Lake Mills (10-1) at Catholic Memorial (9-2)
Second-seeded Lake Mills plays at top-seeded Catholic Memorial for a WIAA Division 4 Level 3 game at Carroll University in Waukesha.
The Crusaders, out of the Classic Eight Conference, are the defending Division 3 state champions. Catholic Memorial’s enrollment of 603 was 35 short of the D3 cutoff, placing the team in D4 for the first time in school history.
Quarterback Luke Fox has 1,776 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. Fox, a senior, plays behind a stellar offensive line.
”Their offensive line is amazing, people blitz and can’t get to the quarterback,” Lake Mills football coach Dan Ferkovich said. “Getting to him is tough, he gets it out quick and has some good receivers. They are a well-balanced, well-coached team. That’s why they were ranked No. 1 in Division 3 the majority of the season.”
Senior tailback Tommy Schmitzer has 832 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns while sophomore Obacoso Allen has 583 yards, scoring seven times. Fox is the team’s third-leading rusher with 445 yards.
On the outside, senior wideout Joe Sikma leads the team with 450 receiving yards and seven scores. Senior Daniel Fynaardt (443 yards) and junior Alex Oechsner (360 yards) are also capable pass-catchers.
”Our gameplan will be to keep (Fox) in the pocket,” Ferkovich said. “Those guys do a great job on secondary routes. If he takes off, he can get yards. He had two rushing scores against Arrowhead. He would like to sit back there and throw the ball around. When he gets outside the pocket, he’s the most dangerous. If you come up, he’s throwing it downfield behind you.”
The Crusaders, who beat fourth-seeded Kewaskum 39-0 last week, run a 34, relying on zone coverage and may switch to cover 4 at times.
“Their defense is good, they are aggressive and they get after the ball,” Ferkovich said. “Receivers are open and then multiple guys are there for tackle. They flow to ball. You can take shots downfield and find open spaces. Keeping them off balance will be the biggest thing.”
The L-Cats, winners of 10 consecutive, are averaging 44.3 points a game. They have surpassed 50 points in each of the last three games, including last week’s 54-28 home victory over third-seeded Martin Luther.
Connecting on deep passes in one-on-one coverage will be important Friday. Junior receiver Jaxson Retrum caught an 80-yard touchdown while senior receiver Hunter Buechel had a 75-yard score last week.
“When we go deep, if we have a one-on-one shot, our guys are going to need to be aggressive and make those plays,” Ferkovich said. “We need to find open spots. Defense doesn’t blitz a lot. If they do blitz, it will be from the outside. Know where the open spots are and when or where they are going to blitz. Most teams that score get a penalty or big play because against a good team like that, you can’t make play after play to get into the end zone.”
Lake Mills junior quarterback Adam Moen has a completion percentage of 64.1, throwing for 3,209 yards and 38 touchdowns against nine interceptions. Moen leads the team in rushing with 916 yards and has scored 20 times on the ground.
Buechel has 11 touchdown grabs and 1,110 receiving yards while fellow senior receiver Matt Johnson has caught 78 passes, scoring 10 times. Retrum has scored seven touchdowns and junior wideout Charlie Bender has found paydirt six times.
Junior linebacker Charlie Cassady leads the L-Cat defense with 81 tackles while freshman linebacker Ben Buchholtz has made 74 stops. The defense held seven straight opponents under 15 points from Week 4 until last week’s game.
The winner of this one takes on the victor of Lakeside Lutheran at River Valley at a neutral location for Level 4. The L-Cats are making their fourth Level 3 appearance in school history, the team has never qualified for Level 4.
Having opened the season with Division 3 Menomonie, a team that also qualified for Level 3, and gone undefeated in a stout Capitol North gives the L-Cats confidence they can hang with the Crusaders, who lost twice in conference play to Kettle Moraine and Muskego.
“That we can win this game,” Ferkovich said of keys to the game. “We can’t go in afraid. We need to have who we have ready to play once they watch film and see who the opponent is and understand who the opponent is. We played those (nonconference games) for a reason. Come in with an attitude and compete with these guys. We need to execute, the team that executes the best is going to win. We have to be ready.”
Lakeside Lutheran (7-4) at River Valley (10-1)
In 2018, Lakeside Lutheran was on the ropes against an underclassmen-rich River Valley team in a WIAA Division 4 Level 2 football game.
The Warriors prevailed, won in Level 3 before seeing their season end in a Level 4 game against Racine St. Catherine’s.
River Valley and Lakeside Lutheran are set to square off once again in 2019; this time it will be a Division 4 Level 3 football game in Spring Green.
“They’re a strong team in the defensive line,” Lakeside Lutheran football coach Paul Bauer said. “I remember our linemen coming off the field saying, ‘We can’t move them, they’re like a brick wall.’”
They did though, as they came from behind to win in the second half.
After throwing 20 touchdown passes his sophomore season, junior Will Bailey has thrown 27 touchdowns so far in 11 games for River Valley. Bailey is listed as a 6-foot, 180-pounder and had a team-high six rushing touchdowns and 231 yards on the ground in 2018.
This year, the Blackhawks are closer to having a balanced attack as sophomore Zach Gloudeman had 926 yards on 95 carries and junior Roman Jensen has 98 carries for 656 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Bailey’s top target this season has been 6-foot-4 senior Josh Maier, who has 47 catches for 895 yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s 19 yards per catch.
“He is both a possession guy and he can get by you in a heartbeat,” Bauer said. “If you play him soft, he’ll just take a 10-yard hitch or a 10-yard out.”
Last year, Bauer said the Warriors went to a double-team concept to limit his ability to hurt them. This year, Bauer said they’re too balanced to lean on that. Bauer joked that the goal would be needing poor weather to limit the athleticism of the Blackhawks much like the Level 2 victory against Evansville.
“We’re hoping for sloppy weather,” said Bauer with a laugh. “We have a scheme that will give some help, but we can’t flat out double team them this year. They’re too good. We have some things that we can do to give each other some help, so hopefully that will slow them down.”
River Valley has played one one-possession game, a 36-35 loss to Lancaster. The Blackhawks have been held to fewer than 30 points once this season, an 18-7 victory on the road against Prairie du Chien.
Fifth-seeded Lakeside Lutheran enters the game as the lowest remaining seed in the D4 field. Seventh-seeded Monroe is the lowest remaining seed in Division 3 and sixth-seeded Sun Prairie is the lowest remaining seed in Division 1.
The Warriors defeated top-seeded Evansville 14-6 and fourth-seeded Jefferson 42-28. River Valley rolled Brodhead/Juda 42-0 in Level 1 and dominated Edgerton 46-3 in Level 2.
“I hope they do (appreciate the magnitude of making it to Level 3),” Bauer said. “I told them this week it was business as usual. They’ve been practicing and preparing well. I think that’s part of the reason we’ve been performing better. We just have to keep it up. Every week, we just try to ramp it up a little bit more and get a little better each week and ramp it up a little bit more each week.”
Should the Warriors win, they’ll face off against the winner of Lake Mills versus Catholic Memorial.