Game(s): Middleton at Sun Prairie
Wow, two weeks down already in 2017.
Before we get to the games, let's take a look at our three running features for the season.
#WishboneWatch: A couple more Power-I plays but nothing like a Wishbone. Run-pass options are all the rage this year. When this feature gets retired in 2075, when I'm 90 and nearly done with broadcasting, it will be a weekly occurrence. Just you wait.
Concession Rankings: Sun Prairie's concessions had my Big Two, lemonade and Starburst. However, the search goes on for the $1 hot dog.
Down and Distance: I only snuck in one, but to be fair, there wasn't a real ridiculous down-and-distance in the game to apply a neighboring town to. Shout out to the state capitol building.
The Games: Only one game on my schedule this week, and it was a big one: Middleton at Sun Prairie. Sun Prairie was fresh off of a 56-0 demolition of Madison East, while Middleton used a bunch of turnovers and special teams play to topple Madison Memorial in their opener.
This game was devoid of any real shenanigans.
Sun Prairie's defense did much of the work late in this game to salt it away, 34-6. Sun Prairie got a 62-yard touchdown run to start the game from Brian McKenzie, on the second play from scrimmage. The extra point doinked off of a parked car beyond the end zone stands, and it was 7-0 Sun Prairie only 29 seconds into the game. As it would turn out, that would be all the scoring they would need.
Middleton got on the board after partially blocking a punt, and Cole Ragsdale then caught a deflected pass from Davis Roquet for a 13-yard score to make it 7-6. Sun Prairie's Alex Oakley added a pair of field goals, including one from 48 yards, to make it 13-6 at the break.
Sun Prairie's defense awoke in the second half, getting three interceptions, including a Marty Strey pick-six, and added a fumble recovery to go with their 21 points scored in the final 24 minutes.
What I learned from this game: Sun Prairie's defense is going to be a handful in Big 8 play this year. Some of the top offenses, like Madison West, are going to struggle to move the ball on the Cardinals. Teams with strong defenses, like Verona, are going to have to find advantages in special teams or force some turnovers to get points. It's not to say Sun Prairie is unbeatable, but they have size, speed, and experience across the board, and have an edge on special teams over nearly anyone they will face this year (with the possible exception of Verona). I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that early on, Sun Prairie is the team to beat in the conference, but they still have seven weeks to go. Janesville Craig, like Sun Prairie, handled Madison East in their last game, so the Cougars will have some momentum coming into Ashley Field this Thursday.
Middleton, meanwhile, couldn't overcome a few turnovers and the inability to run the football in the game. They got a spark going wildcat, but only briefly. The good news is that they won't see defenses of Sun Prairie's caliber outside of Week 5 (Verona) the rest of the way. And, it's super-early, with plenty of time for some of their injured starters (five in all) to heal up for a late-season push. No way you can write off Middleton because of this loss; there was a bit of a rolling snowball effect down the hill towards the end of this game. They're going to get a test this week with a huge game against Madison West, which doesn't exactly lend itself to being a bounce-back sort of game. The Regents have been stingy on defense and feature the conference's top returning passer in Keishawn Shanklin,
Elsewhere, nothing in the Big Eight jumped off the page at me. Verona gave up a late score with its sophomores to Beloit Memorial, but still handled a big (and improving) Purple Knights squad 30-8. Craig's win over East was only surprising because of the 42-6 margin; I really thought that game could've gone either way. The Cougars did bring back some talent from last year, but I wasn't expecting a rout. La Follette earned a shutout of Parker, 30-0, which again the margin maybe sticks out a bit. West topping Memorial 21-7 gives the Regents a 2-0 record heading into one of those important measuring stick/turning point sort of games against Middleton, so I'm going to be keeping a close eye on that one Thursday.
This week, Parker hosts East, and the Vikings will try to make it a Janesville sweep of the Purgolders. The good news for East is that it's early, so they still have most of the season to improve and start winning. Parker, meanwhile, La Follette welcomes in Beloit Memorial, and this could be a more interesting game than what it appears, only because Beloit's trouble has been turnovers. They've faced two teams that look like playoff contenders in West and Verona. I mentioned the West at Middleton game, which has enormous implications for both squads. Middleton falling to 1-2 would be a surprise for sure. West enters a very difficult pair of games against both Middleton and then Verona in Week 4, so I'm sure they'd like to win one (or both) of these games to assert themselves as a true contender in the Big Eight. Craig is at Sun Prairie, with both teams coming off of big wins. Finally, Verona visits Madison Memorial, and I will preview that later this week.
In the Badger crossovers, I really believe the Waunakee-Watertown final was a shocker. The 63-0 margin is a large statement. I'm not sure what went wrong for the Goslings, but that was a rude welcome to the Badger Conference. Mount Horeb/Barneveld dispatched Oregon 49-20, which sets up our other Game of the Week, Waunakee at MH/B, which I will preview later this week.
Other Badger crossover games: No real surprises in the Stoughton 33, Baraboo 14 or Monona Grove 49, Portage 14 contests. Sauk Prairie got a big win over Edgewood 26-7, which is the first under interim/former head coach Scott Schutt this year. Fort Atkinson beat Beaver Dam 37-19, showing they're not too worse for wea from their shutout against Waunakee to start the year.
The two Badger crossovers that did stand out to me: DeForest getting a 27-7 win over Badger South defending champion Monroe, one week after DeForest was beat by Oregon and Monroe scored a big win over Reedsburg. Speaking of Reedsburg, they were taken down again by Milton, 27-19, to make the Red Hawks 2-0. All four of these teams for the most part are expected to be playoff contenders, so hopefully the early non-conference games helped get them set for the rigors of conference play.
In the Badger North this week, Baraboo is at Beaver Dam, Sauk Prairie visits Portage, and DeForest and Reedsburg go at it in one of the week's better area contests. The Norskies-Beavers game will probably come into focus once we get to playoff seedings. Our game of the week features Mount Horeb/Barneveld hosting the Waunakee Warriors, which last year decided the Badger North by a single score. Both teams are very talented coming back.
In the Badger South, Fort Atkinson is at Watertown, which will be a neat game to follow for fans of the run-pass spread option. Fort prefers to run it a bit more than their Goslings counterparts, who will favor the passing game behind outstanding quarterback Dylan Fagerland. Edgewood is at Stoughton, while Monroe visits Milton. The latter of those games has great potential to be a good one, as Milton has started 2-0. Monona Grove is at Oregon, and right now it's hard to tell what the Panthers will be this season. They will certainly be better than last year's 1-8 squad but this will be an important game to see where they are at, against one of the best quarterbacks and running backs in the entire state.
The Capitol conferences are still playing non-conference games. Last week's contests were highlighted by Lake Mills doubling up New Glarus/Monticello, 42-21, which I think puts the L-Cats as the primary challenger to Lodi in the Cap-North. With Columbus dropping two games to start the year, and now a game against an Illinois school that last week beat a Wisconsin D-1 school in Oak Creek, Lake Mills is in position to make a run at the Lodi Blue Devils when they meet up in a couple of weeks. First though, the L-Cats have to get through Mauston on Thursday, while Lodi will host Nekoosa. Lakeside Lutheran will get their turn at New Glarus/Monticello, last year's Capitol South champs, while Luther Prep, 2-0 to start the year, will face one of the state's best programs in St. Mary's Springs. Poynette will be at Southwestern this week.
In the South, outside of New Glarus/Monticello, Belleville is fresh off of another big win, and will play against Wisconsin Dells on Thursday. Cambridge will visit Trailways member Horicon/Hustisford. A pair of South Central-Cap South match-ups remain with Marshall at Adams/Friendship and Wautoma visiting Waterloo.
Rock Valley games can be so much fun. East Troy survived Big Foot by one point, despite Jackson Enz going off for seven touchdowns and 500 all-purpose yards, last week. Evansville/Albany lost against Jefferson to fall to 0-2, matching their loss total from last year. Clinton, McFarland, and Turner all picked up wins as well. This week, Clinton is at Big Foot in what should easily be one of the most entertaining games of the season. Jefferson has a tricky road game at Brodhead/Juda. Turner will see Evansville/Albany, and will try to stay 2-0 against last year's Rock Valley co-champs. East Troy will play at Edgerton, while McFarland is at Whitewater.
Two games this week: Verona at Madison Memorial and Waunakee at Mount Horeb/Barneveld. Spartans and Vikings fans, hope your concessions game is strong. MoHo has the advantage here based on prices so far (and they have Starburst!).