Week 6 has some huge match-ups across southern Wisconsin, including a pair of games in the Big 8 that will help decide this year's conference champion (or champions) and a conference championship-level clash in the Badger South.
Week 6 is going to be a critical week in high school football for years to come. That's because after this year, it will be the earliest week that teams can clinch playoff spots. With the state moving to 7- and 8-team conferences next year, the earliest week to get that fourth win (of seven conference games) is Week 6, and indeed, this week, for conferences like the Badger North and South, it is the first such week that a team (or teams) can clinch a playoff spot.
This is the final year under the current conference setup, and as a result, two area teams have already clinched with 5-0 records in 10-team conferences: Madison Memorial and Evansville. However, several more teams will be set to join them this week.
Last week, we saw DeForest take down Sauk Prairie after scoring just 28 seconds before halftime to go up 17-7 as part of a 31-0 scoring run:
HSFB: DeForest pulls away, defeats Sauk Prairie 52-13
This week, we'll be on hand for Madison Memorial's Homecoming against Verona, one of two colossal showdowns in the Big 8. Coverage starts at 6pm on The Big 1070 and continues through 11pm with Football Friday Night.
Area Teams Clinched: Madison Memorial (Big 8, Division 1), Evansville (Rock Valley, Division 3)
Area Teams Eligible: None
Area Teams that can clinch with a win: Verona (Big 8, Division 1), Madison La Follette (Big 8, Division 1), Sun Prairie (Big 8, Division 1), Waunakee (Badger North, Division 2), DeForest (Badger North, Division 2/3), Milton (Badger South, Division 2/3), Edgerton (Rock Valley, Division 4)
Area Teams that can become eligible with a win: Belleville (Capitol South, Division 5/6), New Glarus/Monticello (Capitol South, Division 5/6)
D1 #8 Verona (4-1, 4-1) at D1 #5 Madison Memorial (5-0, 5-0): (The Big 1070 Game of the Week): How will the Verona Wildcats respond after losing late against Sun Prairie last week? The offense has seen some top-flight defenses the past two weeks, and they'll be greeted by another on Friday at Mansfield Stadium. Madison Memorial has a chance to greatly increase their odds of an 11th Big 8 title in football with a win over the Wildcats, as the Spartans have yet to face the Janesville schools and Beloit Memorial, none of whom have a winning record (and are a combined 2-13). Verona winning would clinch them a playoff spot. It'll be interesting to see how two of the top quarterbacks in the Big 8 (and, honestly, the entire state) do head-to-head. There's a ton of talent on the field this week.
D1 #7 Sun Prairie (4-1, 4-1) at Madison La Follette (4-1, 4-1): La Follette's schedule is sort of the inverse of Memorial's in that they have already played the Janesville-Janesville-Beloit run, as well as games against Memorial (their only loss) and West. Now, the Lancers enter the gauntlet part of their schedule, with Sun Prairie, Verona, East, and Middleton to close out the year. Sun Prairie, meanwhile, lurks as a dark horse as they did a year ago as the only conference team to win a playoff game, losing their opener to Memorial before ripping off eight straight conference wins and a thriller of a win in Level 1 over Middleton. The winning team here clinches a playoff spot.
Janesville Parker (0-5, 0-5) at Middleton (3-2, 3-2): Parker's looking to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Madison East last week ahead of a difficult run that includes this week, West, and Memorial. Middleton has already played against Verona and Memorial, and will still see Sun Prairie and La Follette to close out the year, so the task at hand for the Cardinals is to pile up a couple of wins before that end-of-the-season run against two more of the Big 8's best. A win for Middleton gets them to four wins, which will probably be enough for a playoff spot. Parker's looking for a victory any way they can get it, and the challenge this week is to find a way to carve up the beefy lines of Middleton, no easy task.
Madison East (2-3, 2-3) at Janesville Craig (1-4, 1-4): East won an overtime game last week over Parker to get to two wins, a sign of progress for a program that has come a long ways in a short amount of time under coach Jeremy Thornton. A win over Craig ahead of a tough run at the end of the schedule would be another indicator of that step forward. Craig will have something to say about it. The Cougars still have some top talent, but clearly are missing a large, talented core of seniors from a year ago that had Craig in the conversation for a conference title at roughly the same point a year ago.
Madison West (1-4, 1-4) at Beloit Memorial (1-4, 1-4): West is a sleeper playoff team in that they have played the hardest part of their schedule, performed reasonably well against the likes of Middleton (losing by 11), Memorial (leading at halftime), and Verona (limiting a high-powered attack to a handful of scores). But, in order to make the playoffs, the time for moral victories is over, and the Regents will see the other three teams at either 1-4 or 0-5 the next three weeks. Four wins will probably be enough for a playoff spot, so there's a lot to play for at West. On the other side, Ken DuBose and the Purple Knights could dash those playoff hopes and get a lift heading into back-to-back games against Madison Memorial and Verona.
D2 #1 Waunakee (5-0, 3-0) at Sauk Prairie (3-2, 1-2): Last week's loss to DeForest wasn't headed for a blowout initially, as the Sauk Prairie Eagles marched down the field on a 16-play, 8:30 drive to take an early 7-0 lead. Sauk Prairie blocked DeForest's first punt attempt of the season and had another chance to score early, but fumbled it back to the Norskies, who used the opportunity to add to what eventually became a 31-0 run through the middle quarters and a convincing 52-13 win. Sauk's job is no easier this week, as Waunakee visits Prairie du Sac. The Warriors have dispatched of every challenger so far with surprising ease given their graduation losses, but it won't be easy this week, as these aren't your older brother's Sauk Prairie Eagles. As DeForest saw last week, a team that comes in motivated, prepared, and fired up will present some early challenges, something Waunakee hasn't had to deal with much yet in their 5-0 start.
Mount Horeb/Barneveld (1-4, 1-2) at D2 #9 DeForest (5-0, 3-0): If it's any indication of how deep Division 2 is, DeForest, a team returning 16 all-conference players, actually dropped a spot in the coaches' poll after putting up 52 against a decent Sauk Prairie squad last week. This match-up seemed much bigger in the preseason, but injuries have really hampered the Vikings' season, as seemingly every week, Bret St. Arnauld's crew has lost a key starter. If the Sauk Prairie film teaches MH/B anything, it's to stick to their gameplan and find a way to compete up front, as the Eagles did a week ago. DeForest looks like a complete, deep playoff-run kind of team, so this will be a challenge.
D3 #7 Reedsburg (4-1, 2-1) at Beaver Dam (1-4, 1-2): Reedsburg is a team flying under the radar a bit, with a loss to DeForest but a win over Sauk Prairie in a de facto "third place game" if you consider that Waunakee and DeForest are the co-favorites this year. They'll drop to Division 3 and could cause some trouble there once they get to the playoffs, something they missed out on last year thanks to a Week 9 loss at the hands of rival Baraboo. Speaking of rivals, this is a trophy game between two of the state's oldest programs, as Beaver Dam celebrates 125 years of football at the school. The teams compete for a log pointed on both ends, since the mascots are the Beavers (Reedsburg) and Golden Beavers (Beaver Dam). If there's one thing I love about football, it's trophy games. Reedsburg's triple option versus an occasionally high-flying Beaver Dam attack should offer a fun contrast in styles this week.
Baraboo (0-5, 0-3) at Portage (2-3, 1-2): Incredibly, only three of the Badger North's eight teams have winning conference records. That means there's opportunity for one (and maybe two) of those five sub-.500 teams to make a run at the end of the year. Portage is one such team, as next week's game against Sauk Prairie is a playoff game of sorts. This week, the Warriors will see Baraboo, a team that, like Janesville Craig in the Big 8, graduated a large and talented group of seniors last year, and has struggled a bit to get wins in 2019. It's a turning point of sorts this week as the winning team can keep hope alive for another week, while the losing team will lose a prime opportunity to make a step back towards playoff contention.
Milton (5-0, 3-0) at Stoughton (4-1, 3-0): Not only is this a fantastic local wrestling rivalry, it's one of the top games statewide in Week 6. If it was most other weeks in the Big 8, we'd be at Collins Field for this one, as the two most impressive teams in the conference go head to head. Milton's done it a bit unexpectedly, including a big win over Monona Grove in Week 4. Stoughton, meanwhile, has bounced back from a disappointing 2018, the only blemish on their record a loss to Waunakee in which they competed well. It's hard to say without having seen Milton how this will turn out, but even if I had, with a playoff spot (to clinch anyways) on the line, not to mention front-runner status in the Badger South title race, you can toss those pre-conceived notions out the window of what to expect. Stoughton's gotten back to the bread-and-butter of a zone read run game with dominant athletes at key positions on both sides of the ball, something that seemed to be missing at times last year. Milton's task will be to cover every cutback lane and read and force Stoughton out of their comfort zone.
Oregon (2-3, 1-2) at Monroe (3-2, 2-1): This year's Badger South is as unpredictable as any, and with playoff spots up for grabs, this is a sneaky great game this week. Both teams want to run, and Oregon's done a nice job of building depth again this year, something that should pay off down the stretch if they can stay healthy. Monroe's strong rushing attack is back, boasting the league's leading rusher, something that keyed a Cheesemakers conference title back in 2016. Expect a fast game! In particular to watch will be the turnovers as both teams have ball-hawking linebackers and steady defensive lines--these teams are built to face one another.
Watertown (4-1, 2-1) at Fort Atkinson (0-5, 0-3): Already over 1,000 yards passing on the year, Ethan Pauly and the Watertown Goslings bring their high-flying passing attack to their closest Badger South neighbor, a short jaunt down Highway 26, to face Fort Atkinson. Watertown's loss to Monroe last week was a little surprising to outside observers, as it puts the Goslings a step back of the Milton-Stoughton winner, but Watertown still controls their own conference title destiny since they will see both of those teams down the road (and by winning out would clinch a share of the conference title).
Monona Grove (1-4, 1-2) at Edgewood (0-5, 0-3): This season hasn't gone as planned at either school, with the Silver Eagles all but out of the conference title hunt after winning it the past two years, while Edgewood has taken a couple of lumps against tough crossover opposition as well as early conference play. A game like this, you want to wipe the slate clean, as the playoffs are still on the table for both teams, even with a loss. Edgewood's experience along the lines should serve them well against a Monona Grove team essentially learning on the job, especially on defense. A hallmark for better play in the second half typically, and the second half of the season begins this week.
Area Ranked Teams and/or Playoff Impacts
D3 #6 Evansville (5-0, 5-0) at Whitewater (1-4, 1-4): The Blue Devils are all the way back from an 0-9 2018, out-scoring opponents by 24 points per game and averaging 40 points per contest. They've already locked up a playoff spot, so now the task at hand is securing another conference title for Hall of Fame coach Ron Grovesteen.
Edgerton (4-1, 4-1) at Turner (2-3, 2-3): Edgerton's lone loss was to conference-leading Evansville. There's still some big things ahead of the Crimson Tide, and they'll have their hands full trying to lock down a playoff spot against Turner.
McFarland (3-2, 3-2) at Big Foot (3-2, 3-2): While neither team can clinch, a fourth win is essentially enough to get in now that the total 11-player football team field is in the 380's, of which 224 will make it to the playoffs. This ends up being a very intriguing game for a number of reasons, as Big Foot has played well the first half of the season while McFarland has navigated a difficult early schedule to a winning record thus far.
D4 #7 Lake Mills (4-1, 1-0) at Columbus (3-2, 0-1): The L-Cats have played an ambitious schedule, but they'll see one of the state's best players this week in Teagan Herschleb. How Lake Mills can keep their high-tempo offense going against the Cardinals' tough secondary will be interesting, as Herschleb already has three interceptions this year. Adam Moen of Lake Mills is over 1,000 yards passing through five games. Columbus lost a heartbreaker last week against Lakeside Lutheran, giving up 14 fourth-quarter points in a two-point loss.
Poynette (2-3, 0-1) at D4 #8 Lodi (5-0, 1-0): Lodi's defense had success against Luther Prep last week, and they'll be seeing a Pumas team coming off of giving up 52 to Lake Mills last week. Lodi's offense has been powered by Colton Nicolay, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Blue Devils' state title in 2017.
Marshall (0-5, 0-1) at Belleville (4-1, 1-0): Belleville's recent run of success mirrors that of Stoughton in some ways: big lines, physical style of play, repeat trips to the playoffs that before the last half-decade or so were very uncommon. Belleville gets back there with a win Friday at home.
Cambridge (4-1, 0-0) at New Glarus/Monticello (2-3, 1-0): This is probably one of the more underrated games on a packed slate this week, but defending conference champion Cambridge opens up conference play against a well-tested Knights squad. NG/M has plenty back from a year ago, and with a win, would become playoff-eligible.
D5 #3 Lancaster (5-0, 3-0) at Cuba City (1-4, 1-2): The top of the SWAL is absolutely loaded. The Flying Arrows clinch a playoff spot with a win.
D6 #3 Mineral Point (5-0, 3-0) at Iowa-Grant (0-5, 0-3): Again, with the SWAL being such a beast, and some of the biggest match-ups still to come, wins will be harder to come by at the top. The Pointers clinch a playoff spot with a win.
D6 #6 Darlington (4-1, 2-1) at Aquinas (4-1, 3-0): Another SWAL clash, Aquinas clinches a playoff spot with a win, while Darlington can get back into the conference title hunt with a victory.
River Valley (4-1, 3-0) at Viroqua (1-4, 1-2): River Valley clinches a playoff spot with a win. The Blackhawks are outscoring opponents 3:1 in conference play.
Wauzeka/Seneca (2-3, 2-1) at D7 #9 De Soto (5-0, 4-0): De Soto has already clinched a playoff spot, and can take another big step towards a league crown with a win Friday night.
Highland (3-2, 3-2) at Riverdale (2-2, 2-2): Highland can clinch a playoff spot with a win.
North Crawford (0-4, 0-3) at Ithaca (4-1, 3-1): Ithaca, like Highland, earns a playoff spot with a victory.
Southwestern (3-2, 2-0) at D6 #7 Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg (4-1, 2-1): The winning team becomes playoff-eligible and in the hunt for a Six Rivers title.
D7 #1 Black Hawk/Warren (5-0, 2-0) at River Ridge (4-1, 2-1): Again, the winning team is playoff-eligible and in the running to win a conference championship. Defending D7 champ Black Hawk/Warren has already survived a pair of very difficult contests and gets another good one this week.
D7 #7 Johnson Creek (5-0, 2-0) at Fall River/Rio (2-3, 0-2): Johnson Creek wraps up a playoff spot with a win Friday night, and with a win, sets up a conference title-level showdown with D7 #8 Randolph next Friday night.