With the first three weeks of the prep football season in the books, teams officially turn the page to the middle third of the 2021 campaign.
While there’s still plenty of season left to unfold, some teams have established themselves in the early running of conference title races. Portage is off to its first 3-0 start since 2007 while Lodi is also unbeaten at 3-0 and continues to be a contender in the Capitol Conference.
Meanwhile, Pardeeville suffered its first loss but showed it can compete in a wide-open Eastern Suburban. The intrigue of conference games will only increase the rest of the season, starting with Friday’s second set of league tilts.
Here are the area’s top games to watch this week:
Warriors’ defense set for test
Defense hasn’t traditionally been Portage’s strong suit, especially stopping the run; however, the Warriors have certainly flipped the script so far this season.
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Portage has allowed a combined 131 yards rushing through the first three games of the season, with Stoughton’s 112 during last week’s 22-20 victory carrying most of the load. The Warriors’ defense will have its work cut out for it this week when they head to fellow unbeaten Mt. Horeb/Barneveld, which has flexed its muscles on the ground through three weeks.
The Vikings have piled up 689 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground so far this season, good for an average of 229.7 yards per game. The bell cow back has been Tyler Buechner, as the 5-foot-8, 170-pound junior has bruised his way for 330 yards and six scores on 55 carries, good for 6 yards per attempt.
Buechner rattled off 64 yards and a score in the Vikings’ 33-0 shutout win over Sauk Prairie last week, but made his presence known in Week 1, rushing for 228 yards and three TDs on 21 carries in Mt. Horeb/Barneveld’s 37-30 upset win over Racine St. Catherine’s.
Trenton Owens (33 carries, 212 yards, 4 TDs) has provided a steady second option for coach Bret St. Arnauld’s group, while quarterback Kolton Schaller has added a nice complement through the air. The 6-2, 190-pound senior signal caller has completed 32-of-62 passes for 427 yards, two scores and an interception.
The lanky righty has rarely been touched so far this season, so creating defensive pressure will be crucial. Despite a size disadvantage last week against Stoughton, the Warriors were able to disrupt Vikings quarterback Isaac Knutson with a pair of late sacks to force turnovers on downs and could make life difficult on Schaller.
Bulldogs aiming to break loose
Pardeeville’s return to the field following a one-week layoff didn’t go as planned last week as it suffered a 22-16 loss to defending Eastern Suburban Conference champion Marshall.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs should be feeling pretty good about themselves entering this Friday’s ESC clash with Palmyra-Eagle. Pardeeville took a 16-14 lead late in the third quarter and nearly held off the Cardinals, but were done in by a Craig Ward 32-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Frank with just 2:20 left to play.
While they struggled to fully halt Ward, who racked up 281 yards and all three Marshall scores on 12-of-22 passing, the Bulldogs thrived on the ground. Pardeeville (1-1) held Marshall to just 45 yards rushing, including limiting reigning league Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Frank to just 30 yards on 11 carries.
Meanwhile, Derek Lindert (21 carries, 115 yards) and Hayden Guenther (16-83), each rushed for a touchdown and the Bulldogs had 238 rushing yards on 49 carries. That’s especially encouraging looking ahead to the Panthers, who have been porous stopping the run.
Palmyra-Eagle (0-3, 0-1) has allowed opposing teams to rack up 769 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns through three games this season, including 285 yards and four scores in last week’s 40-8 loss to Cambridge. The Panthers’ opponents are averaging 256.3 rushing yards per game and 7.2 yards per attempt.
Similar to the Cardinals, the Panthers’ offense is paced through the air by quarterback Chance Scheel, who has thrown for 438 yards with two TDs and three interceptions on 45-of-81 passing this season. The loss to Marshall should be the perfect appetizer for the Bulldogs to lock down Scheel this week.
Pumas hope to halt high-scoring Chiefs
Turnovers and a two-headed running attack were too much for Poynette to overcome last week, and another run-heavy attack is in store for the Pumas again Friday when they host Wisconsin Dells in a South Central Conference home opener.
The Pumas (1-1, 0-1) were unable to rally out of a three-point halftime hole last Friday against Prairie du Chien, suffering a 30-13 loss. Poynette did get a strong rushing performance from quarterback Jimmy Heath as he piled up 129 yards and a score on 20 carries; however, Heath completed just 1-of-14 passing attempts for 11 yards and was picked off twice.
The Blackhawks only accounted for 217 total yards, but rode the tandem of Rhett Koenig (19 carries, 78 yards) and Ty Wagner (14-76, 2 TDs), as well as three interceptions to cage the Pumas.
Poynette will have an even bigger rushing threat to deal with Friday against the Chiefs and Matt Getgen. The senior running back has been on an absolute tear so far this season with 539 yards and 10 touchdowns through two games, including a 189-yard, four-score performance in last week’s 41-6 win over Wautoma.
Alongside Getgen, the Chiefs got 74 yards and a pair of scores from Lewis Waterman, while Jacob Rockwell added 82 yards on five carries, providing the Chiefs (3-0, 1-0) with plenty of options to pick apart the Pumas’ defense.
Rival Rockets, Rebels tee it up
While they may not be as tense as in Week 9, rivalry match-ups early in the season are still incredibly nerve-racking.
In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that Friday night’s clash between Randolph and Fall River/Rio could be season-altering, as the schools separated by just 12.5 miles meet trending in different directions.
Following a pair of losses to open the season, including a 6-0 nail-biter to Royall in Week 2, the Rebels burst into the win column in impressive fashion last week with a 62-20 win over Deerfield. Meanwhile, the Rockets suffered a second straight loss against Oshkosh Lourdes with a late touchdown sinking Randolph in an agonizing 12-7 defeat.
The pair of drastically different results last week certainly puts a brighter spotlight on this Friday’s affair. The Rebels enter the tilt with plenty of momentum after their convincing 42-point victory over the Demons.
A resounding ground attack and ball-hawking defensive performance bolstered Fall River/Rio, which chewed up 485 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground and picked off Deerfield quarterback Tommy Lees five times. Clay Blevins shined on both sides as he rushed for a team-high 143 yards and three scores while adding two interceptions on defense.
Matthew Miller (126 yards) and Gavin Grams (72 yards) each added two rushing scores, while Ayden Price had three interceptions and found pay dirt offensively with 51 rushing yards on just three carries.
The Rockets, meanwhile, had a hard time hanging onto the ball against the Red Knights, as quarterback Nate Kok tossed three interceptions and was sacked three times. The Rockets, however, got a monster performance from senior Travis Alvin, who had 28 tackles, including 10 solo, and one of the team’s three sacks.
Traiton Lininger rushed for 137 yards on 25 carries, but the rest of the Rockets combined for just 33 yards on 18 touches.
Other area games
- Lodi takes its dominant defense on the road Friday, heading to Walworth Big Foot looking for a fourth straight shutout win. The Blue Devils bullied their way to a 42-0 win over Horicon/Hustisford last week, holding the MarshFalcons to just 78 total yards, including 38 yards rushing on 28 attempts. Lodi, meanwhile, tallied 249 yards and four scores on the ground, with Jaylen Montgomery racking up 144 yards on 16 touches. The Chiefs lost a 51-44 shootout to Lakeside Lutheran last week, but got a big night from Basil Demco. The senior quarterback had 337 total yards of offense, including 228 yards and two scores on 16-of-23 passing with an interception.
- Cambria-Friesland picked up a second straight lopsided win last week as it cruised to a 52-8 win over St. John’s Northwestern Academies. The Hilltoppers will try to run their win streak to three this Friday when they travel to Oshkosh Lourdes, which is coming off a 12-7 win over Randolph. Senior Owen Jones stole the show for the Toppers against the Lancers, rushing for 222 yards and three scores on 19 carries while adding a receiving touchdown. The CF offense got some help, with the Toppers’ defense forcing three turnovers, including a pair of interceptions. The Red Knights relied on the pass to top the Rockets last week, with Wade Lindahl completing 13-of-21 passes for 154 yards and the game-winning touchdown, a 31-yard pitch-and-catch to Josh Pritzl with 1:40 left to play.
- Westfield will try to rebound this week when it travels to rival Wautoma in a meeting of 0-1 teams in South Central Conference play. The Pioneers (1-2 overall) surrendered 36 unanswered points en route to a 44-6 loss to Mauston last Friday. Offensive slumps continued for the Pioneers, who were limited to just 131 total yards, including 84 rushing; however, Westfield did pick off Mauston quarterback Spenser Lehman twice and got double-digit tackles from six different defenders. The Hornets equally struggled against Wisconsin Dells, mustering just a touchdown in a 41-6 loss to Wisconsin Dells.
- Montello/Princeton/Green Lake will have its hands full this week as it meets Southwest Wisconsin Conference title hopeful River Valley in a conference crossover clash. The Phoenix didn’t have an answer for Adams-Friendship quarterback Aiden Livingston last week, as the Green Devils’ signal caller racked up 354 total yards and five scores, including 289 yards and four TDs on the ground on just 15 carries, in a 34-20 loss. Juneau Toutant rushed for 155 yards on 24 carries and a score to pace MPGL offensively. The Blackhawks were outgained by 100 yards against Platteville last week, but three interceptions helped carry River Valley to a 44-14 win. The duo of Ethan Wickman (15 carries, 85 yards, 2 TDs) and Zach Gloudeman (6-79-2) helped lead the Blackhawks charge offensively.
Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.