Mike's BlogDude, whatever I want to talk about
November 15, 2012 | 03:01 PM
MADISON - When asked if he could have dinner with one person dead or alive, Big Foot senior running back Mason Dixon didn't hesitate.
"My brother Quin," Dixon said, sporting a Mohawk Monday afternoon in Coach Rodney Wedig's classroom. "We're always together, and I can rely on him with anything."
It wasn't a movie star or an NFL player. Dixon chose Quin, his teammate. A guy he sees every day.
This camaraderie is just one reason the Big Foot football squad is playing for the WIAA Division 4 state football title tonight at 7 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium.
Talking to the Chiefs players, it became evident this bunch is focused on bringing home that Gold Ball for the second time in four years.
From day one, Big Foot set its sights on the state title game. After losing in the second round of the D3 playoffs in 2011, Big Foot prepared for a step up in competition back in June. Every day of the summer, players hit the weight room at 6:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. like in past years.
"It helped out a lot," said offensive lineman Austin Snudden. "We wanted to do it as a team, not with the other sports teams. We got a lot more done with the lifting and made more progress. We had time for speed training every day, instead of just twice a week last year."
Every player bought into the system, and the boys are reaping the benefits. Big Foot is 12-0, averaging 50 points per game and hasn't been challenged all season.
For senior quarterback Carter Hehr, it's a great time to be a Chief.
"I can't complain," he said. "We're going to state, and there's nothing more I could ask for. We made state because of the hard work of every single individual, the ones that rack up stats, the ones that don't get stats and the ones that push each other on scout team each week."
Hehr is a leader on and off the field. He invites players to his house after games for dinner, especially the linemen.
"It's a way to make sure we're not doing anything wrong," Hehr said.
Although the season has been smooth sailing so far, with last week's 45-22 win their closest margin of victory, the Chiefs have had to face adversity recently. In the quarterfinal victory over Freedom, Big Foot found itself down by more than one score for the first time all season at 16-7.
"We told the younger guys, 'when something goes wrong, just relax and we'll handle it,'" said senior receiver Matt Ripkey. "When we came back, the sophomores looked at us and were like, you said it would, and we took care of it. That's the difference with this year's team. When things happen, the underclassmen trust us, and the seniors trust them to right the ship."
For junior lineman Collin Frederick, hard work has paved the way to Madison.
"Throughout the year, we accepted and embraced that we weren't the most talented group," he said. "But we wanted to be the hardest-working group. Everybody knew their role, and they did their best to execute."
A Badger-like option attack
Wedig, who will coach his third state title game in five years tonight, credited his players and staff for the stellar season.
"We have great leadership and good focus," he said. "The staff has focused on making this team better, and the players have bought in."
Tonight's opponent, 11-1 Somerset, lost in double overtime in the Division 4 championship game last year. Like Big Foot, they score a lot and allow a little. Wedig acknowledged this will be his team's toughest test of the season.
"They run the option well, like Badger," he said. "It will be tough to stop. Defensively, they throw a lot of different stuff at us. We can't stop ourselves. They'll find their way into the end zone. It could be a high-scoring game. We've got our work cut out for us."
In the last two games, Big Foot has outscored opponents 48-0 in the second quarter. The staff excels at making adjustments.
"We've taken their punches, but we've done better at counter-punching," Wedig said.
With state trips in 2008 and 2009, names like Travis Frederick and Michael Walker provided a ton of talent. This year, there might not be a bonafide future Division 1 college star, but it's just as special.
"It's very satisfying," Wedig said. "Winning is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So much has to go right to get here. It's so rare. It's great for this group of seniors to get this recognition on the big stage."
Big Foot (12-0) vs. Somerset (11-1), 7 p.m., Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, TV: Fox Sports Wisconsin Radio: 1070 AM, WLKG 96.1 FM Lake Geneva
Key Somerset player - Tyler Ledbeter, senior quarterback. The 6-foot-1, 172-pounder can do it all. He leads the team with 1,593 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. In the air, he is 16-for-36 for 380 yards and eight scores with only one pick. Somerset's coach said Ledbeter is smart, a great leader and a coach on the field. Right up there with Ledbeter is 5-foot-11, 192-pound senior Vernon Breault, who has amassed 1,444 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year.
The skinny - For those of you that have been salivating for a dream match-up between Big Foot and Badger, Somerset is a spitting image of the Lake Geneva boys. Using an option system, the Spartans have run for 4,426 yards in 12 games, accounting for more than 90 percent of their offense. The two-headed attack of Ledbeter and Breault will present a formidable challenge for Big Foot. Somerset features speed, but it hasn't faced the sheer size and power of an opponent like Big Foot. The Chiefs offensive line averages 270 pounds, and Dixon is hard to find behind the likes of 6-foot-5 Garett Cary and 6-foot-4 Austin Snudden. This could come down to a big passing or special teams play. And Big Foot has the edge there, with the consistent connection of Hehr to Ripkey. Expect Big Foot's closest game of the year, and the Spartans are extra hungry considering last year's state title loss. However, the Chiefs are just too darn talented, with a multitude of first team all-conference stars including college prospects Cary and Dixon. Don't be surprised if Big Foot kicker Ian Gallagher, who set a state record with 80 extra points this season, booms a field goal to win it. It will come down to the fourth quarter, but in the end, buy some confetti and prepare for a party in the Walworth square tomorrow.
PREDICTION - Big Foot 45, Somerset 42