possible no one will until Thanksgiving turkeys go on sale in six weeks. But BD can raise some eyebrows Friday night if it’s able to do what only two other teams have been able to do — score more than once against the Warriors. Pass protection will be the key to accomplishing that, because if BD can keep QB Kendric Jimenez upright and able to survey the field, he’s got weapons to throw to in Dillon Livingston and Marshall Goodrich. Big plays are BD’s best bet, as running backs Joel Riehbrandt and Blaiz Firari will likely find the sledding to be tough against the Warriors’ feisty defense. (Don’t be surprised if BD reaches into its bag of tricks a time or two, either.)
5. Mother Nature
Last Friday was the first time all season where it really felt like fall, and the weather conditions come kickoff are expected to be about the same this Friday. Things could be worse — there could be near-freezing temperatures — but the cooler temperatures and possibility for precipitation does present some challenges in the form of footing and play-calling. It’s football, though. That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?