Preview: Big Foot, Brodhead go way back
Big Foot vs. Brodhead-Juda, 3 p.m., Saturday, Middleton
November 11, 2010 | 03:56 PM
Walworth — Since 1981, the Big Foot and Brodhead-Juda football squads have been rivals in the Rock Valley South Conference.
But it wasn't until 2006 that the Chiefs actually beat the Cardinals. Brodhead won its first 25 straight meetings against the Chiefs, but in 2006, under fourth-year coach Rodney Wedig, the Chiefs finally beat the Cardinals and haven't looked back since.
Big Foot has beaten Brodhead five straight times, including two one-point victories in their last three meetings. The two powerhouses will meet in the playoffs for the first time Saturday in Middleton at 3 p.m., with a trip to the Division 4 state title game in Madison on the line. Wedig said Big Foot (10-2) and Brodhead (10-2) have duked it out for the conference title for years now.
"Since 2007, it's just been us and Brodhead in the Rock Valley South," he said. "They beat us handily my first three years (2003-05). Since then, they have always been close games."
Perhaps none of the games were as close as a Sept. 10 tilt in Brodhead that the Chiefs won, 21-20. Coming into the game, the Chiefs were 0-2 and in desperate need of a win. The Cardinals jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but it was an interception by Big Foot junior Kenny Walker that turned around the game and perhaps the season. The Chiefs controlled the second half and won in overtime, when Walker ran for a 25-yard touchdown and Vaughn Bourassa sacked Brodhead David Earlywine on the decisive two-point conversion after a Cardinal touchdown.
Along with that game, the Chiefs have reeled off 10 straight wins, including a 42-35 barn-burner Saturday at home against New Holstein. Wedig said the Brodhead victory was a turning point of the season, but he wants his kids to know Brodhead is much improved.
"We both have a lot of young guys," Wedig said. "And both us and Brodhead were struggling early in the season. I told the guys on Monday to forget about the first meeting. After watching Brodhead on film now, it's a completely different team from our first game. They are so well-coached."
Since both teams know each other so well, it will be hard for Big Foot to surprise Brodhead. Wedig knows Saturday's battle will come down to the wire.
"There aren't a whole lot of secrets," Wedig said. "I've coached against Jim (Matthys) for a long time. It's going to come down to whoever executes a better game plan."
Brodhead poses a nice balance of weapons, including junior power back and linebacker Jesse DeLorme and senior Alex Wallace, who is more of a speed threat. While Wallace didn't run much against Big Foot early in the season, he did catch a 67-yard touchdown pass. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound Wallace racked up 168 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns in Brodhead's 35-28 overtime win against Nekoosa Saturday. But it was DeLorme whose 14-yard scoring scamper in overtime lifted the Cardinals to the next round. DeLorme ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns in the contest. Brodhead only passed for 12 yards.
No matter who wins Saturday, Wedig said it will be a victory for the Rock Valley.
"The nice thing is either one of us will bring home a big football trophy," Wedig said. "It's always good to see a Rock Valley team go to state. Brodhead was the state runner-up in 2004. But it is special because it's our first time facing them in the playoffs. They are our biggest rival in every sport, and the fans of each school know each other."
Wedig told his team Monday that they might as well finish off their great season with another state trip.
"This group really trusts each other," he said. "We're confident. We've made a remarkable run, and I didn't think it was possible in the beginning of the year."
Senior lineman Dean Smith said that the Chiefs have great team chemistry, and it will carry over into Saturday's contest.
"All the Brodhead players are saying our first game was a fluke," Smith said. "This game should be easier because we know what they run now. In the beginning of the year, we were a bunch of individuals. But during our win streak, our backs have really trusted our line. And our defense has played really well. We are a tight team right now."
Another senior, lineman Vaughn Bourassa, is pumped to play Big Foot's biggest rival.
"It's pretty intense knowing we're playing them in a Level 4 playoff game," Bourassa said. "It's cool there are two RVC opponents. We need to come out right away and fire off the ball like we did against New Holstein. Our defensive line is key. We've been very good. Brodhead likes to run, and if they do, they will run right into our strength, our defensive line."
Running game on a roll
The Chiefs pounded out 426 yards on the ground in Saturday's win, thanks in part to the jumbo package. Dixon racked up 208 yards and has averaged 188.7 yards rushing in three playoff games. The jumbo package has been an integral part of the punishing ground attack.
Ran in the wildcat formation, it allows Big Foot to stack its biggest, best blockers and punish the opposing defensive line. The package yielded a 41-yard Jordan Gottman touchdown run and a 25-yard Mason Dixon scoring jaunt, both coming late in the game to preserve the victory.
Wedig said it provided a spark for his offense.
"It was originally a goal-line package," he said. "But we started using it more in the playoffs. It puts all of our best blockers on the field. I think Gottman told me it's a total of 2,000 pounds of players on our side. It's not a big secret. It's one of those unique formations where you have to see how the game is going before you break it out."
On the play, Gottman takes the shotgun snap and either picks a hole to run through or hands off to Dixon on a counter. On the touchdown run, Gottman followed fullback Garrett Cary and ran to the left, where linemen Dean Smith and Luke Kahl provided a solid seal along with tight end David Horowitz.
"The wildcat is intended to wear down the defense," Smith said. "They knew it was coming, but we had really good blocking, and Gottman and Dixon hit the holes well. Luke and I communicate well to provide a solid seal, and the backs find the hole."
Bourassa also is a lead fullback in the jumbo package.
"It's a good play when you need four or five yards," he said. "The defense overloads to one side, and we get a lot of good blocks."
Walker provides a receiving option on the play if necessary. But the running back, who has amassed 1,160 total yards and 16 touchdowns this season, could miss Saturday's game with an ankle sprain.
"We will keep Kenny off the field until Thursday," Wedig said. "We may have to look at some different options with Gottman instead of Kenny. Our philosophy is to establish the run. We run because we want to, not because we have to."
BUS AVAILABLE FOR FANS
The defending Division 4 state champions are inviting members of the community to cheer them on during the state semifinals in Middleton Saturday, Nov. 13.
A fan bus will leave the school at 12:45 p.m. To reserve a seat on the bus, call the Big Foot High School front office at (262) 248-8096. The cost of the bus ride is $5.
Big Foot High School is playing Brodhead-Juda and the winner will advance to the state championship game at Camp Randall in Madison.The Chiefs are hoping to secure a spot in their third straight state title game. The Chiefs won the championship in 2009, but fell short in 2008.
After the game, visit www.lakegenevanews.net for scores and game highlights.