Amherst faces Springs in playoff battle of reigning State Champions
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The three-time defending WIAA Division 5 State Champion Amherst High School football team will look to earn a trip to the Division 5 State Semifinals when it hits the road to take on defending Division 6 State Champion Fond du Lac Saint Mary’s Springs Friday, Nov. 2.
The third-ranked Falcons (9-2) won 37-19 at sixth-ranked Cedar Grove-Belgium in the Level 2 Playoffs Friday, Oct. 26, to advance to Level 3, where it will face top-ranked Springs (11-0) at 7 p.m. this Friday at Lomira High School.
“They’re a tremendous team,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic. “They have All-State talent all over the field, and we’re going to have our hands full.
“But I told our guys, ‘they’re a good team but so are we, and don’t ever forget that,’” he said.
Springs and the Falcons will meet Friday night for the second time this season, after Springs won 34-0 at Amherst in Week 2 of the regular season.
Springs won three of the last four Division 6 State Titles, but when the 224-team playoff field was broken into divisions based on enrollment, it was the last team in Division 5 this postseason.
“They really took it to us in Week 2, but I believe we’re a different team and we’re a better team than we were in our last 10 weeks,” said Lusic. “It should be a heck of a challenge, but we’re excited to be playing.”
Last week, Springs won 33-20 over eighth-ranked Omro (9-2), and has been led this season by senior quarterback/defensive back Mitchell Waechter (99-of-162 for 1,836 yards, with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions, 589 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 68 carries, and team-high five interceptions on defense), junior running back/linebacker Marcus Orlandoni (1,076 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns on 159 carries, team-high 114 tackles on defense), senior wide receiver Cade Christensen (46 catches for 968 yards and 10 touchdowns) and junior running back/linebacker Jacob Hoch (485 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 73 carries).
“Their quarterback makes them go, he’s an All-State-caliber quarterback, and they have some size up front and athletes everywhere,” said Lusic. “(Christensen) is an All-State receiver, and that’s what’s hard to defend against them, they have the ability to both run and pass, and they have the ability to do it at a high level.
“It’s not just, ‘well, they can kind of throw it, they can kind of run it,’ they can do both at any time they want,” he said. “So we’re going to have to be able to defend all phases of the game, and that’s what makes it so difficult to play these guys.”
Springs carries a 25-game win streak into Friday and is averaging 40.7 points per game and allowing 6.5 points per game this season, while Amherst is averaging 30.7 points and allowing 14.3 points per game.
The winner will advance to the WIAA Division 5 State Semifinals to take on the winner of second-ranked and reigning Division 5 State Runner-up Lake Country Lutheran (11-0) and Horicon/Hustisford (10-1) at a neutral site at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.
“Every game you have opportunities to make plays, and we’re going to have to be able to make plays,” said Lusic. “We’re going to have to tackle, and offensively, we’re going to have to be able to move the ball and not shoot ourselves in the foot.
“When we’ve been unsuccessful this season, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot many times,” he said. “And if we want to move on and be one of four teams left in the state, we’re going to have to capitalize on opportunities.”