Amherst travels to Springs, SPASH and Pacelli set for home openers
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The Amherst High School football team will travel to play back-to-back State Champion Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in a rematch of last season’s WIAA Division 5 State Semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, to highlight Week 2 of the high school football season.
Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) and Pacelli Catholic High School will both play at home this weekend for the first time this season, while eighth-ranked Almond-Bancroft and Rosholt will be at home for the second week in a row.
Fourth-ranked Amherst (1-0) will travel for a nonconference showdown Friday at third-ranked Springs, which won 34-0 at Amherst in Week 2 last season and beat the Falcons 12-0 in the State Semifinals on the way to claiming the Division 5 State Title with a 14-0 record.
“It’s always a good measuring stick for our program,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic. “Win or lose, it won’t make or break our season, it just kind of gives you an idea of where you are.
“It’s always a fun game, a lot of intensity, both teams want to win, but we’ve still got to look at it in the perspective as, ‘it’s only August,’” he said.
Springs returns senior running back/linebacker Marcus Orlandoni and All-State senior outside linebacker Jake Hoch from last year, and had its 28-game win streak snapped with a 21-14 loss at home to second-ranked Lake Country Lutheran last week.
Orlandoni rushed for 149 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries, but Lake Country returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, had a two-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half to build a 21-0 lead on its way to the win.
“They’ve got All-State players all over the place, I think they had more All-State players than we had All-Conference last year, so we’ll have our hands full again,” said Lusic, whose team has lost four consecutive games to Springs following a 39-14 win at Springs in 2015. “They’re big up front, (Orlandoni) is a three-year starter and he makes them go, and they’re going to want to pound the ball.
“Defensively, they’re big and athletic, so points will be at premium, and we’ve just got to make sure we protect the ball, and we’ve got to score,” he said. “They shut us out twice last year, and we’ve got to find a way to get on the board and be successful that way.”
Coming off a 28-7 loss at eighth-ranked Appleton North last week, SPASH (0-1) will host third-ranked Fond du Lac (1-0) in its home opener at 7 p.m. at Community Stadium at Goerke Field Friday, Aug. 30.
“They’re a top team in the state for a reason,” said SPASH football head coach Pete McAdams. “They return some really good athletes, they’ve got some new kids playing in different spots, but until someone knocks them off, they’re going to be a team to contend with.
“Offensively, they’re going to do everything they can to run the ball,” he said. “They can definitely throw, but if you don’t stop their running game, they’re not going to.”
Fond du Lac won 42-7 over SPASH in the regular-season finale last year and finished 12-1 after a 22-21 overtime loss to Kimberly in the WIAA Division 1 State Semifinals, while it opened the 2019 season with a 34-31 win over Franklin last week.
“We respect what they’re bringing to the table, but as a unit ourselves, we can’t care about that,” said McAdams. “The lack of production from an offensive standpoint last week made us truly reflect and say, ‘we’ve got to fix what we do.’
“We’ve got to find ways to move the ball on offense, we’ve got to find ways to create the big play on defense, and we’ve got to find ways to be fundamentally sound and offensive on our special teams,” he said. “That’s really how we have to look forward to this game, ‘it doesn’t matter who it is, we’ve got to go out there and play a more respectable ballgame.’”
Following a 42-22 win at Owen-Withee in the season opener last week, Pacelli (1-0) will play at home for the first time this season when it takes on La Crosse Aquinas in a nonconference game at 1 p.m. at Community Stadium at Goerke Field Saturday, Aug. 31.
“Going back to that old WISAA rivalry, it’s the last year we’re going to play Aquinas, and it’ll be a fun one,” said Pacelli football head coach Drew Nelson. “It’s always a good slobberknocker, two good teams facing off against each other.”
With the WIAA conference realignment set to take place next year, the game Saturday will be the final scheduled meeting between former Central Wisconsin Catholic Conference rivals Pacelli and Aquinas, which lost 7-6 at Prairie du Chien last week.
“They’ve got a fairly decent-sized team and they’re going to bring some talent,” said Nelson, whose team lost 44-14 to Aquinas last year. “Our kids have to be way more mentally ready and way more focused this week than they were last week.
“But if we can put our kids in space to have success, and obviously limit the turnovers and limit the mental mistakes, I think we might be OK,” he said.
Ranked eighth in Division 7 in this week’s WisSports.net Coaches Poll following a 26-14 win over Fall River/Rio last week, Almond (1-0) will be at home for the second consecutive week when it hosts Lake Holcombe/Cornell in a nonconference game at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30.
“They’re a little bigger school, but they’re a physical team that’s going to come right at us,” said Almond-Bancroft football head coach Andrew Bradley. “It’s a team that will help us prepare for some of the teams in our conference that like to play physical and run the ball.”
Lake Holcombe/Cornell finished 6-4 last season and reached the WIAA Division 6 Playoffs for the second year in a row, while it opened this season with a 40-6 win at Flambeau last week.
“We’re going to have to slow the running game down,” said Bradley. “Last week Fall River/Rio was more of a spread team, so it will be a little different for us coming off of that.
“And then offensively, we just need to take care of the ball better,” he said. “Our execution last week wasn’t bad, it’s just the ball ended up on the ground, and if we can take care of the ball, I think we might be alright.”
Rosholt (1-0) won 20-12 at home last week over Oconto, and will be at home again this week to take on Menominee Indian in its Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) Small opener at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30.
“The conference season’s upon us right away with the second game, and we’re excited about it,” said Rosholt football co-head coach Mark McHugh. “We’re looking forward to playing Menominee, we haven’t faced them in quite a few years, and quite frankly, we don’t really know what to expect.”
Menominee Indian returned to the CWC Small this season after it played eight-man football from 2015 through 2018, and won 27-12 at home last week over Living Word Lutheran.
“Film tells us they like to pass, so we’re planning for more of a passing game from them,” said McHugh. “I’m sure they’re going to give us a challenge and we’re going to have to work our tails off to be able to come out on top on Friday night.
“And we need to continue to build on what we started last week,” he said. “We do have to clean up some things on defense, as far as defending the passing game, and we think Menominee’s going to give us that challenge to do that.”