We’ve already made it to the penultimate week of the regular season, and now the fun can really get started. After a number of games this past week went largely chalk with a number of blowouts for major players, but there will be a number of games this time around that probably will be a bit closer and will have conference championship implications.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Caledonia DID get their nation-leading win streak up to 60 this week
If you’ve never actually taken a drive through the small southeast Minnesota community of Caledonia, it’s hard to truly understand how passionate the town of just under 2,800 is for their Warriors. Sure, Caledonia is referred to on its website as the wild turkey capital of Minnesota, but it might as well be the football capital of the state as well; there’s no more consistently great program than Caledonia, and they proved that again last week with a 46-15 victory over Dover-Eyota. If you’re keeping score at home, that is win number 60 in a row for the Warriors, with no signs of the streak ending anytime soon. Caledonia will lose when opponents find a way to contain both Noah and Eli King, and that has eluded opponents all season. 2-3 Pine Island is up next, who just beat Triton 28-7.
Holmen’s defense is quite frightening
If you didn’t know this already, a third straight shutout by way of a 41-0 win over La Crosse Logan should solidify that fact. Now albeit, these shutouts were against Tomah, Stevens Point, and the Rangers in that order, and a Spartan offense that put up 38 on La Crosse Central last week might have something to say about all of this. But at any level of football, high school to the pros, whenever you not only keep your opponent out of the endzone but also off the boardthat deserves recognition. With regard to the Sparta game this week, the Spartans are a run first team just like the Vikings, and could struggle if that facet of their offense fails to get off to a quick start against a Holmen rush defense that has surrendered a total of 188 yards in all five games combined since their loss to Menomonie in Week Two.
WHAT WE STILL DON’T KNOW
How WILL the MVC shake out?
We’re up to the week where I previously noted potential monkey wrenches could come into play; Onalaska plays at La Crosse Central, one year removed from a Hail Mary from Davis-to-Davis that sealed a Red Raider win, and Holmen hosts Sparta as mentioned above. The scenarios over the last two weeks (as best as I understand) look like this:
That’s a lot of different ways things could shake out, and a lot of it will still boil down to next week’s regular season finale between the Hilltoppers and Vikings (Friday October 18th @ 6:45pm on ESPN La Crosse 105.5). Still, this week is truly where the intrigue begins.
Will Cashton make the postseason for the first time since 2015?
Last week, I took a look at whether or not Black River Falls would return to the promised land. They received a victory by way of forfeit this week, and can lock up their spot with a win on the road this week over struggling Adams-Friendship. Meanwhile, the intriguing story we’ve been watching over in Cashton has reached an interesting point as well. The Eagles by way of their 26-14 win over New Lisbon are now playoff eligible, but their spot in the postseason is not locked up just yet. Per WIAA rules, finishing .500 in conference only qualifies you for the postseason; it does not GUARANTEE a spot. It should be noted, however, that according to Wissports.net, in the last four seasons, every team that ended their conference season with a .500 record made it into the postseason. Nevertheless, if you chalk up a regular season finale against Bangor as a Cashton loss, that boils it down to this week’s matchup against Royall. This should favor Jered Hemmersbach’s Eagles; the Panthers have been shutout four times this season, including their last three games, and have scored more than 20 points just once this season in a 34-0 win over 1-win Necedah.
WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?
Onalaska @ La Crosse Central (6:45pm on ESPN La Crosse 105.5)
This matchup has been billed as a battle of the quarterbacks from the beginning of the season, and that remains the case heading into things this week. Johnny Davis performed well in a losing effort at Sparta, throwing for over 300 yards and two scores, while Austin Larson looked a bit more human this week than in his Flu Game two weeks ago, but was effective enough passing against a weak West Salem defense (10-15, 121 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) while also making things happen on the ground (6 carries, 58 yds, 2 TDs). Keep an eye (or ear if listening to ESPN La Crosse) for Nathan Lubinsky; the South Dakota preferred walk-on has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in every contest since the September 6th Lake Mills loss.
Sparta @ Holmen (6:45pm on ESPN Sparta 102.1)
This will be where the unstoppable force (Cole Wisniewski) meets the immovable object (Holmen front seven). Cole has rushed for 370 yards and four scores in his last two games, and from game to game has continued to diversify his portfolio with where he runs the ball; outside the tackles, between them, goal line plays, option plays, sweeps, doesn’t matter. But Holmen presents a challenge which is even more potent than the Ona D-line that held Wisniewski to just 88 total yards rushing and passing. For more info on how deadly the Holmen D has been lately, refer to the yardage stat above.
Platteville @ Arcadia
Since hyping them up earlier this season, the Raiders have somewhat regressed to the mean over the last three weeks. Following a loss to SWC-unbeaten River Valley, Arcadia will now get 5-2 Platteville at home. The Hillmen are a good football team, but beatable, and Arcadia would probably feel a lot better about their playoff potential if they locked up a guaranteed spot against them than if it takes another week against lowly Richland Center.
#4 Winona @ Rochester Mayo
I haven’t forgotten the 6-0 Winhawks, who have certainly lived up to the name this season. Following last week’s nonconference win over Northfield, Winona leaves the Big Southeast Blue once again this Friday to face 4-2 Rochester Mayo. Quarterback Jackson Nibbelink reminds me in many ways of Cole Wisniewski from Sparta; gritty power running, about a 50 percent passer, and a pace dictator. Mayo should be a nice boost in competition from the last few weeks.
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