Game of the Week Preview: Monona Grove at Stoughton

Game of the Week Preview: Monona Grove's Brandon Beckwith
Game of the Week Preview: Monona Grove's Brandon Beckwith
Monona Grove seeks a share of the conference title this Friday night as they taken on fellow unbeaten Stoughton
Game of the Week Preview: Stoughton's Dan Prahl
Game of the Week Preview: Stoughton's Dan Prahl
It's a huge game for the Stoughton Vikings this week, as they take on fellow unbeaten Monona Grove this Friday night
Preview: Monona Grove at Stoughton with Mike Stassi
Preview: Monona Grove at Stoughton with Mike Stassi
Hall of Fame and State Champion Coach Mike Stassi previews the big Monona Grove at Stoughton game Friday night

#5 (WSN-D2)/#8 (AP-Large) Monona Grove (7-0, 5-0) at #7 (WSN-D2)/#13 (AP-Large) Stoughton (7-0, 5-0) - 6:45pm Friday

Last Year: Alec Ogden and Jackson Thomsen combined for four scores in a 34-20 win over the Vikings at Collins Field in Week 6. It was Monona Grove's first road win of the season. 

Last Week: Ogden and Thompson combined for eight touchdowns, routing Milton 64-27. Monona Grove threw for 273 and ran for 257 in the game, showing off their incredible balance they've displayed this season offensively... Brady Schipper ran for three touchdowns for the second straight game, rolling up 195 on the ground and pushing Stoughton to a 49-7 decimation of Watertown. Stoughton limited the Goslings to 223 yards passing.

Season To Date: Monona Grove is averaging nearly 50 points per game, their lowest scores in any game happening twice in a 42-0 shutout of Monroe two weeks ago and a 42-6 decision against Edgewood in Week 4. The Silver Eagles have nearly the same amount of rushing and passing success, their passing game perhaps diminished stat-wise because they haven't played in a game any closer than a 30-point contest that was never in doubt in Week 1 against Baraboo. The Silver Eagles are going for win #400 in program history on Friday... Stoughton hasn't won a conference title since the mid-70s and hasn't gone undefeated in the regular season since 1969. The Vikings' best test to date was two weeks ago on Homecoming at Collins Field, when they survived Oregon 30-27. Still, Stoughton's coaches and players know that this is a historic game for them, one of the biggest that the program has ever played in.

Coaches' Corner: Last week, Milton made the decision to attack the inside zone run, running odd fronts and changing their nominal defense in order to slow the Silver Eagles down. It resulted in Monona Grove not scoring a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time all year. Once Monona Grove recovered from that shock, they rolled up 64 points in a blowout win. Stoughton has faced a play-action passing game (Oregon) and a spread passing game (Watertown) in back-to-back weeks, but they'll get one of the best-executed run-pass option offenses in the state this week. That means that every linebacker--four of them in this game, as Stoughton will shift its defense as well to an odd front from the 40 alignment they had in their last couple of games--will have to play heads up and find a way to contain the scoring of Monona Grove. The Vikings' strength is in their lines, and if they can collapse the pocket, disrupt the running lanes, and get after Ogden, then the job becomes much easier for the back half. However, if Ogden, Thomsen, and the Silver Eagles are running free in that second level, it's going to be a long game for Stoughton. Monona Grove's defense will not have seen a talent on the level of Brady Schipper to this point. Schipper's ability to use his excellent line to find running lanes means he will be a factor no matter how hard the Silver Eagles try to take him away. Schipper's special vision and speed will carry the Vikings, but he'll have to score at state record-like levels to keep Stoughton up to the pace of Monona Grove if the Silver Eagles get to their season average of around seven touchdowns per game.

Three Keys: 1. Monona Grove is going to get spread out on stretch zone runs. As they did last year, they have funneled more of their tackles to their playmaking safeties. However, funneling the runner in this one will prove to be tough, as the Vikings like to move the lines side to side to create space for Brady Schipper to roam. So, the Silver Eagles will need to need to be assertive and hold their ground defensively, and find ways to corral the ground game on those stretch runs. It all starts with a lineman disrupting those zones by getting into the backfield. 2. Any mobile quarterback with speed, a big arm, and exceptional vision is dangerous enough, but how about one who has had years of experience operating a very efficient system? Stoughton's work might begin with keying on Alec Ogden, but the Silver Eagles have a still-serially-underrated running back in Jackson Thomsen to help shoulder the load. Thomsen is the balance to the offense for Monona Grove. The Vikings may be picking a poison defensively, but if they worry too much about the big play, Thomsen and Ogden will find ways to decimate the defense underneath. We'll see how an odd front helps Stoughton counter the spacing of the Silver Eagles' offense. 3. Stoughton's identity is as a tough, physical, grind-it-out team that will get the home run once they wear down the defense. Monona Grove has a mostly-rebuilt front seven after last year's large graduating class took most of the starters from their state runner-up squad from a season ago, and this will be their biggest challenge to date. On the other side, Monona Grove's balance, pace, and space of their offensive attack will leave defenders trying to catch their breath as they try to keep up. If this is the best team either squad will see in the regular season, it will be the time when conditioning--mentally and physically--is tested. A close game or a shootout going into the fourth quarter means that the team that can keep up the intensity and energy late will have a big advantage to close out a win--and a share of the conference championship.

Five Players To Watch: You'll be hard-pressed to find a more talented running back than Brady Schipper. While most rave about his speed, what has stood out is his vision, to patiently wait for blocking to set up and find the crease and slip through for big yards... Alec Ogden is as good as it gets in a high school quarterback. He's displayed incredible accuracy the past year and a half, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio this year is nearly as good as it was last year: 20:1. With his ability to hit the home run on the ground or through the air, he's easily one of the best the state has to offer... Gavin Miller played outside linebacker two weeks ago against Oregon, but moves inside as the leading tackler of the Vikings' defense will be tasked with keying on the option reads of Alec Ogden. If the linebackers--and Stoughton--are going to slow down the Silver Eagles, it's going to start with all-conference caliber players like Miller in the position group... Monona Grove's linebackers have racked up the tackles, but in this game, the safeties will need to get involved as well. Ian Henry hasn't recorded a turnover, but he's third (and one tackle away from tied for second) on the team in tackles, and plays the same spot that all-everything safety Jarrett Maier played last year for Monona Grove. Henry will be in on plenty of plays, as Schipper lives at the second level of opposing defenses... Jackson Thomsen is the perfect backfield counterpart to Alec Ogden. Thomsen has the play-making ability of any top back in the area, but has the jets to run past initial would-be tacklers. Not only that, but he can make plays as a receiver, and is also a pretty solid blocker when he's not running out for a pass... Beyond five skill players, watch which line gets the push up front. This is the biggest test either team will have faced all year, so the team that can control the momentum up front is going to have a huge advantage on Friday.

Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on The Big 1070!

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