Big Eight Week Eight Preview
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
Madison West Regents (3-4) vs. Beloit Memorial Purple Knights (1-6)
At Beloit Memorial High School
2012 Matchup: Madison West 35 Beloit Memorial 0
Madison West enters Friday night’s game coming off of one of the more lopsided victories the Big Eight has seen so far. A 54-6 drumming of Madison East last week was certainly a bright spot for a team that hasn’t had many to date. Adrien Reilly has done a fabulous job filling in for Terrel Mcfadden at quarterback and has nine total touchdowns this season in just three games. Marquise Pollard has also really stepped up this season while expanding his role both on offense and on defense as a defensive back. Pollard returned an interception for a 31-yard touchdown last week and also added a 60-yard run on offense. On one hand, many may be saying that this year has been a disappointment for West, but on the other hand a victory this week and next week against Verona would have the Regents playoff eligible for the second season in a row.
Beloit Memorial was brought back down to earth last week after falling to Madison La Follette. It was assumed that the Knights only victory would come against Madison East (which it did) and that Memorial would just ride out the rest of the season and take another 1-8 record into winter. However, Madison West has struggled this season and this is a winnable game for the Knights. Quarterback Denzel Barnes is second in the conference in passing with 1,586 yards and is also being talked about as potentially one of the Big Eight’s best. Unfortunately for Memorial though, the defense will have trouble keeping up with the Regents weapons on offense and West also has that extra incentive with a possible playoff berth if the team can close out the year strong.
Sun Prairie Cardinals (7-0) vs. Janesville Parker Vikings (2-5)
At Monterey Stadium in Janesville
2012 Matchup: Sun Prairie 40 Janesville Parker 0
Coach Brian Kaminski may not want to admit it, but his Sun Prairie Cardinals are the outright Big Eight Conference champions for the second year in a row. Now while the title hasn’t been officially given to the Cards’ just yet with two weeks still remaining, if the team continues to play strong and finish out the season unbeaten then it will be another banner year for Sun Prairie. This week also marks the first week in who knows how many weeks the Cardinals won’t be fighting against one of the conference elite teams. Sun Prairie has already knocked off Verona, Madison La Follette, Madison Memorial and Middleton so Ryan Curran and Craig Evans should have no trouble leading their unit’s against a shaky Janesville Parker team.
Parker has struggled all season long and it has really just boiled down to two things: lack of productive quarterback play and the defense’s inability to shut teams down for all 48 minutes. We highlighted the issues with Parker’s quarterbacks in last week’s preview and we have also talked about the defense a number of times as well. For the better half of many games, this defensive unit keeps the team in the ball game but there has always been one or two or sometimes three key plays that break the game wide open for the opposition. Daivon Vance-Jenkins has done a tremendous job all season rushing the ball on offense and filling in on defense, but his efforts will not be enough as Parker will be simply overmatched Friday night against an elite team like Sun Prairie.
Verona Wildcats (3-4) vs. Madison East Purgolders (0-7)
At Lussier Stadium in Madison
2012 Matchup: Verona 54 Madison East 0
Verona was very balanced in their scoring attack last week against Janesville Parker as the Wildcats put up 47 points on three touchdown passes by John Tacket to three different receivers and three touchdown runs by three different running backs. A bounce back game like that can propel a struggling team that has been spoiled with success over the past decade to a very possible playoff run come season’s end. As highlighted before, this Verona team is still very skilled at some key spots, but overall the team took a step back both in talent and experience from last year. Dave Richardson, a new member to the Wisconsin Coaches Hall of Fame, still has a very dangerous team that could potentially shock some other schools in the playoffs if the Wildcats win out against East and next week against Madison West.
Oy Vey, Madison East’s losing streak just continues to grow. Not since Sept. 23, 2010 have the Purgolders won a conference game and East may just be starring down the barrel of another 0-9 season. Verona this week, Sun Prairie next week... Not looking good for the Purgolders...
Janesville Craig Cougars (3-4) vs. Middleton Cardinals (5-2)
At Middleton High School
2012 Matchup: Janesville Craig 20 Middleton 13
In perhaps the upset of the season last year, Janesville Craig defeated Middleton 20-13 behind an extraordinary defensive effort by the Cougars. Fast forward to this season, Craig pulled yet another absolute stunner by knocking off Madison Memorial last week in similar fashion with an overwhelming defensive effort. Can the Cougars pull off back-to-back upsets or will Craig’s run at a playoff berth fall short?
The victory last week for the Cougars was both perplexing and inspiring. The fact that Craig stifled an offense that seemingly had their way with Sun Prairie a week prior was surprising enough, but the fashion in which Craig carried out the upset was even more shocking. The Cougar defense that was led by Justin Filter, who had a pick-six in the ball game, limited the Memorial passing attack in such impressive fashion that coaches from around the area will be watching the tape to try and duplicate the defensive effort. Craig held Memorial to only 301 total yards and just two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, against Sun Prairie the Spartans had over 700 total yards of offense and scored six times. Now what differentiates Middleton from Madison Memorial is really quite simple, Middleton employs a much more balanced offensive attack that Craig will need to defend against all game long as Middleton has been known to dominate the time of possession.
Last week was certainly a let down for Middleton as the Cardinals fell to rival Sun Prairie, but the effort wasn’t completely waisted. Kasey Miller had a rough game but did manage to bring Middleton to within one score of sending the contest into overtime. Charles Braxton continued to eat up yards on the ground and assert himself as one of the top running backs in the conference and the defense also did an impressive job against a very strong Sun Prairie offense. This week however will be all about putting the past in the past. Middleton needs to regain focus and not fall to Janesville Craig like last year if the Cardinals have any hope at having an extended run in the playoffs. While Middleton has already clinched a playoff berth, Craig has not, so the motivation will all be on the other sideline.
Madison La Follette Lancers (6-1) vs. Madison Memorial Spartans (5-2)
At Mansfield Stadium in Madison
*Prep Corner Big Eight Game of the Week*
2012 Matchup: Madison Memorial 24 Madison La Follette 21
One week removed from being the victims of perhaps the most shocking upset of the 2013 season, the Madison Memorial Spartans will need to right the ship and respond in a major way against the second place Madison La Follette Lancers.
Last week, Memorial lost to Janesville Craig and the game really wasn’t all that close. The Spartans only amassed 307 total yards of offense and reached the end zone just twice. Memorial will need to summon the type of offensive production the team had against Sun Prairie two weeks ago in order to keep up with Madison La Follette, a team in their own right that can score early and often. Quarterback Brandon Toman leads the conference in passing yards and touchdowns this year but has never faced a defensive unit, much less a defensive secondary, that has a pair of Division-I prospects on it. Rodney Poe and Marcus Collins are with out question two of the best defensive backs in the conference and will look to shut down the high power passing attack Memorial employs game after game.
The potential one-on-one match ups in this game could very well dictate who is victorious in the end. Poe and Collins will be assigned the task of covering Daurice Fountain who leads the conference in receiving and Tyler Lindquist, two wide receivers that measure 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-5 respectively. Collins is 6-foot-4 himself but has never covered receivers who are as skilled as this duo so far this season. Hunter Mickleson, the second leading receiver in the conference for La Follette is also a wild card in this matchup. He will need to be in sync with quarterback Jordan Carlson to alleviate some of the expected pressure Memorial figures to bring to stop the Lancers rushing attack. In last week’s contest, the Spartans allowed Janesville Craig to have two rushers go over 100 yards on the ground which is a scary prospect seeing as La Follette potentially has an even stronger rushing game. Cahleel Copus is just a few yards away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark and running mate Andre Saunders has rushed for over 600 yards himself.
Memorial may be getting the slight edge on offense, at least on paper, but La Follette’s defense is just too strong both upfront and in the secondary to allow Toman and the Spartans to have a big day. The Lancers will also look to use the team’s running game to wear out the Spartans and consume the clock so Toman and Fountain don’t have the opportunity to pile on the points. A great game is certainly in store for Friday night with the winner, in all likelihood, earning the right to host at least two home playoff games come tournament time.
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
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