Northwestern gets top seed, host St. Croix FallsNorthwood-Solon Springs plays at Hurley
The Northwestern Tigers (9-0), champions of the Heart O' North Conference, were awarded the No. 1 seed in the Northwest region of Division 4 for the WIAA football playoffs that start Tuesday night.
The Tigers will take on unseeded St. Croix Falls of the Large Lakeland Conference in a level one playoff game at Gordon L. Nelson Athletic Complex in Maple. Game time is 7 p.m.
Northwestern finished uits second consecutive unbeaten season on Thursday with a 39-23 win over Ladysmith.
The Tigers, under head coach Dennis Scherz, feature two 1,000-yard rushers in T.J. Polkoski and Kacey Leggate. Junior speedster Zak Anttila also has over 500 yard rushing. Quarterback Cody Kontny is also a threat to pass to his favorite targets, Sam Schiff and Tyler Forsythe.
The Tiger defense has been very stout, giving up only 72 points during the season.
For Northwestern, it is their 18th playoff appearance in the last 24 years. The Tigers won the state title in 1988 and were runner ups in 1993. Last year the Tigers went unbeaten until a 35-20 Level IV loss to Kewaunee in the state semifinal game ended their season.
St. Croix Falls squeaked into the playoff with a .500 conference record (4-5 overall) and also had to go to another tiebreaker procedure. The Saints have one common opponent with Northwestern as St. Croix Falls fell to Ladysmith 19-0 in the second week of the season.
St. Croix Falls is making its ninth playoff appearance, with its best finish as state runner up in 1988, but they have not won a playoff game since 1991.
The Tigers and Saints played in Level 1 in 1993 with Northwestern winning 38-3.
The winner of the Northwestern/St. Croix Falls game will play the winner of the Bloomer vs. Durand game on Saturday, Oct. 30. Northwestern would be home the second round if it wins and Bloomer wins, or it could have to travel to Durand if the Panthers upset the Blackhawks. Northwestern defeated Bloomer earlier this season by 43-7. Durand is the fourth-place finisher of the Middle Border Conference.
The other side of the Northwest bracket has Spooner at Baldwin-Woodville and St. Croix Central at Somerset. A possible rematch game would pit Baldwin-Woodville at Somerset in the second round. Somerset pulled out a 33-31 win a week ago to give the Spartans a Tri-Championship of the Middle Border with Baldwin-Woodville and New Richmond.
Baldwin-Woodville has linebacker Jake Keefer, one of the best players in the state and a Wisconsin Badger recruit, and Somerset has Eric Walczak, a 2,000-yard rusher last year. Somerset put lineman Isaac Neumann in a fullback against Baldwin-Woodville and he responded with 260 yards rushing.
Spooner gets back in the playoffs behind enthusiastic coach Josh Fizel and quarterback Sam Holden. St, Croix Central has Joe Poulin at running back and Kyle Cress (1,500 yards passing, 22 touchdowns) at quarterback.
The Northeast bracket features Omro (8-1) and the top ranked team in the coaches poll, Kewaunee (9-0).
The Southwest has unbeaten River Valley (9-0) and the Southeast bracket features defending state champion Big Foot, which opened the season with two losses, but have since reeled off seven straight wins.
Northwood/Solon Springs in Division 5
Trip to Hurley on tap
For the third consecutive year the Northwood/Solon Springs Evergreens have qualified for the WIAA playoffs.
Since the ‘Greens are a cooperative, they have to combine both schools’ enrollments and this puts them in Division 6 (of 7). The ‘Green actually just barley avoided going to Division 5, as their combined enrollment of 257 is the largest in Division 6.
It will not be easy as Northwood/Solon Springs (6-3) must travel to Hurley on Tuesday to take on the Midgets. Hurley will be in the playoffs for the 17th time, getting state runnerup in 1995. Last year the Midgets made it to Level IV before falling to eventual state champ Edgar.
The Midgets, are 8-1 behind coach Scott Erickson and average about 300 yards rushing a game with Justin and Jarrett Rehnlund and Jake Rowe doing most of the ball carrying.
Northwood/Solon Springs has junior quarterback Phil Larson and backs Josh Malone and Brad Ross. Junior linebacker Mike Meyer leads the Evergreens in tackles and also anchors the young offensive line that features all underclassmen in Meyer, Jake Dahlberg, Tyler Long, Leonardo Alcantar and Gage Harwick. Receivers for the ‘Greens are Eric Olson, Nick Murray, Keenan Franco, Brandon Wilcox and Brett Missinne. The roster shows only four seniors.
Coach Jason Fox is a graduate of Menomonie High School, which has a great football tradition.
The winner of this game will face the winner of the Eau Claire Regis vs. Clear Lake game. Clear Lake has quarterback Matt O’Connell who reportedly has committed to play for Division One North Dakota. Regis was state runner up last year and also in 2002, and won the state title in 2003.
Other matchups in D5 are Flambeau at Thorp and Pepin/Alma at Blair Taylor.
Others of interest:
Eau Claire Memorial at Stevens Point. Big Rivers team on the road.
Wisconsin Rapids at Chippewa Falls. Big Rivers team at home.
Holmen at Menomonie. Coach LaBuda’s team won the Big Rivers Thursday with a six-point win over D1 Chippewa Falls.
Rice Lake at Black River Falls. Rice Lake plays mostly larger schools in the Big Rivers during the season so they may be poised for a playoff run.
Ladysmith at Colby. Colby is highly rated but Ladysmith has a vaunted passing attack with Eric Effertz.
Elk Mound at Grantsburg. Mounders vs Pirates.
Cameron at Osseo-Fairchild.
Chippewa Falls McDonnell Central at Shell Lake. Shell Lake is the top ranked small school in the state.