⭐ Big Five Games - Week 1, 2018 ⭐
1. Sun Prairie (0-0) at Madison Memorial (0-0) - Big 8
2. DeForest (0-0) at Oregon (0-0) - Badger Crossover
3. Beaver Dam (0-0) at Watertown (0-0) - Badger Crossover
5. East Troy (0-0) at Clinton (0-0) - Rock Valley
5. McFarland (0-0) at Edgerton (0-0)
Honorable Mention: Janesville Craig (0-0) at Beloit Memorial (0-0), Madison West (0-0) at Madison La Follette (0-0), Evansville/Albany (0-0) at Brodhead/Juda (0-0), Reedsburg (0-0) at Monroe (0-0), Cambridge (0-0) at Brookfield Academy (0-0), Lancaster (0-0) at Fennimore (0-0), Mineral Point (0-0) at Lake Country Lutheran (0-0), River Valley (0-0) at Onalaska (0-0), La Crosse Aquinas (0-0) at Prairie du Chien (0-0), Darlington (0-0) vs Glenwood City (0-0).
Big 8 (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll)
⭐ Sun Prairie (0-0) at Madison Memorial (0-0): Our Madison Taxi Game of the Week. You can read about this game by going here.
Madison West (0-0) at Madison La Follette (0-0): After a deep run in the playoffs, all the way to Level 3, Madison West graduated most of their production from a season ago. How quickly they can get young players up to speed will be crucial, and the Regents will be up against a relatively experienced Madison La Follette squad that will bring back a good core of players from last year's playoff team.
Janesville Craig (0-0) at Beloit Memorial (0-0): Both teams have playoff aspirations this season; in Craig's case, they'll try to do it behind Badger commit Keeanu Benton and a solid supporting cast from last year's playoff team, while Beloit Memorial will try to get to the postseason for the first time in this millennium. The Purple Knights boast one of the state's top players as well in linebacker/punter/receiver Matthew Wedig.
Madison East (0-0) at Middleton (0-0): Jeremy Thornton's second season begins as the Purgolders started to find an identity late last season, and will return a good batch of players to the 2018 squad as East takes the next step in their rebuilding plan. Middleton will be in a bit of transition, as Tim Simon announced this will be his last as head coach of the Cardinals, but despite having to replace their entire backfield and key performers in the front lines, Middleton is expected to contend for a Big 8 title.
Verona (0-0) at Janesville Parker (0-0): Verona will have to turn over their entire secondary and backfield again, but will have solid players like Dylan Bourne to carry them into 2018. Like Verona, Janesville Parker will be replacing most of their starters, so this first game could be a good look into some positional battles for both teams as the season gets going.
Badger Crossover (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll)
⭐ DeForest (0-0) at Oregon (0-0): Two teams with ideas on challenging for their respective halves of the Badger Conference will meet in one of Week 1's most interesting games. Oregon will need to find a new playmaker now that Kardelle Phillips has graduated, but they bring back John Klus, who averaged over a dozen tackles per game. DeForest will have plenty of returning all-conference players to help offset some graduation losses.
Monona Grove (0-0) at Baraboo (0-0): The Silver Eagles will have to replace some big stars n offense, but overall should be in good shape, as Monona Grove returns plenty of experience. That will be tested against Baraboo. The Thunderbirds didn't lose as much to graduation and boast one of the state's top players in tight end Caden Blum, who is also considered one of the best blockers regardless of position in the Badger Conference.
⭐ Beaver Dam (0-0) at Watertown (0-0) (Saturday 7pm): The 98th meeting between the longtime rivals puts two 2017 playoff teams against each other. Each program did it in different ways last year, with Watertown's spread passing attack racking up points and yardage while Beaver Dam relied on steady, solid defense to carry them to their first playoff appearance in half a decade. Watertown won this match-up in 2017. This game was originally scheduled to be played on Friday night, but flooding in Watertown pushed it back a day.
Waunakee (0-0) at Fort Atkinson (0-0): Welcome to the Badger Conference, new Fort Atkinson head coach Brady Grayvold. Grayvold, the former UW-Whitewater star who previously coached at Sun Prairie as an assistant, will begin his head coaching career against the defending Division 2 state champions. Waunakee graduated an incredible number of all-conference athletes that helped them win a title last year, and the biggest question for the Warriors will be who steps in at some of those spots, particularly in the backfield.
Mount Horeb/Barneveld (0-0) at Edgewood (0-0): This game features two new head coaches for their respective programs. Former Delavan-Darien/Willams Bay head coach Bret St. Arnauld takes over for Ryan Kleppe at Mount Horeb/Barneveld, and inherits a roster that did graduate some outstanding players, but also has some big pieces in place, such as outstanding running back Malik Winston. On the flip side, Edgewood will be led by Lima, Ohio native Jesse Norris, who takes over for the retired hall of fame coach, Al Minnaert. Norris will have an all-conference quarterback to lead the Crusaders in 2018, Thomas Hartlieb.
Sauk Prairie (0-0) at Milton (0-0): Milton had started 2017 with three straight wins, but lost their last six (including three one-score losses) to miss the playoffs. The Red Hawks will try to start fast again before the schedule ramps up later in the year. Sauk Prairie will work under Scott Schutt, who took over the program for his second stint late in camp last year, on an interim basis. They'll bring back a pair of juniors who were honorable mention all-conference at linebacker a year ago.
Reedsburg (0-0) at Monroe (0-0): One of the sneaky-good match-ups in the state for the opening week, both programs were deep into the playoffs in the past few years before stepping back a bit last year. Both teams love to run the football, so this shapes up to be one of the classic old-school contests, at least on offense, in week one. Both teams have strong candidates to lead the backfield, and both programs are led by longtime, successful head coaches who also have experience coaching in Illinois.
Portage (0-0) at Stoughton (0-0): Portage, like Milton, had a strong start to the year but suffered a number of close losses, finishing essentially one game out of the playoffs. Bob Hepp has turned around three programs five separate times from missing the postseason to a playoff appearance, and it was apparent that the process was well underway right away in season one. Stoughton graduated a ton of talent from last year's 9-2 squad, including all-everything running back Brady Schipper (who's now plying his trade for the Wisconsin Badgers), but will boast one of the best lines in the area behind another Badgers commit, Jack Nelson, and Jack True.
Capitol Non-Conference Games (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll)
Menomonie (1-0) 33, Lake Mills (0-1) 7 (Thursday): The L-Cats' offense had early opportunities, but couldn't move the ball for most of the game after that point against the D2-powerhouse Mustangs as Lake Mills was dominated by Menomonie, a school with over twice as many students as Lake Mills. The L-Cats did get a late score to avoid the shutout on a rainy night in northwestern Wisconsin. You can listen to the game by going here.
Waterloo (0-0) at Poynette (0-0): Waterloo will have a new head coach, Aaron Erickson, who is also the school's AD and former wrestling coach, and he inherits a program that's only a couple of seasons removed from a conference title. Poynette will boast a strong defense, led by five former all-conference players on that side of the ball, as the Pumas work towards returning to the playoffs.
Belleville (0-0) at Elcho/White Lake (0-0) (4pm): The second of a home-and-home series, Belleville easily won this contest last year. The Wildcats bring back an abundance of talent, including seven former first- or second-team all-conference players and two former conference players of the year.
Lakeside Lutheran (0-0) at Adams-Friendship (0-0): Adams-Friendship's dream season of a couple of years ago, when they went unbeaten in the regular season, seems far-off now, while Lakeside Lutheran is poised for a big year behind a strong senior class led by a half-dozen all-conference players who return to the Warriors.
Cambridge (0-0) at Brookfield Academy (0-0): Cambridge has eight all-conference players back as they look to contend for another Capitol South title. They'll get a game against a recent playoff team to open the season.
Omro (0-0) at Columbus (0-0): After last year's brutal non-conference schedule, Columbus will have it only slightly less difficult in 2018, and they'll open up with Omro. The Cardinals don't necessarily boast a ton of recognition for their returning players, but they're much more experienced in coach Calvin Zenz's second year.
Lodi (0-0) at Delavan-Darien/Williams Bay (0-0): After winning a Division 4 state title in 2017, Lodi's encore begins with a contest against a team replacing its head coach. The Blue Devils do bring back some important players from their championship team, but will have some work to do to replace an outstanding senior class from last year.
New Glarus/Monticello (0-0) at Dodgeville (0-0): The Glarner Knights will get an interesting week one game as they set out to try and win their third straight conference championship. New Glarus/Monticello brings back two former conference players of the year for 2018.
Palmyra-Eagle (0-0) at Marshall (0-0): Marshall will look for a bounce-back season after missing the playoffs last year. Injuries derailed the Cardinals' season, but they bring back plenty of talent for a run at the postseason in 2018, including quarterback Adam Wehking and linebacker Dylan Horstmeyer. Marshall will have to replace five-time all-conference running back/defensive back Kelvin Opoku-Appoh, who transferred to Madison West along with his younger brother, Collins.
Ripon (0-0) at Luther Prep (0-0): The Capitol North will be loaded this year, and Luther Prep figures to be one of the teams in the mix for a playoff spot. Two winning records in the past three seasons haven't yielded a playoff berth, but behind Preston Borchardt and Zachary Gregorius, it could be a big season in Watertown.
Rock Valley (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll)
⭐ East Troy (0-0) at Clinton (0-0): Last year's Rock Valley champs graduated a group of seniors that carried the Cougars to a Level 4 appearance two years ago and to Level 3 last season, but that group has moved on. They'll open the season against East Troy, picked to win the RVC this year, although the perception is that the Rock Valley is as wide-open as ever. Both teams were among the state leaders in rushing in 2017.
⭐ McFarland (0-0) at Edgerton (0-0): Neither team made the playoffs last year, but both are fully loaded heading into 2018 behind some outstanding two-way players. This figures to be one of the most interesting games of the Rock Valley season, given the trajectory of both programs. Both teams should be capable of piling up the points in 2018.
Evansville/Albany (0-0) at Brodhead/Juda (0-0): Only 12 miles separates the home fields for these programs. Perennial Rock Valley power Evansville/Albany had a three-year conference title streak snapped last year after starting 0-3 against the three teams that finished ahead of them in the standings, while Brodhead/Juda had a 25-year playoff streak end after missing the postseason last year.
Whitewater (0-0) at Beloit Turner (0-0): Turner rebounded from an injury-plagued 2016 to make it back to the playoffs, albeit for only one high-scoring game. The Trojans will have to replace some solid players, particularly along the lines. Meanwhile, Whitewater brings back experience on defense, as they look to grow the program under interim coach and AD Jim Pease.
Big Foot (0-0) at Jefferson (0-0): Jefferson's powerful ground game brings back Nolan Klawitter, but several members of their stifling defense have graduated. They'll have to face Big Foot in week one. The Chiefs, meanwhile, will try to bounce back after missing the playoffs last year. Injuries played a part in that, but it allowed younger players to gain experience for future campaigns.
More Southern Wisconsin Games (Rankings are WSN Coaches Poll)
Wisconsin Dells (1-0) 42, Richland Center (0-1) 7 (Thursday): New Wisconsin Dells head coach Scott Flood got the Chiefs off to a 1-0 start, dominating Richland Center in the season opener.
Great 8: Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah (0-0) at Oakfield (0-0): The Oaks graduated a talented senior class after winning the conference last year. It'll be an interesting first-week test for Oakfield, since Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah will have some solid players returning for 2018.
Sevastopol (0-0) at Wisconsin Heights (0-0) (Saturday, 1pm): A replacement game after Abundant Life/St. Ambrose cancelled their varsity season, Heights will get a solid opening game as the Vanguards begin their quest for a conference title. Wisconsin Heights is not eligible for the playoffs due to their enrollment size.
Mineral Point (0-0) at Lake Country Lutheran (0-0) (6pm): Both teams figure to challenge for conference titles this year, and this is one of the most interesting non-conference games in week 1 in the state. LCL made it to state last year and brings back some outstanding players for their senior season. Meanwhile, Mineral Point saw success across multiple sports, and most of those basketball and baseball athletes are football players too.
River Valley (0-0) at Onalaska (0-0): Both programs have had recent success and both appear to be solid contenders coming into 2018. River Valley is only a season removed from a trip to state.
Markesan (0-0) at St. Mary's Springs (0-0): Trailways-Large champ Markesan will play D6 state champ Springs in the season opener, in what could be one of the better games in Wisconsin, especially among small schools. Both teams are picked to win their conferences again this year.
Lancaster (0-0) at Fennimore (0-0): The two rivals, only a few miles from each other, meet most years and both programs are in good shape heading into 2018.
Platteville (0-0) at Cuba City (0-0): Both teams won conference titles last year, and the schools are only a few miles apart.