Amherst football hosts Iola for Conference Title in regular-season finale for area teams
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC)-Large Title will be on the line when the Division 5 third-ranked Amherst football team (7-1, 6-0) hosts Division 6 top-ranked Iola-Scandinavia (8-0, 6-0) in the regular-season finale Friday, Oct. 12.
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) (3-5, 3-4) needs to win at top-ranked Fond du Lac (8-0) to clinch a playoff berth, Rosholt (2-6, 2-2) can advance to the playoffs with a win at home against Tri-County (1-6, 1-3), 10th-ranked Almond-Bancroft (7-1, 4-0) will look to clinch the CWC-Small Title outright at home against Marion/Tigerton (0-8, 0-4), and Pacelli Catholic High School (2-6, 2-4) will look to close its season on a high note at home against Bonduel (5-3, 4-2).
A pair of teams that advanced to Madison last year will play for the Conference Title Friday night when three-time defending WIAA Division 5 State Champion Amherst hosts Division 6 State Runner-up Iola.
“This is right where we want to be, where you control your own destiny, and it should be a heck of a game,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic. “Iola is a heck of a team, they were really good last year, but they’re better this year.”
Iola returned 16 starters from 2017, led by senior running back/linebacker Bryce Huettner (1,727 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns on 154 carries, team-high 60 tackles on defense) and junior quarterback Connor Kurki (18-of-39 passes for 378 yards, with four touchdowns and zero interceptions, 495 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 63 carries).
“Everything starts with Bryce Huettner,” said Lusic. “The quarterback is also very dynamic, and on offense, they’ve got the horses up front to get the job done.
“Their D-linemen, just like their offensive linemen, are big and strong, and their two inside linebackers are very tough also,” he said.
Amherst won 32-14 at Iola last year for its seventh win in a row in the series dating back to Lusic’s second year as head coach, while the Falcons will look to win their fifth Conference Title in a row and seventh in the last eight years Friday night.
“We’re going to have to tackle, if we don’t tackle Huettner, it’s going to be a long, long night,” said Lusic. “That guy has the capability of turning a two-yard gain into 50 yards, so we’re going to have to be very, very solid in our tackling, and then block up front.
“And the third thing I would say is, when plays are available, they’ve got to make them,” he said. “It should be exciting.”
Coming off a 55-7 win over Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln last week, the Panthers will battle for a postseason berth when they play at Fond du Lac Friday.
Fond du Lac ended five-time defending State Champion Kimberly’s state-record 70-game win streak with a 31-28 win on the road in Week 1, and has been led this season by quarterback Carson Raddatz (36-of-52 for 524 yards, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions, 827 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on 90 carries), running back Eben Sauer (1,033 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on 88 carries) and running back Zavier Ellis (493 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 52 carries).
“They’re an outstanding ballclub; they can do just about everything,” said SPASH football head coach Pete McAdams. “They’re big, they’re fast, they’re tough, and they’re very skilled away from the ball, so we’ve got our hands full.
“But we can’t worry about that,” he said. “We don’t want to actually even focus on the outcome of this ballgame, we want to focus on the process of us playing our best football game.”
SPASH won 26-24 at home over Fond du Lac in the regular-season finale last year to earn a playoff berth, and will look to reach the postseason for the fourth year in a row and 15th time in 17 years.
“More than ever this year, we want to see a team that enjoys playing for each other and together,” said McAdams. “And if that’s evident to us as a coaching staff, then I think a lot of good things will happen.”
The Hornets can wrap up a playoff berth with an above .500 record in conference play, when they host Tri-County Friday night. The two teams met in the regular-season finale last year with a trip to the postseason on the line, when Tri-County won 14-7 at home, while Rosholt is looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and the 19th time in program history.
The playoff-bound Eagles clinched a share of the CWC-Small Title with a 34-7 victory at then-sixth-ranked and previously unbeaten Pittsville, and will have a chance to win it outright at home against Marion/Tigerton.
“We definitely celebrated a little bit Friday, getting a share of that Conference Title, but these kids want it themselves and the seniors want it themselves,” said Almond-Bancroft football head coach Andrew Bradley. “So we’ll be ready to go on Friday.”
Almond won 56-0 at Marion/Tigerton last year and will also look to secure a high seed in its eight-team grouping for the Division 7 Playoffs, with the WIAA set to announce the full 224-team playoff field for all seven divisions around 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, with the playoff seedings due to be released later that afternoon.
“It’s all about getting better and improving and getting ready for the playoffs,” said Bradley. “Marion/Tigerton has struggled a little bit, but getting that Conference Title for ourselves will keep us focused this week.”
Coming off a 35-8 loss to Amherst last week, the Cardinals will host Bonduel in their regular-season finale Friday night.
“Bonduel’s going to come into Point hungry, getting ready for the playoffs,” said Pacelli football head coach Drew Nelson. “Hopefully we can use our speed and end our season on a high note.”
Bonduel has clinched a playoff berth and won 46-7 at home last year against Pacelli, which would have an outside shot at the playoffs at 3-4 in the conference with a win.
“We haven’t paid that much attention to it, we know we’ve got to go out and take care of our own job and play for each other,” said Nelson. “And if it’s in the cards that night and if we get a win, we’ll see what happens for the following week. But right now it’s just one-day-at-a-time, and obviously not putting the cart in front of the horse and knowing that we need to go out and play our game on Friday night.”