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October 16, 2012 | 05:20 PMThe high school playoffs are one of the most exciting times of the year.
In a do-or-die format, each play is bigger, each moment more memorable. And it never hurts to have the support of a half-crazy, screaming home crowd.
At least for one game, both Badger and Big Foot will enjoy the friendly home confines. And although Williams Bay didn't make the postseason this year, the Bulldogs will have one more chance to earn their first win since 2007.
Badger (6-2), which earned a No. 3 seed in Group D in Division 1, will host sixth-seeded Muskego Saturday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m. at Badger High School.
Badger is 3-1 at home this season. Muskego, a member of the Classic 8 Conference, won its final three games to finish the season 5-3.
If Badger wins, it will face the winner of (7) Racine Horlick and (2) Franklin.
There are several things that make the dangerous Badgers a candidate for a long postseason run.
The first is an unbelievable running attack. Predicated on misdirection, the Badgers have amassed nearly 3,000 rushing yards this season with an average of 357 per contest. The local boys have scored 29.3 points per game.
And don't read too far into the Waterford loss last week. It was a conference game with a familiar opponent, and emotions were running high. Badger's versatile ground attack hasn't been stopped much all season, and playoff opponents may not know what hits them. Badger quarterback Peter Krien and fullback Robert Johnson have each ran for more than 900 yards this season.
Even though Muskego is a bigger school (1,672 enrollment) and plays larger schools in the stacked Classic 8, the Warriors allow 255 rushing yards per game. They rush for around that total on offense, but the Badger defense has consistently shown an ability to stop the run. Badger is only giving up 84 yards rushing per game and 3.4 yards per carry.
The home crowd will be rocking, and the talented Badger offense should get back on track against Muskego. Against West Allis Hale, a larger, Milwaukee metro school, the Badgers reeled off 255 rushing yards in the first game of the year.
Also, Badger's secondary is experienced and hasn't allowed many big plays all season. Muskego has the ability to pass (499 yards on the season), but its biggest threat is the run game. Quarterback Peter Roy (618 yards), Tyler Thomka (530), Xavier Jansen (475) and David Kucharski (439) provide a four-headed attack.
However, Badger hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, and that trend should continue this week. Expect the Badgers to advance.
Prediction: Badger 28, Muskego 14
Over in Division 4, Big Foot (8-0), the top seed in Group D, will host eighth-seeded St. John's Northwest Military Academy Friday night at 7 p.m.
With a victory, Big Foot would face the Campbellsport-Brodhead winner, the 5-4 matchup.
St. John's, which represents the Midwest Classic Conference, is 6-2 on the season.
Big Foot hasn't had much of a problem with anyone this season. The spread offense has worked wonders for stars Mason Dixon and Carter Hehr, who have combined for 2,553 total yards from scrimmage this season, a remarkable 80 percent of the offense.
The Chiefs have walloped opponents by an average margin of 42 points per game, and though the playoffs will offer much tougher competition than the Rock Valley South, Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig admitted it should be easier sledding than Division 3.
"D3 is absolutely loaded," he said. "I thought we'd be bumped up."
Four teams with losing records qualified for the playoffs, and they bumped the Chiefs to D4. Big Foot is the second-largest school in Division 4, but only about 125 students separate the largest from the smallest school.
As for St. John's, Wedig said they have a lot of speed, and the Chiefs must tackle.
"We are a pretty focused group," he said. "We will keep our eye on the prize."
The last time Big Foot was in the Division 4 playoffs (2010), it advanced to the state semifinals. In 2009, the Chiefs won it all in D4, and they were D4 state runners-up in 2008.
Last year, in Division 3, Big Foot fell in the second round.
Don't be surprised if Big Foot isn't tested until the state quarterfinals against second-seeded Lakeside Lutheran, another undefeated team.
Prediction: Big Foot 49, St. John's 21
Williams Bay wrapped up its regular season Friday with an 18-13 loss due in part to a controversial call.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the Cambria-Friesland 20 yard line late in the game, Bay quarterback Jake Sutter lofted an accurate dart to the end zone, where receiver Roger Gutierrez-Mas made a diving catch.
That sounds like a touchdown and a dramatic victory, right?
It was ruled that Gutierrez-Mas' elbow hit out of bounds before any other part of his body landed in play. According to Bay coach Derek Diehl, the senior receiver had a tear in his eye when he came off the field and said he caught the ball.
What would've been the Bay's first win since 2007 ended in heartbreak.
"It was an emotional roller coaster," Diehl said. "It was a judgment call and a tough call. It looked like a catch on film. But I don't believe we earned the win. We didn't do enough to win."
No worries, Bay faithful. The squad has another really good shot at victory Friday at home against Kenosha Christian Life, a 5-3 independent team that didn't qualify for the postseason.
In a preseason scrimmage, the Bay dominated Christian Life. But after a full season, Diehl said the Bay's opponent will be much improved.
"In our week of preparation, we are telling the kids, 'Do not fear success, embrace it,'" Diehl said. "The boys taste that the first victory is close."
With losses by seven, 14 and five points the last three weeks, the Bulldogs are on the verge of a breakout game. But turnovers (six last game) and penalties (two false starts on final drive) are still a major hindrance.
But the Bay defense has been very stingy the last two games, and the passing attack continues to flourish. If the running game can show a semblance of life this weekend, good things will happen.
If the Bay can put it all together this Friday, the players, coaches and fans should be able to finally exhale and get that Geneva Lake-sized monkey off their back.
Prediction: Williams Bay 21, Kenosha Christian Life 7