October is finally here, and that means the prep football regular season is coming to a close. With just two games left in the regular season, many area teams are either playing to remain in the hunt for a conference championship, or to keep alive their hopes of a playoff appearance.
Teams like Portage and Rio face must-win games if they are going to return to the playoffs. Others like Lodi and Pardeeville are playing in games that will help decide conference championships. Here is a look at the area’s Week 8 prep football games:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Portage (2-5, 2-3 conference) at Reedsburg (1-6, 1-4)
Portage hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2007 and this year’s quest to end that streak will require the Warriors to win their final two games. The first of those games comes on Friday against rival Reedsburg. The Warriors started Badger North Conference play strong, winning their first two games, but have dropped their last three games, forcing a must-win Friday.
Portage has struggled in its current stretch, getting outscored 141-33, including a 57-14 loss to Mt. Horeb/Barneveld last week. The Warriors have been improved on offense, averaging 19.5 points per game this season, behind a versatile rushing attack.
Senior quarterback Erik Isakson leads the way with 395 yards and five touchdowns, while senior running backs Justin Sankey (300 yards, three touchdowns) and Dylan Golke (226, four) have provided a nice complement.
While the rushing attack has been promising, the Warriors have also had some success with their passing game. Isakson has thrown for 489 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with senior wide receiver Nolan Paul 16 times for 302 yards and a score.
The weak link for Portage has been its defense. The Warriors are allowing 38.7 points and 336 yards per game, including 157.3 through the air.
The Beavers have had their fair share of struggles this season, having dropped their last three games. Reedsburg suffered a 43-3 loss to Waunakee last week, and will miss the playoffs for the first time in six years.
The Beavers are allowing 32.5 points per game and struggling to stop opponents’ passing attacks, giving up 168 yards per game and 13 touchdowns. While the passing game is neither team’s strong suit, big plays through the air could make or break the Warriors’ hopes of ending their postseason drought.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Nick Larson, Senior, Rio
The running back came up huge for the Vikings last week, rushing for 142 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries in Rio’s 44-20 Homecoming victory over Beaver Dam Wayland Academy.
After the Big Red grabbed the lead with a touchdown early in the opening quarter, Larson got his team on the board with a 35-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 6. Larson’s touchdown run was the first of six straight touchdowns for Rio in the game.
Larson, who has 573 rushing yards on the season, along with fellow Rio running back Teagan Prochnow, might be in store for another big game on the ground. They will be going against a Deerfield team that gave up 291 rushing yards to Fall River last week. If Larson can put together another nice game on the ground, Rio could still have playoff hopes heading into the final week of the season.
COMPETING FOR CROWN
Lodi would clinch at least a share of the Capitol North Conference championship with a victory over Watertown Luther Prep on Friday. The undefeated Blue Devils would win the outright league championship with a win and a Lake Mills loss this week, or they could take care of it themselves by beating Luther Prep and Poynette next week.
Pardeeville suffered its first Trailways Large Conference loss last week to Dodgeland, but the Bulldogs still can win a conference championship. If Pardeeville can find a way to beat Horicon/Hustisford on Friday, and then upset league-leading Markesan the following week, the Bulldogs will win the program’s first conference championship since 2010.
Cambria-Friesland’s title hopes are still alive in the Trailways Small Conference, but the Hilltoppers will need some help. The first step for C-F would be beating league-leading Fall River on Friday. If The Toppers can knock off the Pirates, they would then need to beat Randolph in Week 9, and hope that Fall River loses to Rio in the season finale. Cambria-Friesland would also need Johnson Creek and Oshkosh Lourdes to lose at least one of their final two remaining games.
WE’RE TALKING PLAYOFFS
Undefeated Lodi has clinched a playoff berth, while Pardeeville became eligible for postseason consideration with its third league win two weeks ago against Montello/Princeton/Green Lake.
The one area team that can become playoff-eligible this week is Cambria-Friesland. The Toppers need to win one of their final two games to become eligible. Cambria-Friesland faces a tough test on Friday when it hosts Trailways Small Conference front-runner Fall River, but finishes up on the road against a winless Randolph team on Oct. 13.
Portage’s playoff hopes are still alive, but the Warriors will need to win their final two games to return to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Portage finishes up with road games at Reedsburg on Friday and at DeForest on Oct. 13. Reedsburg has just one win on the season, but DeForest (5-2 overall, 4-1 in conference) could be the best team in the Badger North Conference not named Waunakee.
Montello/Princeton/Green Lake and Rio also need to win out to become playoff-eligible. MPGL plays at Dodgeland (4-3, 3-1) on Friday and at Palmyra-Eagle (2-5, 0-4) on Oct. 13. Rio travels to Deerfield (2-5, 2-4) on Friday and at Fall River (6-1, 5-0) on Oct. 13.
The only area team eliminated from playoff consideration already is Poynette. The Pumas, who host Lake Mills this week, fell to 0-3 in Capitol North Conference play with a 29-20 loss to Watertown Luther Prep on Friday.