Week 5 signals the official midway point of the prep football season, and so far there have been some great — and not so great — starts to the season.
Portage posted its first 3-0 start since 2007, and despite losing last week, the Warriors have been one of the most impressive teams in the area so far. Meanwhile, nothing seems to have changed for Lodi as it has turned in another unbeaten run to open the campaign.
Pardeeville enters the halfway point above .500 while other area teams have had their fair share of positives, although they haven’t fully bore themselves out in the old record book.
With that being said, there’s plenty of time for those programs to turn around their misfortune and spark a push for the postseason.
This week seems like as good a time as any to start.
Warriors eye quick rebound
Following a red hot start, Portage got cooled off last week as it suffered its first defeat of the season with a 29-26 loss to Mt. Horeb/Barneveld.
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The Warriors have little time to recharge this week, with their crucial Badger Small Conference clash against Fort Atkinson moved up to Thursday due to the state-wide officials shortage.
The Blackhawks (3-1, 2-0 Badger Small) have been another surprise throughout the conference so far this season. Last making the playoffs since 2016 and coming off a 2-1 spring season, Fort Atkinson has been on a roll so far this fall, rattling off three straight wins following a season-opening 29-0 loss to Milton.
A balanced ground attack has powered coach Nick Nelson’s squad, especially in last week’s 35-6 win over Sauk Prairie. The Blackhawks were without a 100-yard rusher, but had nine players record carries as they racked up 288 yards on 48 touches.
Senior Alex Courtier has been the focal point of the rushing attack with 276 yards and five scores through four games, including 85 yards and a pair of TDs against the Eagles last week. It will pose another tall task for the Warriors defense that did its best against the Vikings, allowing 277 yards and four scores in the three-point defeat.
A solid ground game has been Portage’s forte, but the Warriors found plenty of success through the air against Mt. Horeb/Barneveld. Junior Gavin Thompson threw for 296 yards, three scores and an interception on 20-of-33 passing for the Warriors.
Thompson connected with seven separate targets and tossed two TD passes in the final two-plus minutes as the Warriors’ late rally against the Vikings fell short. The aerial assault could be key to cracking the Blackhawks this week.
Bulldogs, Cougars set for ground battle
As most coaches say “Games are won and lost in the trenches.”
It’s shaping up that Friday’s Eastern Suburban Conference clash between Pardeeville and Clinton will be waged there as the pair of 1-1 league teams enter sporting punishing ground games.
Following a nail-biting Week 3 loss to Marshall, Pardeeville got back into the win column in emphatic fashion last Friday as the Bulldogs bulldozed their way to a 50-6 win over Palmyra-Eagle. Pardeeville (2-1, 1-1 Eastern Suburban) lorded over the Panthers on the ground, rushing for 362 yards and five touchdowns on the ground on 45 carries.
Derek Lindert (9 carries, 124 yards, 2 TDs) and Hayden Guenther (12-110-2) both broke the century mark and helped the Bulldogs stretch their season rushing total to 821 yards and nine scores.
Similarly, Clinton has hounded opponents on the ground through four games to the tune of 1,082 yards and 10 scores. The Cougars (3-1, 1-1) were heavily kept in check against Marshall last week, rushing for a season-low 192 yards and just one score on 34 carries.
Abel Espinoza had 83 yards and the lone score in the Cougars’ 28-6 loss, but has a team-high 383 yards and five scores so far this season. He won’t be the only one the Dawgs will have to contend with however, as Clinton sports two more rushers with over 200 yards in Peyton Bingham (293 yards, 4 TDs) and Caleb Schoonover (203).
Balanced Trojans looking to trip up Blue Devils
Lodi surrendered its first points and trailed for the first time all season last week against Walworth Big Foot. The Chiefs scored first, but the Blue Devils locked down the final 38-plus minutes in a 38-6 victory.
Even coming off a lopsided win, Lodi must be sure to not let momentum slip this week in its toughest test to date in a hungry Beloit Turner squad. The Trojans started the season strong with a pair of non-conference wins but got off to a rough start in their debut season in the Capitol Conference.
After falling to Watertown Luther Prep, 34-8, in Week 3, Turner (2-2) dropped a heart-breaking 32-31 overtime tilt to Lakeside Lutheran last week in the Trojans home opener. Turner boasts an incredibly balanced offensive attack as the Trojans have thrown for 693 yards and a pair of scores, while rushing for 582 yards and nine TDs.
Quarterback Sean Fogel leads the Capitol in passing with 662 yards with six TDs and just one interception, but he hasn’t been the most efficient completing just 35-of-77 passes. What Fogel does have going for him however is a deep receiving corps with four players with at least 100 yards receiving, including leading rushers Camden Combs (298 yards, 4 TDs) and Conner Hughes (223-5).
The Blue Devils (4-0, 2-0) have plenty of weapons of their own however, including the emerging Jaylen Montgomery. The senior has taken over as the Blue Devils’ bell cow back after the injury to senior Lucas Heyroth, piling up 458 yards and five scores through three games.
Montgomery was on full display last week against the Chiefs, rushing for 182 yards and a pair of scores on 26 carries. What may be most impressive is Montgomery’s ability to churn out yards as he’s averaging 6.9 yards per attempt.
Old conference foes meet again
The addition of Poynette to the South Central Conference creates plenty of old rivalry match-ups for the Pumas, who currently compete in the Capitol North outside of football.
The latest chapter of Poynette’s return to the SCC gets underway this week as the Pumas will head to Westfield in a clash of two teams looking to get off the schneid in league play.
It’s been a tough road for both sides following season-opening wins over Palmyra-Eagle and Howards Grove, respectively, for the Pioneers and Pumas. Westfield had no match for Wautoma last week in a 50-12 loss to the Hornets, their third straight.
The Pioneers (1-3, 0-2 South Central) couldn’t stop the Wautoma offense, in particular quarterback Sam Weiss as he completed 10-of-11 passes for 278 yards and three scores for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Weiss also rushed for three scores and 144 yards on nine carries.
Still, there were positives for the Pioneers to draw from as quarterback Kashton Kangas threw for 152 y yards on 12-of-16 passing, and Hunter Goodwin rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries.
The Pumas (1-2, 0-2) meanwhile struggled to get over the hump in a 36-7 loss to Wisconsin Dells, as Poynette failed to score until midway through the fourth quarter following a series of possessions fell flat. The one bright side for the Pumas was their ground game as they rushed for 213 yards on 45 carries, with Dylan Elsing (11 carries, 71 yards) and Jimmy Heath (18-62) leading a balanced attack.
Something will have to give this week, and with it could be the loser’s playoff chances.
Other area games to watch
- A furious fourth-quarter comeback unraveled Cambria-Friesland last week as it surrendered 19 points in the final 12 minutes, including a game-winning score with 31 seconds left, in a 26-22 loss to Oshkosh Lourdes. The Hilltoppers have little time to complain as they look to rebound this week against Johnson Creek. The Bluejays cruised past St. John’s Northwestern Academies last week, 55-13, and are looking to prove they’re among the Trailways Conference’s best sporting a high-powered offense that’s averaging 45.8 points per game and is led by dual-threat quarterback Dylan Bredlow. The Johnson Creek signal caller has accounted for 774 total yards and 14 TDs through four games, including 516 yards and five scores through the air on 21-of-28 passes.
- Like rival Cambria-Friesland, Fall River/Rio was done in by a late fourth-quarter rally in last week’s 22-18 loss to Randolph. The Rebels’ time to reload is quick as they head to fellow Trailways Conference title hopeful Oshkosh Lourdes. The Red Knights overcame a 22-7 deficit midway through the third quarter to stun Cambria-Friesland last week, thanks in large part to quarterback Wade Lindahl, who threw for 207 yards and all four Lourdes scores on 17-of-25 passing. The Rebels will have plenty of receiving threats to deal with, but Lindahl’s top target is Thomas Derleth, who has 222 yards and four TDs on 14 catches.
- Montello/Princeton/Green Lake will try to break into the win column this week against reigning South Central Conference champ Mauston. The Phoenix (0-4, 0-2) have yet to get in the win column after falling to River Valley, 42-6, in last week’s conference crossover matchup. While MPGL’s passing game got off the ground as the Phoenix threw for 62 yards and their lone score, the ground game was stuck in first gear with 146 yards on 47 carries, good for 3.1 yards per attempt. The Golden Eagles (3-1, 2-0) have combined for over 1,500 yards of offense and 18 TDs so far this week, so MPGL will have to be alert both on the ground and through the air.