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Broden Boschert

Beaver Dam's Broden Boschert (right) runs through a Mount Horeb/Barneveld defender last week. 

Nothing small about it

Randolph will be abuzz come Friday as Fall River will be in town for a big game in the Trailways Small Conference. A big chunk of Fall River’s roster was instrumental in helping the Pirates win the conference title last season before advancing to the semifinals of the WIAA Division 7 playoffs, so their spot atop the conference standings — they’re 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the league — is no surprise. But Randolph is coming off back-to-back 2-7 campaigns, hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2015 and hasn’t been in the conference title conversation since finishing second to Fall River in 2013 — one year after last winning the league in 2012. So for the Rockets — they’re 3-1 and 2-0 — this is relatively new territory. They scrapped the playbook in the offseason and now are employing a run-pass option attack, which has netted 30.8 points per game. The Pirates will have their hands full with QB Sawyer Westra (239 yards passing, four TDs, two interceptions with a 58.8 completion percentage to go along with 215 yards rushing and two TDs) and running backs Cobey Alderden and Brayden Haffele (an almost equal split in rushing yards for a combined total of 513 yards and seven TDs). And the Rockets’ defense has made the high scoring equal success thanks to allowing only 15.0 points per game — with none of those points coming in the first quarter, helping Randolph outscore opponents 27-0 in that quarter so far. Meantime, Fall River is off to an unbeaten start almost entirely thanks to its defense, which has pitched a shutout and allowed only two touchdowns in three games — last week was a forfeit win over Wayland — to the tune of 5.3 points allowed per contest. That has helped the Pirates navigate murky waters personnel-wise, as running back Sam Nelson and quarterback Luke Figol have both missed time for one reason or another. Making this game even bigger is that it appears to be more than just a two team race, with Johnson Creek (4-0, 2-0) still to come for both Fall River and Randolph.

Rivalry renewed

Not much has gone right for Waupun thus far — not the offense (8.8 points per game), not the defense (46.5 points allowed per game) and certainly not the record (0-4, 0-2 East Central Conference). Their postseason drought, which dates back to 2007, appears destined to continue. But like in any lost season, there is still plenty to play for. Pride being one thing. And bragging rights being another. And it’s the latter at stake for the Warriors this Friday, as rival Ripon comes to town looking to reclaim the Little Brown Jug that has traded sides each of the last three seasons. Waupun has it now thanks to a 26-6 win last year. And with head coach Ethan Kintzler looking for anything at all to jumpstart his squad, keeping the jug in the City of Sculpture might be just the ticket. Quarterback Blake Dobbratz has been OK for Waupun, completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 319 yards and a pair of TDs. Trouble is, when he’s missed, it’s often resulted in big trouble as he has eight interceptions to his name. The ground game has been largely ineffective, churning out a little over 100 yards per game (421 total) with Benet Veleke leading the way at 196 yards and two TDs. The Tigers haven’t been a whole lot better overall, getting outscored 23.8 to 11.2 on average with a 2-2 overall mark and a 1-1 mark in conference to show for it.

Beaver Dam’s back is against the wall

The Golden Beavers already have two losses in conference with nary a win to speak of, and they have yet to face perennial powers Waunakee and DeForest to boot. That means this week’s game vs. Reedsburg (3-1, 1-1), next week’s game vs. Portage (0-4, 0-2) and a Week 8 tilt at Sauk Prairie (1-3, 1-1) are all must-win games in order to have any hope of making the playoffs for the second straight year. With victories in all three — and minus an upset over Waunakee or DeForest — the Golden Beavers would be 4-5 overall and 3-4 in conference. They still wouldn’t have a .500 or better record in conference — the WIAA’s first criteria for postseason eligibility — but if not enough teams meet that criteria then the WIAA has to go beneath the bar. And that’s where Beaver Dam might be able to sneak in. It’s a long shot, of course. But for a Golden Beavers’ squad that’s reeling after allowing 93 combined points in back-to-back losses — this after allowing only 26 over the first two weeks — that hope might be just enough to steer it back on track Friday night vs. Reedsburg.

Back on track

Horicon/Hustisford’s high-powered offense (31.2 points per game) couldn’t get going against Cambridge in a 30-13 Week 3 loss to the Blue Jays, but being a non-conference game, maybe that was a blessing in disguise. It had to have given the coaching staff plenty to turn to in terms of motivating the team for Week 4 against Palmyra-Eagle after all, right? And if it did, the players were listening — because they steam-rolled the Panthers to the tune of a 41-6 victory. Making the win that much more impressive is that the Panthers entered with a 3-0 overall mark, a 44-41 shoot-out win over Dodgeland the week prior and the look of a team intent on making some noise in the Trailways Large Conference race. So what does all that mean for Husticon’s game this week at Montello/Princeton/Green Lake? That depends on if you believe in momentum and don’t believe much in trap games, because Horicon/Hustiford should be well-oiled after the win over Palmyra-Eagle and the Phoenix — though rested this week after having to postpone last week’s tilt with Orfordville Parkview because of flooding in Montello — look to be overmatched at 1-2. But Dodgeland doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead to next week’s big game vs. Markesan (3-1, 2-0 in conference), because the Phoenix have been competitive, scoring 17.7 points per game while allowing only a few more at 22.0 per game.

Trojans try and turn the tide

It’s been a trying two weeks for Dodgeland, which is plenty talented in both the passing game and the running game (a balanced attack that has yielded 32.0 points per game) and is also good on defense (the Trojans have held three of their four opponents to 18 points or fewer) but has two heartbreaking losses to show for it. In Week 3, it was a 44-41 loss to Palmyra-Eagle and last week it was a 16-13 loss to Markesan. Those six points are all that stands between the Trojans and an unbeaten record. So while they are still winless in the Trailways Large Conference, they’re a lot better than that mark. It doesn’t get any easier this week against a Pittsville team that has outscored opponents by an average of 38.8 to 14.0 en route to a 4-0 start. The big weapons for the Panthers are QB Sam Hardinger (756 yards passing, 11 TDs and three interceptions with a 62.3 completion percentage) and wide receivers Hunter Wilke (13 catches, 360 yards, seven TDs) and Chris Snook (14, 281, three).

Mark McMullen is currently a sports reporter for the Daily Citizen. He can be reached by email at mmcmullen@wiscnews.com or by phone at 920-356-6754. Can also follow him on Twitter at @mmcmull2.