Division 1 semifinal
Madison Memorial (12-0) vs. Muskego (12-0) at Oconomowoc, 7 p.m. Friday
It has been 35 years since a Madison public school advanced this far in the playoffs. Back when the playoffs had only three rounds, Memorial’s 1984 team beat Kenosha Tremper in a semifinal 22-0 before falling to Manitowoc in the championship game, 24-3. Memorial also earned runner-up honors in 1978.
Second-year Spartans coach Mike Harris has led this year’s team back to prominence with 12 victories — each against a Big Eight Conference opponent, including last week’s 21-7 quarterfinal victory over Sun Prairie. Now, the Spartans step out of the Big Eight to take on the Big Kahuna.
Muskego, the defending state champion, has been ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press’ poll all season, averaging 35.3 points and 350 yards of offense per game — including 311 rushing yards per week. Coach Ken Krause’s Warriors have a defense that has allowed 7.1 points and 138 yards per game, producing 12 interceptions. Muskego had two close wins: 14-10 over Milwaukee Marquette in the opener, and 17-10 over Franklin last week.
Both teams boast a rarity: A pair of 1,000-yard rushers. Muskego’s workhorses are both juniors: Alex Current (1,363 yards rushing, 13.6 yards per carry, 19 touchdowns) and John Bulski (1,157 yards, 5.9 per carry, 8 TDs). Quarterback Connor Grohman averages fewer than four passes per game, but nine of his 25 completions have gone for TDs.
Memorial’s backfield standouts are senior Kam Marshall (1,043 yards, 13 TDs, 7.0 yards per carry) and junior Kabaris Vasser (1,015 yards, 14 TDs, 8.9 yards per carry). The Spartans have another blue-chip offensive standout in senior quarterback Jason Ceniti, who has thrown for 1,665 yards at a 54.9-percent clip, with 19 TDs. The Spartans have averaged 35.8 points and 341 yards on offense, while allowing 11.3 points and 181 yards per game with 14 total interceptions.
Division 2 semifinal
Waunakee (11-1) vs. Waukesha West (9-3) at Wales Kettle Moraine, 7 p.m. Friday
Coach Pat Rice’s Warriors, who hold six state championships (the last won in 2017) and three runner-up finishes, put forth what was perhaps their most impressive performance of the year last week with a 49-21 hammering of previously unbeaten Hartford — built on a dominating performance by the offensive line that produced 263 rushing yards, and strong special-teams play.
The Warriors have averaged 41 points and 262 yards per game, while allowing 15.9 points and 247 yards. Senior quarterback Caden Nelson, who was sent to the sideline with an injury in the Warriors’ playoff-opening win over Milton, has thrown for 1,295 yards (with a 63.6-percent completion rate) and 25 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 550 yards and eight scores. He ran for two scores and threw for another last week. Alec Morgan has added 424 rushing yards and 12 TDs, and Isaac Schaaf and Andrew Keller have led the receiving corps.
West took some lumps in the brutal Classic 8 Conference, losing to two other state semifinalists, Muskego (Division 1) and Waukesha Catholic Memorial (Division 4) and also to Hartland Arrowhead. Coach Steve Rux’s Wolverines have averaged 30.6 points and 353 yards while allowing 14.2 points and 233 yards. Rux’s teams are known for complex passing attacks, and this year’s team has fit that mold. Senior quarterback Brooks Blount has thrown for 2,910 yards (completing 63 percent of his throws) for 32 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, and senior Devon Portz has 65 catches for 971 yards and 10 scores. Junior Shane Hensley leads the rushing attack with 411 yards and three TDs.
Division 3 semifinal
DeForest (12-0) vs. New Berlin Eisenhower (11-1) at Slinger, 7 p.m. Friday
The Norskies have been monsters this season, and a victory Friday would put them in the state final for the fifth time. DeForest won the 1982 Division 4 title and earned runner-up finishes in 1980, 1981 and 2007. Coach Mike Minick — who announced last month that he’ll step down after the season — has built a team with both smash-mouth power and skill-position finesse.
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DeForest averages 44.8 points and 366 yards per game, while allowing only 6.3 points and 133 yards. Badger Conference opponents have been the source of 11 of the Norskies’ 12 wins, including a 35-13 win over Waunakee. Senior quarterback Trey Schroeder has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,279 yards and 20 touchdowns with six interceptions, and has rushed for 532 yards and 11 more scores. Junior Gabe Finley (1,268 yards, 8.7 per carry, 16 TDs) and senior Alex Endres (655 yards, 8.3 per carry, 13 TDs) have produced in the backfield.
Eisenhower, the 2017 D3 state runner-up, seeks its sixth finals berth and first title since back-to-back wins in 1995 and 1996. Coach Matt Kern’s Lions used one of their most valuable weapons to earn a 13-12 victory over Plymouth last week, as junior kicker Stjepan Peharda made a 22-yard field goal with one second remaining, making him 9-for-10 on field goals (and perfect on PAT kicks) for the season.
The Lions average 28.6 points and 293 yards per game and allow 11.7 points and 164 yards. Junior quarterback Gabe Seifert has thrown for 1,150 yards and 11 touchdowns, and senior running back Eli Hoelke has 772 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per carry.
Division 4 semifinal
River Valley (11-1) at Waukesha Catholic Memorial (10-2) at Walworth Big Foot, 7 p.m. Friday
The first question one might ask: What is Catholic Memorial doing in Division 4 of the playoffs? After all, the Crusaders play in the state’s toughest conference, the Division 1- and 2-dominated Classic 8, where they lost to defending D1 champion and current semifinalist Muskego and Wales Kettle Moraine. The answer is simple: With an enrollment of 604, Catholic Memorial was the second-largest school to make the 32-team Division 4 field. River Valley, with 427 students, was the third-smallest D4 qualifier.
The Blackhawks earned what is only the program’s second semifinal berth (aside from a runner-up finish in 2016) with a 28-14 win over Lakeside Lutheran last week. Meanwhile, Catholic Memorial beat up on Lakeside’s neighbor, Lake Mills, pulling away in the second half for a 47-14 victory.
River Valley junior quarterback Will Bailey has passed for 2,190 yards (at a 60.4-percent completion race) with 29 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Sophomore Zach Gloudeman has rushed for 960 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 9.3 yards per carry, and leads the team with 64 tackles. Brandon Springer leads with four interceptions.
Catholic Memorial senior quarterback Luke Fox has thrown for 2,056 yards (completing 55.1 percent of his throws) with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. Tommy Schmitzer has rushed for 932 yards and 10 scores, and sophomore Obacoso Allen has 789 yards and nine scores. Senior Ben Kreul leads the defense with 121 tackles and Daniel Fynaardt has six interceptions.
Other games of interest
Division 5 semifinals
Prairie du Chien (11-1) vs. Lake Country Lutheran (11-1), 7 p.m. Friday at McFarland: The Blackhawks are in the semifinals for the first time since 1988, when they lost to Maple Northwestern in the final. Coach Cory Koenig’s team shut down the high-powered offense of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau last week, 10-0, and has allowed no more than 19 points in a single game, averaging 11.3 points and 209 yards per game on defense. … Coach Greg Brazgel’s ninth-ranked Lightning are in the semifinals for the third straight year and earned a runner-up finish in 2017. They beat defending champ Racine St. Catherine’s last week, 28-6, and have allowed only four total touchdowns over the last nine games, with six shutouts.
Division 7 semifinals
Black Hawk/Warren (Ill.) (12-0) vs. Oshkosh Lourdes (12-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Middleton: Coach Cory Milz’s Warriors, the defending state champions, have enjoyed another outstanding season, improving along the way. In last week’s rematch of their 22-20 win over River Ridge in Week 6, the Warriors rolled to a 49-7 win. Running back Cayden Mills, the coach’s son, has rushed for 1,498 yards and 21 scores, and Jaylen Rufenacht has 1,042 yards and 17 scores. … Lourdes, making its deepest foray ever into the playoffs, won the Trailways Small Conference and knocked off unbeaten Hilbert last week, 14-7. The Knights have allowed 10.3 points and 215 yards per game, while scoring 44.2 points per game. Joshua Bauer has thrown for 1,984 yards and 29 TDs, and leads the team in rushing with 987 yards and 17 more scores.
Bangor (12-0) vs. Edgar (12-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Carson Park, Eau Claire: This will be the third time in four years that the second-ranked Cardinals and fourth-ranked Wildcats have met in the playoffs, with Bangor winning on its way to the title in 2017 and Edgar winning on its way to the title in 2016. Edgar also earned runner-up honors last year. Bangor’s Connor Horstman has rushed for 2,116 yards and 33 touchdowns, and Mathieu Oesterle has added 1,027 yards and 12 scores. Both average more than 10 yards per carry for a Bangor team that has gained 89 percent of its 407 yards per game on the ground. The defense has allowed only 3.0 points and 130 yards per game. … Edgar’s only loss was a 6-0 decision against Stratford, the D5 semifinalist that has not allowed a single point all year, and the Wildcats have earned their seventh and eighth shutouts of the season in the playoffs.
Luck (12-0) vs. Wausau Newman (12-0), 1 p.m. Saturday at Dorais Field, Chippewa Falls: Luck earned runner-up honors in last year’s inaugural 8-player state championship game, falling to Sevastopol, 38-30. This year, coaches Matt Dunlap and Ryan Humpal have averaged 56.8 points per game, scoring at least 44 points in every outing. Levi Jensen has rushed for 1,456 yards and 28 touchdowns, and Bennett Jensen has 1,248 yards and 23 TDs … Newman, which lost to Sevastopol in the second round last year, averages 49.7 points per game behind the passing of Ben Bates (1,958 yards, 26 TDs) and the rushing of Thomas Bates (1,718 yards, 25 TDs).