Amherst will host Springs to lead Week 2 matchups
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
Reigning WIAA Division 5 State Champion Amherst will host defending Division 6 State Champion Fond du Lac Saint Mary’s Springs in a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, to highlight Week 2 of the high school football season.
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) will open at home against Hudson at 7 p.m. Friday and Almond-Bancroft will take on Rio in its home opener at 7 p.m. Friday, while Rosholt will be at Shiocton at 7 p.m. Friday and Pacelli Catholic High School will play at La Crosse Aquinas at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.
In a battle of State Champions from a year ago, and the top two teams in Division 5 in Week 1 of the WisSports.net Coaches Poll, top-ranked Amherst will play second-ranked Springs in a nonconference game for the fourth year in a row, after the Falcons lost 14-13 at Springs last year for their only loss of the season.
“It’s exciting, and I told the guys to enjoy it this week,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic, whose team won 39-14 at Springs in 2015 and lost 20-17 at home in 2016. “There’s a lot of hype around it, and this is why we play these games.
“But I also told them to take it in perspective, it’s just the second game of the year,” he said. “Of course we want to win this game, but we’re just trying to get better.”
Springs is projected to end up in Division 5 for the postseason due to an increased enrollment, and rushed for 216 yards and five touchdowns on 39 carries in a 51-0 win over Markesan last week, led by a pair of returning starters from a year ago in quarterback Mitchell Waechter (9-of-14 passes for 190 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, 54 yards rushing and two touchdowns on seven carries) and wide receiver Cade Christensen (six catches for 125 yards and one touchdown).
Springs has won three of the last four State Titles in Division 6, while three-time defending Division 5 State Champion Amherst opened its season with a 34-3 win at Division 3 Merrill last week.
“They’ve got tremendous talent,” said Lusic. “Their quarterback makes them go, he’s got a rocket of an arm. They have a big, tall receiver on the edge, they’re quick up front, they’ve got a lot of talent and they execute.
“To beat them, you can’t beat yourself, and we’ve got to execute,” he said. “We can’t have penalties, and you’ve just got to bring your ‘A’ game to be successful against them.”
Coming off a 24-6 loss at 10th-ranked Neenah last week, SPASH will take on seventh-ranked Hudson in its home opener at Community Stadium at Goerke Field Friday night.
“These kids look forward to playing at Goerke, it’s always been a special place,” said SPASH football head coach Pete McAdams. “And one of the big things that we know is, one game to the next here, they just get tougher and tougher in our schedule.
“Hudson’s an outstanding ballclub, as we know from last year,” he said. “And now we’ve got to do everything we can to put us in a position to be successful this weekend.”
The Panthers went 2-0 at Hudson last year, as they won 23-21 in a nonconference game in Week 2 and 48-47 in overtime in the WIAA Division 1 Level 1 Playoffs, while Hudson opened this season with a 48-20 win over Kenosha Indian Trail.
“The No. 1 thing that they’re bringing back that they’re going to really weigh on a lot is their quarterback (senior Keyser Helterbrand), he’s a very, very good athlete,” said McAdams. “Their offense will go as he goes, whether it’s the running attack that he leads the charge on, or his passing, he does an outstanding job.
“So defensively, we’re going to have to be really sound to be able to shut down one of the top quarterbacks that we’ll go against all year,” he said.
The Eagles will be at home for the first time this season to take on Rio, after the Eagles lost 8-6 at fifth-ranked Fall River last week.
“It’s good to be back home, in front of the home crowd and play under our lights,” said Almond-Bancroft football head coach Andrew Bradley. “It’s another Trailways (Conference) and Division 7 opponent again, and we’ve played them a while now, so it’s a team that we’re familiar with.
“And we just want to get on to the next game after last Friday,” he said.
Rio won 64-6 over Tri-County in its season opener last week, while Almond won 20-6 at Rio in Week 2 last season.
“It’s another team that has a bunch of kids back, I think they have 17 juniors and seniors that were playing last year,” said Bradley. “They have two good running backs back, and they’re going to run it right at us, so we have to be able to stop the run.
“And then we have to be able to execute a little bit better offensively than we did this past week, and then not turn the ball over,” he said.
The Hornets will look to bounce back from a 33-6 loss at Oconto, as they’re on the road for the second week in a row with a nonconference game at Shiocton.
“They play well at home, so we know we’re going to have a battle there,” said Rosholt co-head coach Mark McHugh. “But I feel our kids are going to be up to the task.”
Shiocton lost 20-14 at Tomahawk in its opener under first-year head coach Brock Pahlow last week, while it won 44-0 at Rosholt last year
McHugh said his team is still looking to find cohesiveness defensively going forward, and that they came to practice this Monday ready to work and did some good things.
“Shiocton is a very physical team, they’re well coached, and for us to be successful, we have to match their physicality,” said McHugh. “We have to correct our tackling, and our defensive mistakes, in order to play with them.
“We feel good about our offense, that we can move the football,” he said. “And we look to continue to build on that against them.”
The Cardinals will close out the weekend for area teams when they travel to play former Central Wisconsin Catholic Conference rival La Crosse Aquinas Saturday afternoon, after Pacelli lost 40-18 at Dodgeland last week.
“It’s an old-school rivalry, and we try and keep that going,” said Pacelli football head coach Drew Nelson. “It should be a close game, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Cardinals won 41-16 at home over Aquinas in Week 2 last season, while Aquinas fell 36-14 at Division 5 ninth-ranked Prairie du Chien in its season opener last week.
“We’ve got to play four quarters,” said Nelson. “Against Dodgeland we played about two quarters, give or take a quarter-and-a-half, and we were able to have success.
“We’ve got to do a better job sustaining our blocks and just securing tackles, and it’s the fundamental things that we were really starting to hammer down (Monday) at practice,” said Nelson. “We had one of our best practices, if not the best practice of the year, so hopefully that momentum and overall attitude continues, and we can build on it.”