LAKE MILLS — The first weeks of the prep football season spoke volumes to Lake Mills junior quarterback Adam Moen.
Despite a loss in the opener at Menomonie, Moen’s confidence grew because Lake Mills entered halftime leading 10-0 and had demonstrated it could move the ball and play solid defense against a stout opponent. That confidence soared further with a victory over Onalaska in Week 3.
“We knew our team was going to be really good,” Moen said.
Moen — the most recent in a succession of quality quarterbacks directing Lake Mills coach Dan Ferkovich’s no-huddle, multiple-receiver, spread offense — has contributed significantly to that.
Moen’s older brothers Turner and Collin played quarterback for Lake Mills. And in recent years, Adam Moen watched his brother, Collin, and Ben Dunkleberger direct the L-Cats’ high-octane attack.
Now, after witnessing Dunkleberger’s leadership and gaining further understanding of the offense while playing receiver as a freshman, Moen is leading the state in passing yards and touchdown passes and stands second in passing yards per game in his second season at quarterback for Capitol North Conference champion Lake Mills (10-1).
“Just the way he has been playing has been amazing,” Ferkovich said. “His decision-making has been great. He makes very, very few mistakes. He will rely on his receivers to make plays.”
Asked about leading the state, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Moen said: “Obviously, it’s really cool and amazing to hear that. But I try to push it past. Whatever I accomplish, I want the team to accomplish, and I want us to be an amazing team.”
The second-seeded L-Cats, ranked sixth among medium-sized schools in the final Associated Press state poll, take a 10-game winning streak into a WIAA Division 4 quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded and seventh-ranked Waukesha Catholic Memorial (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Carroll University.
Moen, showing increased patience in the pocket and hitting short routes with consistency, has completed 64.1% of his passes for 3,209 yards and 38 touchdowns (with nine interceptions), including 291.7 yards per game. He also leads the L-Cats with 916 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing.
He rushed for four touchdowns and passed for three in last week’s 54-28 second-round victory over Greendale Martin Luther after passing for four scores and running for three touchdowns in a 56-10 first-round victory over Saint Francis.
“He’s been amazing for us all year,” senior receiver Hunter Buechel said. “He’s a dual-threat quarterback. Defenses have to guard against the pass and the run, too. If they focus on the pass, we’re going to run all over them. If they focus on the run, we’re going to pass all over them.”
Buechel, who said he’s received offers from Michigan Tech and Minnesota State-Mankato, and senior receiver Matt Johnson are two-way players who lead the receiving corps. They are two of Lake Mills’ five seniors and are captains with Moen and senior center David Klein.
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Johnson is third in the state in receptions (78) and ninth in receiving yards (1,043). Buechel is fifth in receptions (70), fifth in receiving yards (1,110), eighth in receiving yards per game (100) and 15th in receiving scores (11 touchdowns).
“I always knew we would be a dominant team,” Johnson said. “I knew Adam would take a step forward this year and I knew Hunter and I would take a step forward with the work we put in (particularly over the summer). But to see it at this kind of level, where we are at the top of the state for receptions and yards and he’s at the top of the state for passing, that is just incredible.”
Ferkovich said Lake Mills focused on intermediate and deep routes when Collin Moen was quarterback. But he said this season with Adam Moen, the L-Cats have concentrated on shorter routes and also used jet-sweep forward passes with Johnson and Buechel, often lined up as slot receivers.
“They are so strong, it is hard to tackle them,” Ferkovich said.
Moen, meanwhile, has shown more patience in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield this season, instead of looking to immediately run, Ferkovich said.
“He trusts his line a little bit more,” Ferkovich said. “He trusts his receivers a little bit more to get open. That is why his yards have skyrocketed passing-wise. And then when he does need to take off, he can. He’s another year older and another year stronger.”
Said Moen: “I knew from the beginning of the season that I could rely on (the receivers) to carry this team. Sometimes, if I feel the need, I will scramble out. And, obviously, the offensive line has done a great job creating holes.”
Kicker Brayden Ciesiolka, who is regularly called on to cap the L-Cats’ scoring drives with his conversions, will compete in the Lake Mills boys soccer team’s Division 4 state semifinal Thursday prior to playing in Friday’s football game.
The L-Cats — who won the conference title for the first time since 1988, Ferkovich said — weren’t initially excited when they saw Catholic Memorial, the defending Division 3 champion, had dropped to Division 4 and been placed in their eight-team grouping.
But Ferkovich said his team will treat Friday’s game as a state championship-caliber showdown.
“We are not going to be afraid,” Ferkovich said.
“At first, I felt a little bit of disappointment,” Johnson said. “We have such a good team this year and such high hopes, and the goal to get to state is the No. 1 priority. But that’s what we want — we want to beat the best. ... It’s a challenge for us, but I definitely think we can do it.”