Big 8 Playoff Preview
#8 Madison Memorial vs. #1 Sun Prairie at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School
Every playoff eligible team from the Big 8 Conference has been seeded in Group C of the D-I playoff bracket so we will see at least a couple more Big 8 battles in the playoffs. In the only matchup pitting two Big 8 teams against one another in the first round, the eighth seeded Madison Memorial Spartans will travel to the number one ranked Sun Prairie Cardinals to begin the road to Camp Randall. Earlier in the season, Sun Prairie shutout Memorial on September 21, 35-0. After that game, Sun Prairie has rattled off three more straight shutouts going into the playoffs and have still not allowed more than seven points in any contest. The Cardinals bolster the toughest defense in the state and are many experts pick to eventually play in Madison for the state title. Coupled with that vaunted defense is an incredibly strong rushing attack, led by Big 8 leading rusher Donte Starlin-Merriam, that will prove to be invaluable when the temperature really begins to dip as the playoffs move along. Madison Memorial will have to quickly figure out how to put some points on the board for this game because the Spartans have struggled on defense at times this season. Quarterback Joe Ferguson and wide receiver Jester Weah must have tremendous games if the Spartans have any chance of advancing against one of, if not the best, team in the state. Kickoff at 7 p.m. from Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.
*New to the Preview* Game Prediction: 38-14, Sun Prairie advances
#7 Oconomowoc vs. #2 Verona Area High School at Verona Area High School
For the first time this season Verona will face an opponent outside the Big 8 as the Wildcats will welcome in the Oconomowoc Raccoons who finished 6-2 in the Wisconsin Little 10 Conference. Verona is on a seven game win streak since the teams week one lost to eventual conference champion, the Sun Prairie Cardinals. The Wildcats have really responded since then with convincing victories over both Madison Memorial and La Follette and a victory last week against then, 6-1, Madison West. Running back Dom Wise is finally as close to 100% healthy as he has ever been and running behind his massive offensive line has helped him rush for 789 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns despite missing a couple of contests this season. The Wildcat defense has also had two shutouts in the last three games and held the very power Madison West Regent offense to 29 points in a thrilling regular season finale. However, lost in last weeks game was the fact that Verona shutout the Regents in the second half. So, in reality, Verona has kept opponents out of the end zone in 11 of the last 12 quarters. On the other side, Oconomowoc finished third in their conference and lost to first place Wisconsin Lutheran, 48-6, and the second place team Watertown, 19-16. The Coonies have proved that they can compete with other playoffs teams but against upper echelon competition they have struggled to score points while also keeping points off the board on defense. Quarterback Canton Larson has amassed 1,531 yard through the air and 16 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions on the season. This battle will be a tremendous test for the Wildcats to see if this team can make another playoff run like last season. Kickoff at 7 p.m. from Verona Area High School.
*New to the Preview* Game Prediction: 31-21, Verona advances
#6 Middleton vs. #3 Sussex Hamilton at Sussex Hamilton High School
In the only game of the playoffs that features a Big 8 team as an underdog, at least by seeding, the Middleton Cardinals will travel to Sussex to take on the Hamilton Charges who finished this season 5-2 in the Greater Metro Conference. Middleton had what many have called a disappointing season finishing 5-3. The Cardinals lost three straight games right in the heart of the season and have limped into the playoffs, but a wounded dog can be dangerous. This team has been a mix of great and down right bad so far. The defense looked strong early on but then fell apart during that three game losing streak and the offense has also had somewhat of a shaky season. Jevarious Rockmore finished the season with 883 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns while quarterback Luke Schafer has also added 752 passing yards. This Cardinal defense will be tested as Hamilton has one of the top rushers in the state of Wisconsin in Drew Patterson, who has rushed for 1,498 yards and has reached the end zone 21 times this season. Even with the strong rushing attacks throughout the Big 8, this will be the best rushing team the Cardinals have faced this year and will be a true test of what this team is made of. Will the Cardinals prove the critics wrong with a victory, or will Middleton be sent home early this season? Again, a wounded dog is dangerous, so Middleton could have one of the states first playoff upsets of the year, but they must prove they are better than their record indicates. Kickoff at 7 p.m. from Sussex Hamilton High School.
*New to the Preview* Game Prediction: 24-14, Hamilton advances
#5 Mukwonago vs. #4 Madison West at Mansfield Stadium
In what should be a classic #5 vs. #4 seed matchup, Mukwonago will travel to Madison to take on the West Regents in the final Big 8 playoff game of the week. Like a #8 vs. #9 seed in the NCAA big dance tournament every season, a matchup like this pits two teams that have had nearly identical seasons and are fairly evenly matched. The Regents enter the playoffs riding on cloud nine, despite last week’s loss to Verona, because just a year ago this team went 1-8. Quarterback Alex Brown has led this squad to a fairy tale like season and will be hoping that the slipper still fits come Friday night. (Insert Gus Johnson audio) But in all seriousness, this team could very well be the Cinderella of the ball. Brown has done everything in his power to get this team to the playoffs and has he ever succeeded. Coupled with an under appreciated and under rated defense, this offense has the flexibility to do somethings that some other teams in the playoffs may not be able to do. The combination of three types of offenses in running a spread option, wildcat offense, and just an old school, line up and hit you in the mouth style of play makes this team very versatile. The Indians finished second in the Classic 8 Conference with a 7-2 record behind Arrowhead, a Wisconsin juggernaut that may very well meet a team like Sun Prairie in the state final. Mukwonago has been the model of consistency all year long. The Chiefs have one blow out win, along with one blow out loss, along with four other victories that were the result of complete ball games being played from the first snap to the last. Again, these match ups are near coin flips because of the similarities between the two schools so this game will be one of the better contests in the playoffs this weekend. Kickoff at 7 p.m. from Mansfield Stadium in Madison.
*New to the Preview* Game Prediction: 28-21, West advances
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
Prep Reporter ESPN 1380
Return to: Prep Corner Blog