Almond-Bancroft travels to Wild Rose, SPASH visits Kimberly
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
For the second time in three weeks, each of the five area high school football teams will play on the road at 7 p.m. Friday.
Almond-Bancroft plays at reigning Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) Small Champion Wild Rose, Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) hits the road to take on five-time defending State Champion Kimberly, Rosholt plays at Pittsville, and Pacelli Catholic High School and Amherst open CWC Large play on the road, with Pacelli at Shiocton and Amherst at Wittenberg-Birnamwood at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31.
Coming off a 44-6 win at home over Rio last week, the Eagles (1-1) will open their conference season at returning CWC Small Champion Wild Rose (0-2), which won 36-0 at Almond last season.
“Wild Rose won the conference last year, and it’s definitely a team that we have to get through if that’s what we want to do,” said Almond-Bancroft football head coach Andrew Bradley. “They have a new coach and a little different system, so a little adjusting to that, but we’re looking forward to that first conference game, and definitely starting out with a big one at Wild Rose.”
Wild Rose finished 12-1 last year and advanced to Level 3 of the Division 7 Playoffs, while this season it lost 35-7 at Oshkosh Lourdes in Week 1 and 20-0 at home last week to fourth-ranked Fall River, which beat Almond 8-6 in the season opener.
Meanwhile, junior running back Jackson Beggs 119 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 22 carries, and senior running back/wide receiver Noah Kollock caught five passes for 113 yards and one touchdown in last week’s victory for Almond.
“They lost quite a few kids, but they also had quite a few juniors last year,” said Bradley. “They still have some skilled kids that are talented, and they’re actually pretty big up front, so they’ll present some challenges for us, but we just need to focus on doing what we do.
“Offensively, we need to play the way we did last Friday and limit the mistakes, and I like what our defense has done the first two weeks,” he said. “It’s a big one right away, but I like our experience we have coming back, and I think we’ll be ready for it.”
The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) will face a ranked team for the third week in a row to open the season, when it travels to face second-ranked Kimberly (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Kimberly had its state-record 70-game win streak snapped with a 31-28 loss to top-ranked Fond du Lac in Week 1 on a 26-yard field goal as time expired, and bounced back with a 42-0 win at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln last week.
Kimberly lost the State Offensive Player of the Year (running back D.J. Stewart) and State Defensive Player of the Year (defensive end Boyd Dietzen) from last year’s team that finished 14-0, and has been led by senior quarterback Cody Staerkel (19-of-25 for 367 yards, with six touchdowns and zero interceptions) and junior running back Will Fischer (207 yards rushing on 39 carries).
SPASH lost 28-18 at home to Kimberly last season, and will look to bounce back after it lost 24-6 at fifth-ranked Neenah (2-0) in Week 1 and 48-20 at home to eighth-ranked Hudson (2-0) last week.
Following a pair of nonconference losses to start the season, the Hornets (0-2) will be on the road for the third week in a row for their CWC Small opener at Division 7 eighth-ranked Pittsville (2-0).
Pittsville finished 9-3 and advanced to Level 2 of the Division 7 Playoffs last year, then opened this season with a 37-36 win over Auburndale and a 21-12 win at Rib Lake/Prentice last week.
Rosholt lost 43-7 at home to Pittsville to last year, and opened this season with a 33-6 loss at reigning Division 5 playoff team Oconto in Week 1 and 27-0 at Shiocton last week.
The Cardinals will also be on the road for the third week in a row, as they open the CWC Large season at Shiocton (1-1), which beat Rosholt last week after a 20-14 loss to Tomahawk in the season opener.
“Shiocton has a new coaching staff this year, a new system, so we’ll see how that goes,” said Pacelli football head coach Drew Nelson. “It’s always a tough place to play, they have a good fan base, and it’s a CWC game, so we’ve got to have them strapped up, and we’ll see what happens.”
Pacelli lost 24-20 at home to Shiocton in the regular-season finale last year, and opened this season with a 40-18 loss at Division 6 10th-ranked Dodgeland (2-0) in Week 1 and a 44-14 loss at La Crosse Aquinas (1-1) last week, as freshman running back Brycen Cashin and senior running back Ben Lundgren both had over 100 yards rushing in each of the first two games for the Cardinals.
“If you look at the Aquinas game, we were able to move the ball, we just weren’t able to finish drives,” said Nelson. “We had too many turnovers, and we’ve got to fix that.
“If we can do that and finish some drives, we might have a little bit of success, and hopefully we can open up conference 1-0,” he said.
The fourth-ranked Falcons (1-1) will begin their quest for a fifth consecutive Conference Title, when they play at Wittenberg in the CWC Large opener Friday.
Wittenberg kicked off this season with a 38-22 win at Northland Pines, then won 43-0 at Crandon last week to improve to 2-0.
“This is what really counts for the playoffs, so the season kind of now is starting to really kick off officially for us,” said Amherst football head coach. Mark Lusic. “They have some size across the board, they want to want to run off-tackle, and they run double tight ends.
“We’re going to have to be to move them up front, so that will be the key,” he said. “The game will be won or lost inside the trenches.”
Amherst won 35-0 at home over Wittenberg in last year’s regular-season finale, and will look to get back on track after a 34-0 loss at home to top-ranked Fond du Lac Saint Mary’s Springs (2-0) last week.
“We’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater or anything like that,” said Lusic. “We’re just trying to get better and understand what they actually need, and what they know, and just keep plugging away.
“We weren’t consistent at all Friday, and we didn’t do very many good things,” he said. “So we need to bounce back, be ready to go, and whatever they throw at us, be able to make the plays and adapt and do it right.”