WIAA football playoffs begin tonight; PC to play in Ellsworth
While not a big team, Plum City does have plenty of team speed which gives it certain advantages according to head coach Troy Ingli. The No. 5 ranked and undefeated Blue Devils will try to put those advantages to use as the playoffs begin Tuesday with Level 1 contests.
"When you have speed you can take more chances and can scheme different on defense," Ingli said. "Even if you make a mistake or are out of position by a few inches, you can make up ground quickly."
PC will take on Alma Center Lincoln (4-5) at Fuller-Symes Field in Ellsworth in a Level 1, Division 7 contest. Elmwood will play at No. 7 Frederic.
Plum City is the No. 1 seed in its playoff region and is the only team that is undefeated and is a conference champion. While the Devils are thin up front, especially with an injury to Darren Fetzer from the Clayton game, they've been still able to run the ball effectively either between the tackles with Ryan Gillman, or on the outside with Gabe Rodriguez. The Devils on the outside keeps opponents from stacking the middle against them.
Alma Center Lincoln needed a 44-29 win over Independence-Gilmanton to go 3-3 in the Dairyland Conference and qualify for the playoffs. The Hornets are mostly a ground-based team led by running back Dustin Moore, who has 836 yards on 166 carries and nine touchdowns. The Hornets have three more backs who have gained over 200 yards, including Ford Koller, who had 375 yards on 98 carries and five TDs. Moore is also the team's quarterback and has thrown for 193 yards and three TDs. AC Lincoln's leading receiver is Ian Jahn, 13 receptions for 159 yards and two TDs. Linebacker Tim Leis leads the team in tackles with 109 while 6-1, 240-pound lineman Matt Perkins is the team's sack leader with eight. Leis is listed on the Lincoln as 6-1, 300 pounds on the roster and is also a running back with 291 yards and five TDs. Lincoln does not have a win against a team with a winning record and have been beaten by teams in front of it in the Dairyland Conference, including Blair-Taylor, Whitehall and Cochrane-Fountain City. They also lost to playoff qualifier Luck 34-14.
Elmwood is at Frederic (8-1), runner-up in the Lakeland Small Conference to No. 1 ranked Shell Lake. The Vikings' only loss was to the Lakers 20-0. Frederic beat playoff qualifier Cochrane-FC 56-20. They had close wins over other playoff teams in their league including 17-14 over Turtle Lake, 22-14 over Minong Northwood-Solon Springs and Luck 20-17. The Vikes' are like Elmwood in that most of their yardage on the ground is due to one player: for the Raiders Jesse McKune and for Frederic its Tony Peterson. He's rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns and averages eight yards a carry. The teams are also alike when it comes to passing Quarterback Ben Ackerley doesn't throw a lot but when he does like EHS' Brian Tolonen he's quite accurate, completing 50 percent of his passes for 726 yards and seven touchdowns. The Vikes' leading receiver is Waylon Buck, 266 yards on 18 catches and two scores.
While Elmwood has struggled in recent playoff action, losing their last three Level 1 games, the last time the Raiders went north for a playoff game, they upset No. 2 ranked Luck back in 1998.
Level 2 games will be played Saturday. If PC wins they'll take on either Hillsboro (6-3) or Weston (5-4). If Elmwood wins they'll face either Turtle Lake (5-3) or No. 6 Gilman (8-1).
The playoff will be the final one for Ingli as head coach of PC. He announced before last week's game vs. Clayton he will step down as head coach at the end of the season.