October 22, 2013 | 05:30 PMWALWORTH — The Rock Valley - South Conference title now belongs to the Big Foot Chiefs after a black-and-blue win over the Brodhead/Juda Cardinals, Friday night.
The Chiefs won 16-3 and are 9-0 in regular season play. The Cardinals fell to 7-2 (6-1 RVS).
Brodhead/Juda brought the toughest team the Chiefs have faced this season to Walworth, and Chiefs head coach Rodney Wedig predicted they would do exactly that in an interview two weeks ago.
Wedig predicted a “knock-down, drag-em-out” game against the Cardinals. And that’s what he got.
Both teams played disruptive defense and neither team could break things open offensively. It was a black-and-blue, cold-weather game.
“You had to scratch and claw for every yard you earned,” Wedig said. “And you know, those are the fun games, really. It was exactly like I expected.”
The Chiefs were held to 194 yards on offense — the first time they haven’t gained over 200 all season. But they were able to score just enough to stay ahead, albeit not very comfortably.
“We need to get two more (touchdowns) and then I’ll breathe,” a Big Foot mom said on the bleachers in the third quarter.”
“Yeah, they’re tough,” another parent said about the Cardinals.
Neither team scored in the second half. Big Foot started the game off with a 44-yard drive that ended at the Cardinal 30-yard line.
The Chiefs settled for a field goal on fourth-and-19 after quarterback Brett Morris was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third down.
Though Big Foot still put points on the board during the opening drive, settling for a field goal is something that the Chiefs have rarely been forced to do. Especially early. The offense has not been put into many fourth-and-long situations this season.
“We’ve played each other so much and we’ve been No. 1 and 2 in the conference for the last seven years,” Wedig said. “We had a hard time getting a consistent drive because their defense; they do a very good job at taking away what we do best.”
The game teetered on the edge of a knife but more big plays fell in favor of the Chiefs.
Their defense picked up the offensive slack.
On the Cardinals’ first offensive play of the game, Chiefs linebacker Gus Wedig intercepted quarterback Brennan Bescup and returned the ball 23-yards for a touchdown. The pick-six brought the Chiefs up 10-0 in the first quarter, and without those seven points, this game could have gone in a very different direction.
In the second quarter, quarterback Brett Morris threw a deep ball to a wide-open Chiefs receiver down field. Had the ball been caught, it would have been an easy stroll into the end zone, but it wasn’t.
The ball can feel like a brick in cold weather, and the temperature had dropped considerably by Friday night. It was 44 degrees at kickoff, and it only got colder as the night progressed.
Both teams’ receivers struggled to catch deep passes.
“We missed an opportunity for the shot early that could’ve made the game, you know, 17 to nothing,” Wedig said. “And they missed a chance that could’ve made it 16-10.”
After scoring on a field goal in the third quarter, the Cardinals had a deep pass opportunity before halftime and failed to make the catch.
Then the scoring stopped, and the defenses took over. Neither team gave an inch and the Chiefs held on.
Wedig said it was a fun game, and exciting, but he also knew it was a necessary experience for his team. Facing some late-season adversity against a tough opponent is important for a team about to enter the playoffs ranked No. 1 in the state, he said.
“Nothing’s going to come easy from here on out,” Wedig said.
After practice on Monday, Wedig talked to his team about tight late-season games and brought up the 2009 Big Foot state champion team.That year, the Chiefs trailed in all three of theirplayoff games leading up to the state championship, he said, but they never stopped fighting and they came out on top.
“You’re gonna get behind, you’re gonna have to overcome adversity,” Wedig said. “And that was one thing I thought; when our offense wasn’t moving real well (Friday night), I didn’t think we did a very good job of adjusting. Sometimes, you know, young kids they try to do too much and deviate away from the game plan a little bit.”
Sticking to the game plan will be a big deal moving forward, he said.
“We’re going to play tough defense. We’re going to limit them; make sure they don’t try to create some turnovers and then offensively we’re just going to have to try to grind it out for every yard.”
The Chiefs will play their first playoff game against University School of Milwaukee Wildcats (6-3) who took third place in the Midwest Classic conference. Wedig said that because of what he has seen on film and gathered about Midwest Classic teams, he expects the Wildcats to bring a very different style of play than his boys are used to.
“I guess I’d compare it to, you know, a Big 10 school playing a school from Mountain West,” he said. “They’ve got great speed, good athletes, I think their receiver, this (Chris) Cooper kid, he’s number one in the state for receiving yards. They’ve got a quick running back that’s ran for over 1200 yards, but yet, you know, up front we’re pretty sound and solid. So we want to make sure it’s more of a boxing match than a track meet I guess.”
Wildcats’ receiver Chris Cooper has compiled 836 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. He averages 18.2 yards per catch, 1.7 touchdowns and 92 yards per game.
Their running back, Michael Tucker, has 1,267 yards and 23 touchdowns this season He averages 140 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game.
University School quarterback Zach Erickson completed eight of 14 passes for 193 yards, four touchdowns and zero intercpetions against Hope Christian on Friday night.
On Aug. 30, the Chiefs defense gave up 30 points against Delavan-Darien. In the seven games since, the Chiefs have allowed 29 points total – an average of only 4 points per game.
“Defensively we’ve just done a great job since that Delavan game,” Wedig said. “The game we had against Brodhead defensively is probably the best game I’ve seen in years. We were all over the place. We did a great job of taking away what they did best kind of like they did to us. You know I think that’s going to be the kind of team we are in the playoffs.”