As we hit the midway point of the regular season, the playoff picture for the Badger North Conference will become much clearer in Week 3 of league play Friday night.
Baraboo is in an unfamiliar position as the Thunderbirds find themselves tied for the league lead as they fight for their first playoff berth since 2006. Meanwhile, Reedsburg and Sauk Prairie are at 1-1 with two other teams and Beaver Dam and Portage are each in search of their first win in conference play.
For the Golden Beavers and Warriors, a win is paramount if they want to avoid having to win out in order to make the postseason. Here’s a look at this week’s action:
Reedsburg (1-1 Badger North, 3-1) vs. Beaver Dam (0-2, 1-3)
Reedsburg is only averaging 10.8 points per game. Beaver Dam scored that many in the fourth quarter alone last week — granted they came in a blowout and had no impact on the outcome. So something figures to give when the Golden Beavers from Dodge County take on the neutrally-hued Beavers of Sauk County Friday night at Beaver Dam High School’s H.H. Derleth Athletic Field. Reedsburg looks like a team poised to make push at qualifying for the playoffs, with a 3-1 overall record and 1-1 mark in the conference. But the Beavers walked away from last week’s slugfest with Sauk Prairie 9-7 winners despite committing six fumbles and churning out only 100 yards of offense. Maybe a full week of practice will produce better stats this week, as Reedsburg had only two days of prep leading into the tilt with the Eagles due to spending time aiding in flood relief efforts in the community. The Beavers’ paltry offense hasn’t been much of a problem thus far, though, thanks to a defense that is yielding only 18 points per contest. But that D might be put to the test Friday, as Beaver Dam’s offense has been strong the last two times out while putting up 61 points in a blowout victory over Fort Atkinson in Week 3 and 28 points in a blowout 56-28 loss to Mt. Horeb/Barneveld last week. The key for the Golden Beavers — who are 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the league — is to get their ground game going, because if so, they have enough weapons in the passing game to be balanced and keep Reedsburg guessing. Beaver Dam amassed 267 rushing yards and 157 passing yards a week ago, although that’s a bit misleading considering the final score and the fact the Vikings led 49-14 going into the final quarter, when many of those yards were gained.
Baraboo (2-0, 2-2) vs. Mt. Horeb/Barn. (1-1, 3-1)
Baraboo has a chance to change the status quo in the Badger North Conference. After dropping its first two games of the season, the Thunderbirds are currently 2-0 in Badger North play and are tied with Waunakee for first place after notching convincing wins over Beaver Dam and Portage the last two weeks. It’s a rare position to be in for a team like Baraboo, which is typically in the bottom half of the “two-tiered” Badger North Conference. The T-Birds will go against one of the usual league favorites on Friday when they travel to Mt. Horeb/Barneveld. A win over the Vikings would go a long way in helping Baraboo reach the WIAA playoffs for the first time since 2006. The T-birds defense has been key, creating seven turnovers the last two weeks, including four in their 34-8 win over the rival Warriors last week. Offensively, Baraboo has relied on its running game, in particular Mike Wech, as the senior running back has tallied 462 yards and five touchdowns on 43 carries over the last two weeks. Those numbers will be hard to come by against a Mt. Horeb/Barneveld team that is allowing 220.2 rushing yards per game this season. The Vikings, who are scoring 36.8 points per game this season, rebounded from a league opening shutout loss to Waunakee with a convincing 56-28 win over Beaver Dam last week. Junior quarterback Ethan Post shined in the win, passing for 471 yards, five scores and two interceptions on 20-of-27 passing and the T-Birds must keep him from heating up if they want to earn their first three-game win streak since 2006.
Sauk Prairie (1-1, 1-3) vs. DeForest (1-1, 2-2)
Sauk Prairie will look to bounce back after a tough-luck loss at Reedsburg last week. The Eagles led in the second half before Reedsburg’s Ben Jones hit a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter to hand saddle the Eagles with a 9-7 loss at Millennium Field. Sauk Prairie was on the doorstep in the fourth quarter after recovering a late fumble and driving down to the Reedsburg 5-yard line before missing a field goal as Reedsburg held on to win. The Eagles scored just 7 points despite a huge night from sophomore Garrett Hertzfeldt, who had 278 rushing yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Sauk Prairie outgained the Beavers 245-100 and caused six Reedsburg fumbles but only recovered two of them and failed to capitalize on its chances. The Eagles will look to pound the ball again on Friday against a DeForest team that has played some stingy defense in 2018. The Norskies have posted two shutouts this season and are allowing just 12.0 points per game, giving up a majority of their opponents’ 48 points in Friday’s 31-7 loss at conference-leading Waunakee. The Norskies hung tough with the Warriors early on, tying the game at 7 early in the second quarter, only to allow 24 unanswered points. The Norskies own a 12-game winning streak against the Eagles, dating back to Sauk Prairie’s 28-19 win at DeForest on Sept. 9, 2005. Whether or not that streak continues Friday night will likely come down to running the ball as both team’s strength lies in their rushing attack. The Eagles have pounded out 616 yards and nine scores so far this year, while the Norskies have churned out 750 yards and all 14 of their touchdowns.
Portage (0-2, 0-4) vs. Waunakee (2-0, 4-0)
All-around struggles have led to a difficult start this season for the Portage football team as it is still searching for its first win this season. If the Warriors are going to earn their first victory Friday, it’s going to take a massive effort when they welcome defending Division 2 state champion Waunakee. After producing its best effort of the season in a 50-36 loss to Sauk Prairie in Week 3, Portage took a big step back against rival Baraboo last week. The Warriors quickly cut their early deficit to 12-8 early in the second quarter only to let the Thunderbirds score 22 unanswered points en route to a 34-8 loss. Portage continued its trend of minimally moving the ball as it rushed for 155 yards on 53 touches, and on top of that the Warriors fumbled the ball nine times and committed four turnovers. Coupled with their offensive woes, the Warriors failed to stop the run game as Baraboo rushed for 303 yards and three touchdowns despite committing four turnovers. Portage faces another tall task when Waunakee comes to town this week as it hasn’t undergone any sort of a championship hangover. Waunakee remains unbeaten, having won its 18th straight game dating back to last year after shrugging off an early test from rival DeForest, 31-7, last week. While its offense is averaging 45 points per game, the real star for Waunakee has been its defense. The Warriors have a plus-7 turnover margin, having forced at least two turnovers in each of their games. If Portage can hang onto the ball, it may have a chance, and that opportunity may be bolstered thanks to some Waunakee miscues. Waunakee has been hit with 31 flags for 367 yards so far, picking up a season-high 11 penalties for 130 yards in its Week 2 win over Watertown.