REEDSBURG — Most members of the Baraboo prep football team entered Friday without any experience defending the Reedsburg flexbone offense.
The Thunderbirds found out all about it by the end of the night, as the host Beavers scored on their first six offensive possessions to clinch a WIAA playoff spot with a 42-13 win over their Badger North Conference rivals.
“They’ve got 22 seniors and they execute really well,” Baraboo coach Steve Turkington said. “They’re always going to be good, whether they’re running that offense with freshmen or whatever. ... But when you’ve got 22 seniors that have been in the system for a long time, it’s tough.
“They were good last year and the year before too, when those guys were young. ... This year, it was just a dominant performance by them.”
"We've been rotating several players on both sides of the ball, which means they don't get as many practice reps," Reedsburg coach Brian Pottinger said. "I think that's a big reason why it's taken a while to get up to speed on the offensive side of the ball. They're gaining more confidence now and you can see it in their execution."
Options, dives, a rare 59-yard touchdown pass — everything was working as the Beavers scored four touchdowns of at least 45 yards.
“If one guy doesn’t do his job, the whole thing falls apart,” Turkington said. “Against that type of offense, if one guy doesn’t do his job it’s a 60-yard touchdown, and that happened a lot tonight. We just made mistakes and they capitalized.”
The first came on their second offensive play of the night. After a Baraboo three-and-out to start the game, Reedsburg (6-2, 4-2) took over at its own 45-yard line. Casey Campbell ran for 8 yards, then quarterback Ethan Lee ripped off a 47-yard touchdown run and Austin Peters made the first of his six extra points for a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game.
"There was no concern at all with how we would approach the game mentally," Pottinger said of his team, which nearly knocked off unbeaten Waunakee on Oct. 4. "The players decided they would use the loss as motivation to go out and play a great game against Baraboo."
Baraboo quarterback Luna Larson broke off a 14-yard run on the ensuing possession, but the T-Birds (1-7, 1-5 Badger North) couldn’t sustain success on a drive that started at the 5-yard line.
The Beavers quickly added on, taking nearly two minutes off the clock before Campbell scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 4:56 to play in the first quarter.
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Larson ran for another first down on Baraboo’s third possession, which led to Reedsburg’s worst field position of the night, as the Beavers took over at their own 25-yard line. It didn’t matter. Facing third-and-4 from the Reedsburg 31-yard line, Lee ran an option 40 yards down the right sideline. After runs by Campbell and Joe Statz, Lee snuck in from 1 yard out to give the Beavers a 21-0 lead with 9:52 remaining in the half.
The T-Birds approached midfield on their next possession, which included a pair of Owen Nachtigal runs and a 7-yard pass from Larson to Quinn Mueller. But the drive stalled near the 40-yard line and Garrett Schinker broke up a third-down pass to give Reedsburg the ball back.
The Beavers faced third-and-11 when they went to the air for the first time, with Lee completing a 59-yard touchdown pass to Max Tully with 6:20 to go.
"Ethan is a good dual threat at quarterback and that's tough on a defense when you have to account for the fullback, running backs, quarterback and pass game," Pottinger said. "He's done a better job understanding the option game and being more decisive with the ball."
Reedburg’s final drive with all its offensive starters took one play, a 54-yard Lee run down the right sideline with 3:37 left to give the Beavers a 35-0 halftime lead.
On the first play of the second half, Campbell took it 85 yards down the left sideline to make it 42-0 with 10:57 to play.
Baraboo started to find some offensive success in a second half that was played with a running clock due to the score differential. Quinn Mueller caught a 27-yard pass with a minute to play in the third quarter, then found the end zone when he caught Larson’s 9-yard touchdown pass with 10:33 to go in the game. Graham Langkamp tacked on the extra point to cut the deficit to 42-7.
Larson’s second touchdown pass of the night came with a 16-yard completion to Kane Mahoney as time expired.
Reedsburg clinched its first playoff berth since 2016 and got the Old River Jug trophy back by ending a two-game losing streak against Baraboo.
The Beavers will close the regular season out next week at Portage, while Baraboo will host Mount Horeb/Barneveld, which was defeated by Sauk Prairie 28-0 on Friday to fall to 1-7 on the season.
“It’s Senior Night for the last game, so we want to send the seniors out with a win,” Turkington said. “Mount Horeb is kind of in the same boat of us right now. And we’ve been saying this for a couple weeks: Our young guys have to get better every week, playing football and competing. That’s just another week to do it.”