Wilmot senior Robert Brent (13), the SLC’s leading rusher in 2016, was forced to start at quarterback last week and will most likely play there again Friday against Westosha. Can he will his team to victory? (Mike Ramczyk/The Report)

By Mike Ramczyk
Sports Editor

It’s a bittersweet time of year.

Friday night marks the final game of the regular season, so some area football teams will see their final action.

But others will move on with eyes on the big prize – Camp Randall Stadium in Madison for state.

So I want to send a huge congratulations to all the area players for laying it on the line each and every week. Football is a violent game, and plenty of injuries have challenged teams and philosophies on the game.

Concussions are more talked about than ever, and they mean sleepless nights and headaches for players and parents.

For whatever reason, whether it’s size, numbers, youth or inexperience, some teams have found themselves on the losing end more often than not. But we commend you for lining up, week after week, play after play, and giving it everything, your blood, sweat and tears.

Catholic Central was forced to forfeit its final three games due to numbers and injuries, a rare occurrence in high school football.

High school athletics should be about the love of the game and the spirit of competition, no matter the score, and the teams with losing records have shown courage and fight.

As for the teams that will be playing next week, what a rush it will be.

Burlington joined the postseason club with an impressive run attack in a 17-6 victory over Wilmot last week, and the Demons, who started the season 2-3 with a key injury to starting quarterback Nick Klug, now find themselves in position to post their best record in more than 10 years and possibly sneak into a home playoff game.

A win at Elkhorn Friday would give Burlington a 6-3 record for the first time since 2006, when it lost in the first round of the playoffs to Waterford.

The most exciting part of this weekend is that by 11 p.m. or midnight late Friday night, Wissports.net will know the official playoff qualifying field, which will include Burlington in Division 2.

Accompanying Burlington in D2 will be Waterford, which should improve to 7-2, and the Wilmot-Westosha winner, which will be determined at Frank Bucci Field Friday night. Even with a loss, Central would finish 5-4 and could still earn a playoff spot.

It would be Central’s first playoff appearance since 2010, also the last time Central beat Wilmot, when the Panthers had to forfeit due to an ineligible player.

In Division 1, Lake Geneva Badger will most likely clinch its second consecutive Southern Lakes Conference outright championship Friday night, as a victory over Union Grove would have the Badgers finish at 8-1.

Look for Lake Geneva to make plenty of noise in the playoffs and push for a third straight trip to the state semifinals.

In the college ranks, the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers should roll Purdue, and look for the Green Bay Packers to win in Minnesota.

With no Dalvin Cook and Case Keenum under center, the Packers should be able to win, especially since Ty Montgomery and starting tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bahktiari are expected to return.

Also, Aaron Rodgers is a wizard that makes magical throws before defenders even locate the ball, so that helps.

To Elkhorn, Delavan-Darien and Union Grove, congrats on putting up a fight this season, and there is always next year to improve. That goes for the Wilmot-Westosha loser as well.

As always, thanks for the feedback on this column, good or bad, it’s been a blast and has kept me passionate about writing. Readers have shown anticipation and appreciation in recent weeks, and I appreciate it.

I’m afraid Friday night could be a night of blowouts, but the Wilmot-Westosha tilt should be an instant classic.

Enjoy the show, and here we go.

FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS

Last week: 3-1

Season: 27-10

GAME OF THE WEEK
Westosha Central (5-3, 3-3 SLC) at Wilmot (4-4, 3-5), 7 p.m., Friday

This is the Big Kahuna, the whole enchilada, the end all be all, if you will.

As if these Kenosha County rivals didn’t need enough motivation, since the schools have a heated, competitive rivalry, Friday night’s Southern Lakes Conference tilt at Frank Bucci Field carries on a new meaning – win or go home.

While there is always an outside shot a team with three conference wins can make the WIAA postseason, the only sure way to clinch your playoff berth is by winning four conference games.

What a whirlwind of a season it has been.

Wilmot begins as a conference championship favorite, starts 0-2, bounces back to have an outside shot at an SLC title but loses on a crazy overtime fumble to Badger, and finally star quarterback A.J. Frisby goes down with an injury, and the team is struggling to win a game.

Westosha comes out like world beaters, starting 4-0 before losing three straight, only to bounce back last week with a huge win and put itself in position to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

The Panthers, who lost Frisby to a serious knee injury two weeks ago, and saw this year’s star running back Austin Norton go down in the first quarter last week, lost three fumbles and couldn’t get much of anything going offensively in a loss at Burlington last week.

The pass-happy Falcons focused on the running game in a 38-28 victory over Delavan-Darien, led by Niko Lemke’s 166 yards on 31 carries.

Tyler Huffhines added a spark running the football, and Adam Simmons showed a different look at quarterback.

The Falcons relied heavily on the pass in the past three games, but Jackson and Simmons were efficient last Friday, combining to complete six of 11 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Adam Simmons could be an X-factor for the Central offense Friday night. (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Wilmot will lean on run

Wilmot was able to muster 158 yards on the ground in wet, sloppy conditions against Burlington, but turnovers were killers.

Norton is a game-changer, and if he is healthy, he and Brent should be a potent 1-2 punch.

Can the Wilmot defense stop the Falcons, who have a dangerous passing game and solid run attack?

“We have to be mentally strong and put the last two weeks behind us,” said Wilmot coach Keiya Square. “It’s going to be a good football game between two teams that aren’t going to lay down. We have to prepare better mentally during the week.”

Norton has hurt his ankle in each of the last two games, so his status is uncertain.

If he can’t play, Westosha has a decided advantage.

But Wilmot hasn’t lost to Westosha Central since 2010, when an ineligible player caused a forfeit.

The six-game streak has to count for something, and Wilmot’s crowd can be rowdy and downright influential at home.

Look for a classic, competitive football game between two good football teams that both deserve a spot in the playoffs.

Westosha Central head coach Tyson Mengel said he’s proud how his team bounced back after its losing streak, something it hasn’t done in recent history.

He understands this game is a must-win for the playoffs.

Westosha is primed and ready for a historic win, and Jackson and Nic Frederick lead the league in passing and receiving, respectively.

But I’m siding with history, and it could a defensive, low-scoring affair.

Wilmot’s defense, led by defensive back Jacob Gerzel and defensive ends Kevin Brenner and Gunner Peterson, could be the difference.

PREDICTION: Wilmot 20, Westosha Central 17

Burlington 40, Elkhorn 7

After beginning the season 1-1, the Elks (1-7, 1-5 SLC) have suffered a six-game losing streak. Elkhorn has been shut out in two of the last four weeks, and it scored 3 and 7 in the other two losses.

While it’s been a trying year, quarterback Braeden Mohr, who left with a knee injury a few weeks back but returned, and Dakota Biefeld have totaled more than 400 rushing yards each, and Mason Buelow has seen some time as backup quarterback.

Colton Loomis has shown talent as a receiver with 300 yards.

The Demons (5-3, 4-2) are absolutely rolling, winners of three straight by a combined score of 108-47. Burlington has enjoyed its home cooking of five games at Don Dalton Stadium with a 4-1 record.

Quarterback Nick Klug has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and ran for more than 400, the only player in the SLC to accomplish that feat.

Also, do-everything senior Grant Tully has 812 rushing yards, 170 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns. He is a game-changer at strong safety as well.

Klug and Tully showed the Demons don’t need to rely on the pass in last week’s victory, which yielded nearly 300 rushing yards and only two completed passes.

Joe Tully is third in the league with 440 receiving yards, and Nick Webley has been the main deep threat on the outside, especially with jump balls in the end zone.

Better days are ahead for Elkhorn, and Burlington is playing its most complete football, with versatile offense and physical, turnover-causing defense.

Lake Geneva Badger 45, Union Grove 21

Badger running back Will Keller is only 37 yards away from becoming the second player in the league to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.

The Badgers showed again why they’re the best team in the area with a 42-0 pounding of Elkhorn last week.

Lake Geneva is 7-1 and has beaten opponents by an average margin of 20 points. Except for a one-point victory over Greenfield and a near-upset loss at Wilmot, the Badgers have dominated with a lethal rushing attack and a stellar defense.

Braden O’Laughlin provides a dual threat at running back and receiver.

Despite being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs last week, Union Grove continues to show it can put up points, as senior quarterback Alec Spang, who wasn’t slated to start at the beginning of the season, has been a revelation.

Spang has thrown for an eye-popping 1,461 yards, just 30 shy of Westosha star Jaden Jackson for the league lead.

Also, receivers Jack Pettit (512 yards), Jacob Ross (369), Alex Rewolinski (225), Luke Nelson (192) and Carson LaPointe (180) provide a plethora of options.

The youthful Broncos could be playing from behind, so expect the scoreboard to get a workout.

Waterford 50, Delavan-Darien 10

Ladies and gentlemen, the Tanner Keller star emergence has reached unseen heights.

Last week made it five straight games with more than 150 rushing yards for the sensational sophomore, who now leads the SLC with 1,029 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Wow, what a turnaround for the Wolverines, who struggled out of the gates with a 1-2 record but have won five straight by an average score of 40-9.

Furthermore, senior Benny Michalowski appears fully healthy after missing time earlier this season. The powerful running back complemented Keller with 158 yards and a touchdown of his own last week.

Quarterback Joe Schauer continues to put up efficient numbers in the pass game (4-8, 80 yards last week), and Aaron Chapman and Willie Ketterhagen provide targets downfield.

Waterford’s defense will always be sound and playoff-ready, and if its run game can keep climbing, a deep postseason run could be in the team’s future.

Delavan-Darien is 2-6 but comes off one of its best performances at Westosha Central, a 38-28 defeat.

New quarterback Seth Grabow threw for 200 yards, Dakota Williams ran for 146 and a touchdown, and Logan Rios caught eight passes for 135 yards.

Waterford will keep rolling.

 
 

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