WISCONSIN SPORTS BRIEFS: UW-Platteville favored to win WIAC football title
UW-Platteville is the pre-season favorite to win its first WIAC football title since 1980. The Pioneers received six first-place votes in a pre-season poll from coaches and sports information directors.
Platteville went 8-2 a year ago – and if they go above .500 this year, Platteville would have three straight winning campaigns for the first time since 1992. The Pioneers return nine starters to an offense which broke school season records for total offense, passing completion, touchdown passes, first downs, and points scored with 410. Platteville is ranked ninth in USA Today’s pre-season Division III poll, and 11th by D3Football.com. Whitewater is picked to take second in the new poll. The Warhawks missed the playoffs last season after winning three straight Division III titles. Whitewater received four first-place votes. The ‘Hawks are ranked seventh by USA Today and ninth by D3.com. Oshkosh, which made the playoffs a year ago, is picked to finish third this season.
Vince Young will try to make a good impression tonight, when his new Green Bay Packer teammates go against Arizona in their pre-season opener at Lambeau Field. The 30-year-old Young has spent some late nights memorizing his new playbook, after the Packers signed him on Monday. At the moment, Young is third in the pecking order behind Aaron Rodgers and second-stringer Graham Harrell – who’s in his fourth year at Packer Training Camp. B.J. Coleman is the Number-four quarterback for now. Coach Mike McCarthy says all four quarterbacks will see action against the Cardinals. If other teams’ openers are any indication, Rodgers can be expected to go for couple series this evening. Young has worked out with the Packers for the last three days – and as you might expect, there are bugs to work out. The two-time Pro Bowler threw a pair of interceptions during a walk-through at practice yesterday, and he overthrew Jeremy Ross and was picked off by Jarrett Bush in a scrimmage.
The pressure continues to be on Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby, as the Packers open their exhibition schedule tonight at Lambeau Field against Arizona. Crosby, a seventh-year pro, is competing with undrafted free agent Giorgio Tavecchio. Coach Mike McCarthy says he’ll try to give both kickers about the same numbers of field-goal attempts through the pre-season. Tavecchio is Crosby’s first competition since he won the kicking job six years ago. At last week’s Family Night scrimmage, Crosby only made 3-of-8 field goal attempts. In his competition at Training Camp, Crosby is 15-of-23, with only a slightly-higher percentage than the 64-percent of field goals he made last season. Special teams’ coach Shawn Slocum says Crosby’s job is “absolutely” on the line – and it’s time for him to shake out of his problems. Tavecchio has a slight edge on Crosby so far, making 19-of-23 field goal attempts at practice, and 6-of-7 during Family Night.
Former University of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson eased his way into the pre-season by playing just two series in Seattle’s 31-10 victory at San Diego last night. Wilson was a third-round draft choice a year ago who beat out ex-Packer Matt Flynn for the Seahawks’ starting job. He completed 2-of-6 passes against the Chargers for 23 yards, and had two carries for another nine yards.
Kyle Lohse will try to have another solid outing tonight, when the Milwaukee Brewers open a three-game weekend series at Seattle. Lohse is 7-7 on the year, with a 3.23 ERA. The right-hander is 2-0 in his last four starts, while giving up just over one-point-one runs every nine innings. However, Lohse struggled last time out. He threw 93 pitches in five innings, while giving up three runs in an 8-5 Milwaukee home victory over Washington. Seattle sends veteran left-hander Joe Saunders to the mound. He’s 10-10 with a 4.85 ERA. Saunders lost two straight decisions before giving up two runs in six innings in a one-run victory at Baltimore last Sunday. Scooter Gennett is expected to start at second base for the Crew, after Rickie Weeks went on the disabled list yesterday with an injured left hamstring. Seattle is third in the AL West, 11-and-a-half games behind co-leaders Oakland and Texas. Milwaukee remains last in the Central, now 21-and-a-half games behind division-leading Pittsburgh.
The Milwaukee Brewers will play at Seattle this weekend for the first time since joining the National League in 1998. The Brewers return to Interleague play against the Mariners, after splitting a four-game series at San Francisco this week. The Crew only hit .198 in that set and scored just 12 runs. Milwaukee was held to three hits yesterday in a 4-1 Giants’ victory. Solid starting pitching allowed the Crew to split the Giants’ series. The starters had a combined ERA of 2.01 in those four games. Seattle’s problems are just the opposite. The Mariners’ starters have struggled, with an ERA of 7.18 in their last six contests. Seattle’s been able to score some runs. They scored six in the fifth inning on Wednesday, in a 9-7 Mariners’ win over Toronto. Seattle is 53-61. The Brewers are 49-66. Right-hander Kyle Lohse starts for Milwaukee tonight against Mariners’ left-hander Joe Saunders.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Beloit Snappers will both try to salvage a victory when they close out their respective three-game series’ tonight. The Rattlers have lost twice at Peoria, falling 2-1 in 10 innings last night. Beloit is coming off a 7-2 defeat to Western Division-leading Cedar Rapids. Also tonight, Clinton plays at Quad Cities. Burlington is at Kane County. Bowling Green entertains Great Lakes. Fort Wayne plays at South Bend. West Michigan is at Lansing. And Dayton hosts Lake County. Cedar Rapids enters the weekend with a half-game lead over Quad Cities in the West, with Beloit seven games back and Wisconsin 10 off the pace. Great Lakes is the East leader by a half-game over both Bowling Green and South Bend.
In the Northwoods League, four teams are still in the running for the second-half South Division title, as the regular season enters its final weekend. The Lakeshore Chinooks lead second-place La Crosse by just a half-game. Eau Claire is only a game back in third, while first-half champion Madison is two-and-a-half back. In the North Division, Waterloo claimed the crown for both halves. Duluth has a two-game lead over Willmar for the second-and-final playoff spot in the North. Waterloo has tied the Northwoods League record for victories in a season with 50. The Bucks reached the milestone with a 7-2 win over Battle Creek last night. Lakeshore allowed its challengers to get back in the race by losing two straight. Lakeshore plays at Rochester tonight. La Crosse is at Saint Cloud. Eau Claire travels to Duluth. Madison is at Mankato. Wisconsin Rapids plays at Alexandria. Green Bay is at Willmar. And the Wisconsin Woodchucks are in Canada to face Thunder Bay.
Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Larry Sanders could soon be in for a huge pay-day. ESPN says the Bucks are approaching the final stages of talks on a contract extension which could give the three-year pro more than $10-million a year. Sanders put out a pair of tweets this week saying he wanted to get his contract talks done, and he loves playing in Milwaukee. Sanders is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, which pays him around three-million dollars for next season. He’s eligible to sign an extension for up to four years, if it can be done by the end of October. Sanders became a shot-blocking leader for Milwaukee last season, finishing seventh in the media voting for the NBA’s defensive player-of-the-year.
NASCAR hits the road again this weekend – the road course at Watkins Glen New York. The Sprint Cup drivers will compete in the Cheez-It 355 on Sunday, with qualifying tomorrow. Matt Kenseth of Cambridge will try to improve on his Number-seven position in the Sprint Cup season point standings. Also entered are Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Beloit-born Danica Patrick, and Travis Kvapil of Janesville. No Wisconsin drivers are entered for the Nationwide Series race, the Zippo-200 at the Glen tomorrow. The Camping World Truck Series has the weekend off.