Everyone loves a good rivalry match-up and the longest running football contest will be center stage Friday night.
Baraboo and Reedsburg will meet for the Old River Jug, with the winner not only getting the spoils but also into the playoffs automatically while the loser must wait to find out their fate. Around the rest of the league, Beaver Dam, Sauk Prairie and Portage will look to build momentum into the offseason.
Here’s a look at this week’s action:
Baraboo (3-3 Badger North, 3-5) at Reedsburg (3-3, 5-3)
The oldest rivalry game in the state will have major playoff implications this season, when Baraboo and Reedsburg meet for the 131st time in history on Friday night. With both teams currently sitting at 3-3 in Badger North play, the winner will punch their ticket to the postseason automatically while the loser will still have an outside chance to get in depending on the rest of the qualifying field. Reedsburg is no stranger to the postseason but the Beavers saw their five-year playoff streak come to an end when they went 2-7 last season. Needing a victory last week to keep their hopes alive, the Beavers got just that as they weathered a poor start to drop Portage, 49-13. Reedsburg racked up a season-high 371 rushing yards on 36 carries, with junior Ethan Lee tallying a team-high 112 yards and two touchdowns on eight touches. The Beavers have looked better over its last four games, averaging 33.3 points per game, with the key to that being a switch back to their tried-and-true flexbone attack which has yielded 992 yards in that span. A postseason berth would be huge for the Thunderbirds, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006. Those postseason hopes took a hit last week as Baraboo was shutout, 43-0, against defending Division 2 state champion Waunakee. The Warriors scored all 43 of their points in the first half and did a good job hemming in the T-Birds ground game, as Baraboo was kept to just 90 yards on 35 rushes with senior Mike Wech picking up a team-high 48 yards on 13 carries. Wech, who has rushed for 1,033 yards and 11 carries this year, will be vital if Baraboo want to make it two straight wins over Reedsburg. The T-Birds evened the all-time series at 62-62-6 last year with a 17-14 win.
Sauk Prairie (2-4, 2-6) at Mt. Horeb/Barn. (4-2, 6-2)
After standing tall in last week’s 13-7 Homecoming win over Beaver Dam, the Sauk Prairie defense will have its work cut out itself this week against Mt. Horeb/Barneveld. While the Vikings have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, they saw their four-game winning streak come to an end with a 25-22 loss to DeForest last week. Despite the loss to the Norskies, Mt. Horeb/Barneveld has been lighting up the scoreboard this season, averaging 37.8 points per game, including 46.7 PPG in its six wins. The Vikings feature a potent passing attack, spearheaded by quarterback Ethan Post. The junior signal caller has thrown for 1,883 yards, 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions this season, passing for over 165 yards in six games. Sauk Prairie is only allowing 88 yards per game through the air, but the Eagles are susceptible on the ground. Sauk Prairie is allowing 179.5 yards per game on the ground, which is good news for a Vikings team that has racked up 1,386 yards and 16 TDs. The Eagles on the other hand rely on their ground game and defense, which was on display last week. Against the Golden Beavers, Sauk Prairie held Beaver Dam to just 68 rushing yards on 35 carries, while the Eagles’ rushing attack accounted for all 166 of their yards. Junior Garrett Hertzfelt led the way with 78 and both touchdowns, improving his season tally to 750 yards and nine scores. Hertzfeldt and the ground game will be crucial for the Eagles to have any chance against the Vikings, who have shown they can strike quick this season. Mt. Horeb/Barneveld has 14 touchdowns over 20 yards on the year, including seven over 60.
Waunakee (6-0, 8-0) at Beaver Dam (1-5, 2-6)
When Beaver Dam and Waunakee meet this week it will be a battle between two teams on opposite ends of the winning spectrum. The Warriors have had little trouble this season, blowing opponents out by an average score of 49-4 with four shutouts this season, including a 43-0 win over Baraboo last week. Waunakee has crushed teams behind its passing attack, as senior quarterback Jarrett Wulf is completing 85.4 percent of his passes for a league best 1,503 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Golden Beavers will have a difficult time slowing down Wulf and his trio of targets in receivers Sawyer Maly (29 receptions, 724 yards, 10 touchdowns), Austin Keller (13, 221, 5) and Josh Block (10, 201, 4). The Golden Beavers have done a decent job in defending the pass this season as teams are only averaging 107.2 yards a game, however Beaver Dam’s run defense is allowing 213.9 rushing yards a game. That will be music to the ears of running back Will Ross (67 rushing attempts, 425 yards, 11 touchdowns) and bad news for the Beavers if they focus too much on Wulf’s passing. Waunakee’s defense has been stout all season long – only giving up five scores and 1,054 total yards, including 72.6 passing and 59.1 rushing yards per game. That could mean trouble for Beaver Dam, which mustered just seven points and 192 yards in last week’s 13-7 loss to Sauk Prairie. Senior quarterback Kendric Jimenez, who had 124 yards and one touchdown last week, has passed for an average of 146.2 yards a game with 12 touchdowns on the season. As well as Jimenez has played, he hasn’t been perfect, throwing seven interceptions, and for a Warriors team that has seven picks among 19 turnovers, that’s good news.
DeForest (5-1, 6-2) at Portage (0-6, 0-8)
Portage got its game against rival Reedsburg off to a bang last week, but was unable to keep its momentum in a 49-13 loss to the Beavers. On the brink of a winless season, the Warriors will look to get off to another promising start, and this time keep it, when they host DeForest in a regular season finale. After stalling out on its opening drive against the Beavers, the Warriors pounced on a muffed punt and scored off the turnover for an early lead. From there, however, Portage was left in first gear as it struggled to move the ball and slow down Reedsburg, giving up 42 straight points. The Warriors were limited to just 107 total yards, all coming on the ground on 40 carries with junior Dale Sheppard Jr. leading the way with 62 yards on 15 touches. Defensively, Portage failed to stop the Beavers’ flexbone attack, giving up 389 yards on 34 rushes, including four touchdown runs over 25 yards. That should have the run-heavy Norskies grinning from ear to ear heading into this week’s contest. DeForest held on for a 25-22 win over Mt. Horeb/Barneveld last week, behind a ground game that gashed the Vikings for 371 yards and four touchdowns, with four players going over 65 yards. That multifaceted attack could spell doom for a Warriors defense that is allowing 266.9 rushing yards per game, including 8.8 yards per attempt. The two big hitters Portage must stop are juniors Evan Armstrong and Gabe Finley, who have combined for 1,271 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year. Armstrong, who rushed for 136 yards and two scores against the Vikings, has 714 yards and eight scores, while Finley is adding 557 yards and 11 scores, with both players averaging over 7 yards per carry.