Prep Football Review and Preview: County prep gridders try to overcome seeded teams in Level 1 of playoffsAll three Pierce County prep football teams which made the WIAA playoffs will facing seeded teams in Level 1 games this weekend.
All three Pierce County prep football teams in the WIAA playoffs will be facing seeded teams in Level 1 games this weekend.
Ellsworth will be at No. 2 seeded West Salem in Division 3, Spring Valley will be at No. 4 seeded Minong Northwood/Solon Springs in Division 6. Both of these games are tonight at 7 p.m. Elmwood is at No. 2 seed Greenwood/Granton Saturday with the kick-off at 4 p.m. in Division 7.
West Salem is the co-champs of the Coulee Conference with Westby, both teams having 5-1 records. The Panthers are 6-3 overall and both they and Ellsworth lost to Durand. And along having the same nickname, both teams are generally mirror imagines of each other and that makes preparing for them, especially at such short notice given the legal case which held up the pairings announcement and film exchange, much easier.
"They do a lot of the same things we do on offense, especially out of the spread, and watching them on film you see their personnel is a lot like ours too," Ellsworth head coach Clair Austin said.
West Salem is led by running back Nolan Wahoske, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season and has scored 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Eric Burdick has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and his favorite target is wide receiver Tyler Kastenschimdt who has caught 18 passes for 439 yards and five TDs. The other wide out Scott Rudesill has over 100 yards receiving
At one point West Salem was 1-3 overall before winning five in a row. Ellsworth too, has made it a point bouncing back, not losing more than two games in a row this season. EHS will need this tangible as they bounce back from a bad loss to Durand last week.
"There were reasons for the way we played from not having school that day affecting the kids' routine to being without Jake Betthauser and Alex campbell due to injuries for much of the ballgame," Austin said. "But the most important reason was they (Durand) outhit us pretty bad, especially on the line of scrimmage, and we can't let that happen again. Not at this level or you don't have a chance."
Spring Valley looks to have a solid chance of knocking off a seeded team as well when they take on Northwood/Solon Springs in Minong. This is the Evergreens' first-ever playoff game at home and just the fourth playoff bid in school history.
After years of being one of the worst high school football programs in the state, MNW/SS has made the playoffs four seasons straight and have by far one of their best teams in school history at 8-1 overall. Their only loss is to Lakeland Small Conference champion Frederic 21-12. They are ranked No. 11 in Division 6 and won their first game ever in school history over Shell Lake this season. Head coach Brian Trettin was named the Green Bay Packers High School Coach of the Week after this historic win.
The Evergreens are led by senior quarterback Phillip Larson who is both their leading rusher and passer in their offense. Running back Josh Malone has rushed for nearly 500 yards for MNW/SS. Malone and Larson are their two best players on both offense, defense and special teams.
Playing the top seeded teams means playing some of the best squads around and Elmwood has that dubious assignment as they take on No. 4 ranked Greenwood/Granton. The Indians, 8-1 overall, finished one-game behind undefeated and No. 3 ranked Athens in the tough Cloverwood Conference.
"They've got all intangibles of being a very good ballclub," Elmwood head coach Jerry Hannack, who is leading his 12th squad into the playoffs, said. "They have size and speed and a lot of depth and they run the ball well."
G2, as they are known, likes to run more than they pass as their quarterback, 6-4, 185-pound senior Josh Harlander is also one of their leading running backs with 827 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns. The Indians leading ground gainer is senior fullback Hayden Hinker with nearly 1,000 yards rushing and nine TDs. A third running back, senior wingback Cyrus Nigon, has 417 yards rushing on 43 carries and seven touchdowns. Harlander had thrown for 265 yards on 15-of-33 passing but has also thrown four interceptions compared to two touchdowns. G2's leading receiver is junior Cole Hinker with six catches for 110 yards.
All of those make for a tough first playoff contest for Elmwood's freshman quarterback Levi Wolf, who is a probable starter for Saturday's contest after senior Jaylen Case was injured against Lake Holcombe in the season finale. But Wolf has handled himself well for the moments he's been behind center. He led the Raiders to a 14-0 halftime lead against Alma/Pepin and closed out the win over LH by adding 14 more points to the team's 14-0 halftime lead.