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1 Game of the Week

Horicon/Hustisford has its sights set on winning the Trailways Large Conference championship outright in Week 9, but in order to do so, the MarshFalcons first must take care of business against Pardeeville this week. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs, who are 3-1 in league play, can jump right back into the title picture with a victory. So there’s a lot at stake for both teams. The Bulldogs are averaging 17.4 points per game while allowing an average of 13.3, numbers indicative of a team just one game over .500 overall. But they definitely have a stout ground game at 188.0 yards per contest, led by Derek Lindert’s 140.0 per game. The 6-foot, 195-pound bruiser is closing in on 1,000 yards (he has 980) and has hit paydirt 14 times. Lindert also leads the defense in solo tackles (27) and is second in total tackles (47), plus he’s picked off three passes. There figure to be chances for sudden-change plays this week, too, with how much Husticon likes to throw it. The MarshFalcons’ dynamic offense, which is putting up 32.7 points per game, is led by reigning Trailways Large offensive player of the year Dylan Schmitt, who has completed 62.2% of his passes for 1,073 yards (153.3 per game), 10 TDs and four interceptions. He also has 807 rushing yards (115.3 per game) with nine TDs. Zach Kehl is the big target in the passing game, with 32 catches for 428 yards and five TDs, and he also leads a defense — which is allowing 15.4 points per game — with a whopping 71 solo tackles and 94 total tackles. He has five tackles for loss, two interceptions and a forced fumble as well. The top-heavy Trailways Large will either get more crowded this week — or Husticon will be making some room in the trophy case. It’s that time of year.

2 Can Columbus stay hot?

The Cardinals pulled off one of this year’s biggest upsets in the state last Friday, winning 14-10 over a Lodi team that was ranked fourth in the medium schools division of the Associated Press state poll. And it came a little bit out of nowhere, no less, as Columbus had gotten blown out by Lake Mills — also a top-10 team — the week prior. The win over the Blue Devils resuscitated the Cardinals’ season and has the playoffs back within reach, so now the challenge becomes making it pay off by winning two more times to make it into the postseason. It gets a little easier this week, but Watertown Luther Prep is no slouch and in fact should be pretty motivated since a win would put the Phoenix in the playoffs. Luther Prep is winning mostly with defense, as the Phoenix are allowing 21.1 points per game to help keep them in games with an offense that isn’t exactly high-octane at 156.4 yards and 17.9 points per game. Two teams with a lot to play for will clash — and when there’s a lot on the line, that usually makes for a good game.

3 Just what the doctor ordered?

Randolph has had back-to-back big games against the cream of the crop in the Trailways Small Conference in Oshkosh Lourdes and Johnson Creek, and the results were anything but good. But after the 38-21 loss to Lourdes in Week 6 and a 26-0 shutout at Creek last week, the Rockets get reeling Deerfield this week. It won’t go down as a signature victory if the Rockets do indeed get up off the mat, but getting some good vibes going again could very well jump-start them back in the right direction — and at just the right time, too. Randolph started out 5-0 and now at 5-2 under new coach Tom Chase — the longtime coach at Weyauwega-Fremont who left that gig with quite a few feathers in his hat to take an assistant job at Ripon College in 2014 — is still dreaming big. A win over the Demons, who are 2-5 and 0-4 in conference play, might loom much larger than it would look on paper. Only time will tell.

4 Rivalry game with implications

Fall River/Rio has no margin for error. At 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Trailways Small, a loss this week or next week will eliminate the Rebels from playoff consideration — and even wins in both weeks might not get them in because one of the games is a non-conference game and their record would still be under .500 in league play. They head up the road to face Cambria-Friesland this week, and the Hilltoppers are almost as desperate. They still have two conference games left so they could get up over .500 by defeating the Rebels and then another rival in Randolph a week from now. If, in fact, Fall River/Rio wins and then C-F goes on to beat Randolph next week, it would put both at 2-3 in the league. And if the WIAA were to pick one of the two for the playoffs, the decision could well be made based on head-to-head results. Rivarly games don’t usually need any added juice, but this one has some.

5 Brrrrrrr?

Save for some thunderstorms that moved through parts of southern and south central Wisconsin about kickoff time during Week 6, which forced a few delayed starts around the area, the weather this season has been almost unreportable — which is a good thing. It’s not likely to be reportable this week, either, but with a major cold front expected to move in sometime Friday night or early Saturday morning, temperatures could get quite brisk. Wind, rain and snow are typically the only elements that impact game planning, but if the mercury does indeed dip into the 30s or low 40s, don’t be surprised if point totals are a little lower than average for some of the higher-powered offenses. Not likely, but maybe.

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