It may be hard to believe but the midway point of the regular season is already here. With it, the playoff picture for the Badger North Conference will begin to take shape in Week 3 of league play Friday night.
A trio of area teams are sitting pretty as Beaver Dam, Reedsburg and Sauk Prairie each sit at 1-1 so far. Meanwhile, both Baraboo and Portage are in search of their conference win, and in the Thunderbirds case, their first overall.
For the Warriors and T-Birds, a victory is paramount in their push for the playoffs, while wins for the Golden Beavers, Eagles and Beavers will go a long way following Friday’s final horn.
Here’s a look at this week’s action:
Portage (0-2 Badger North, 1-3) vs. Beaver Dam (1-1, 1-3)
The Warriors and Golden Beavers were on very different ends of the spectrum after the final horn last Friday. Following consecutive one-score games, Portage had its doors blown off by DeForest, 61-0, while Beaver Dam broke into the win column with a convincing 35-14 win over Baraboo. The two teams meet this week with major playoff implications at stake. While it has had success offensively, the Warriors floundered against the Norskies last week as they were shutout. Portage managed just 142 total yards, including 62 rushing yards on 34 attempts, good for a paltry average of 1.8 yards per carry. Defensively things weren’t much better as Portage surrendered 437 total yards, including 369 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Senior running back Delnato Sheppard Jr. led the way on the ground, but was limited to just 53 yards on 19 carries. While the Warriors struggled, the Golden Beavers thrived against the Thunderbirds, especially through the air, setting four new school records in the 21-point win. Junior quarterback Carter Riesen threw for a school record 345 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with senior Broden Boschert for on all four, including an 83-yard strike, both school records. Not to be outdone, senior Zach Schoenberger hauled in a game-high six catches for 172 yards, setting a new school record for most receiving yards in a game. Portage didn’t do itself any favors against the Norskies, throwing three interceptions, while despite picking up its first victory, Beaver Dam committed 17 penalties for 125 yards. Those same mistakes could prove costly come Friday night.
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Baraboo (0-2, 0-4) vs. Waunakee (2-0, 4-0)
The Thunderbirds once again got off to a hot start last week against Beaver Dam but saw it quickly fade away in a 35-14 loss at the hands of the Golden Beavers. Things don’t get any easier this week as Baraboo makes a trip down to third-ranked and reigning Badger North champion Waunakee. The T-Birds didn’t really get off the ground against Beaver Dam, picking up 186 total yards. Baraboo had just 110 rushing yards on 41 carries, mustering just 2.7 yards per carry. With sophomore quarterback and leading rusher Luna Larson out, junior running back Owen Nachtigal rushed for a team-high 72 yards on 27 carries. Defensively the T-Birds failed to halt the Beavers’ passing attack as Beaver Dam posted 342 yards and four TDs through the air, while adding 92 yards on the ground. Those defensive struggles will need to be cleared up against a Waunakee team that has punished opponents both on the ground and through the air this season. The Warriors rode their dual-threat attack to an easy 44-0 win over Mt. Horeb/Barneveld last week. Junior quarterback Caden Nelson led the way with three total touchdowns, including two scores and 119 yards on 14-of-18 passing. Senior running back Cole Mobley added 65 yards and two TDs on 16 carries while Waunakee’s defense was equally impressive. The Warriors held the Vikings to just 68 total yards, including -21 yards on 28 carries with two turnovers. Even with the impressive win, Waunakee was saddled with 8 penalties for 75 yards, something the T-Birds will have to take advantage of.
Mt. Horeb/Barn. (1-1, 1-3) vs. Reedsburg (1-1, 3-1)
Following a shutout loss to DeForest in Week 3, the Beavers bounced back last week with a 22-14 win over a game Sauk Prairie team. Reedsburg will get another stiff test from Mt. Horeb/Barneveld this week as the Vikings aim to right their ship after getting shutout by Waunakee. After a scoreless opening 12 minutes against the Eagles, the Beavers swung momentum their way by scoring 22 points in the second quarter and never looked back. Senior quarterback Ethan Lee was responsible for two scores in the 22-point outburst, ripping off a 54-yard touchdown run while connecting with senior Danny Kast on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Lee, who missed last week’s loss to DeForest while still recovering from a shoulder injury, had a team-high 80 yards on the ground. Senior Casey Campbell chipped in 74 yards on 17 carries and a score as Reedsburg rolled up 259 yards on 49 carries. Reedsburg will look to get rolling again this week against a Vikings’ team that has struggled against the run. Mt. Horeb/Barneveld has surrendered 644 yards and 12 touchdowns this season on the ground, good for an average of 161 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry. The Vikings are also surrendering 150.8 yards per game through the air, allowing 603 yards and seven scores. Offensively, junior Tanner Gassman has done it all as the converted quarterback has thrown for 371 yards and two TDs with four interceptions and rushed for 184 yards and two scores. If the Beavers can keep him from catching fire, they could be looking at a second straight league win.
Sauk Prairie (1-1, 3-1) vs. DeForest (2-0, 4-0)
The Eagles saw their sterling start to the 2019 season come to a close last week as they failed to conjure some late game magic in a 22-14 loss to Reedsburg. After failing the first of three straight tests, Sauk Prairie has no time to sulk as it must shift its focus to Badger North title contenders DeForest. The Eagles offense was caged against the Beavers, collecting just 193 total yards and six first downs. Sauk Prairie was 0-for-6 with an interception on its passing attempts but did average 6.4 yards per carry. Junior running back Tyler Uselman led the way with 94 yards and a touchdown on six carries, while senior Parker Breunig contributed 61 yards on 10 carries. Despite the offensive success, the Eagles’ offense stalled at times, turning the ball over on downs just outside the Beavers’ red zone in the second quarter and later stalling out midway through the fourth quarter trailing 22-14 before Reedsburg ran out the clock. Sauk Prairie will have to find a way to finish drives against a stout DeForest defense that has allowed just one touchdown last week and is coming off its third shutout, a 61-0 win over Portage last week. The Norskies allowed just 142 total yards to the Warriors while forcing three interceptions, just under their average of 144.3 total yards per game. DeForest has also been aided by a do-it-all offense that has piled up 197 points so far this season (49.3 points per game) and averages 407 yards per contest. With Waunakee on tap next week, a win over the Norskies would go a long way in the Eagles’ playoff hopes.