Demons battle Elks with outright SLC title at stake

 

Brad Burling (4) is coming off a five-touchdown performance against Wilmot. (Earlene Frederick/Standard Press)

Brad Burling (4) is coming off a five-touchdown performance against Wilmot. (Earlene Frederick/Standard Press)

In my 10 years of covering high school sports, I’ve never had a dilemma quite like the one I experienced Friday night.

Both Burlington football teams, Burlington and Catholic Central, were in first-place conference matchups.

I knew I couldn’t be in two places at once, and I knew I would hurt a few feelings no matter where I went.

Since I had been to roughly six Burlington games, I thought it was time to go to the Topper Bowl for Catholic Central’s showdown with Racine St. Cats.

Honestly, with the Toppers at home and Burlington at a very good Wilmot team, I thought Central had a better shot at victory.

So, in an attempt to please everyone, I was going to hit up Wilmot for the first quarter or maybe first half then finish strong at Catholic Central.

SPORT CHECK LOGO webWhen I got down to Wilmot, it was a nightmare. The main parking lot was packed to the gills along with the lots on the north end of the school. Luckily, the Burlington High School radio station, 89.1 WBSD, kept me up to speed on the game action.

Burlington jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but I drove around for a good 15 minutes and still couldn’t find a parking space. Halftime was fast approaching, and I noticed on Twitter Catholic Central was only down 7-0 early.

Finally, I said screw it and headed back to Burlington. Plus, I knew one of our best photographers, Earlene Frederick, was shooting the Burlington-Wilmot game.

When I got back to the Topper Bowl, things went from bad to worse.

Turnovers plagued the Toppers, and St. Cats jumped out to an insurmountable 20-0 lead. First-place dreams were pretty much done, and the crowd went silent.

After interviewing an understandably subdued coach Tom Aldrich after the game, it was time to check my phone for a Burlington update.

It was past 9 p.m., so I figured the game was over. Per the @BHS_Demons Twitter handle, the Demons’ Lucas Shenkenberg picked off a Wilmot pass and the game was headed to overtime.

Like any panicked journalist would do, I started driving south down Highway 83 toward Wilmot thinking I could catch the very end.

I was locked into the call on the radio, and by the time I reached the gas station on the corner of Highways 50 and 83, the game was into the fourth OT already.

So I pulled over, listened to the radio and tweeted the action on my phone. At least some loyal followers were begging for updates on Twitter.

Burlington won, 42-35, in what may go down as the best Demons game ever. With the win, they clinched a share of their first SLC title since 1996.

I felt terrible that I missed it, but Catholic Central deserves my attention just as much, and the Toppers almost won a championship, too.

Maybe if the local football teams weren’t so good, I wouldn’t have these kinds of problems.

But after angry emails, phone calls and even awkward live thrashings over the years, nights like Friday make it all worth it.

The way communities rally around their teams is impressive, and the thrill of the story is what drives myself and many other writers.

So if I wasn’t at your game, I’m sorry.

But Burlington fans and parents, just appreciate the fact you were there and got to witness the best, most meaningful Demons football game since the Bill Clinton administration.

Sometimes, you have to realize that what you’re doing is good enough. You can’t please everyone. Someone will always be unhappy.

But if you can look at yourself in the mirror and know you did the right thing, everything else always falls into place.

 

– As always, follow me for all of Friday night’s game action on Twitter @mikeramczyk17. Let’s close out the season with a bang.

PREDICTIONS

Last week: 8-3

Season: 58-26

 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Elkhorn (6-2, 4-2) at Burlington (5-3, 5-1)

After winning an emotional, four-OT classic in Wilmot last weekend, the Demons still have to beat the Elks Friday night to win the Southern Lakes Conference title outright.

Burlington is riding a four-game win streak with key victories over SLC powers Waterford and Wilmot.

Elkhorn is coming off a Homecoming defeat of Badger, its first win over Lake Geneva in seven years.

Coach Tom Lee’s decision to move Keaton Verhoeven from quarterback to running back and Dylan Peterson to QB two games ago has paid off.

Elkhorn has won two straight games, and Peterson has thrown a touchdown in each game. What’s more is Peterson possesses the ability to block on running plays, which are Elkhorn’s strength.

The 1-2 running combination of Verhoeven and Keenan Leahy is still the Elks’ bread and butter, and the team is very physical up front.

Burlington has countered physical teams like Wilmot and Waterford with big plays in the passing game, as quarterback Brad Burling (1,594 yards, 17 TDs) leads the area in passing. He tossed five touchdowns in the Demons’ win last week.

Elkhorn is 3-1 on the road, and Burlington is 1-3 at home.

Leahy (630 rushing yards) and Verhoeven (577) lead the Elks, while Burling (713) and Hunter Melby (592) lead the Demons.

The Demons are at least conference co-champs for the first time in nearly 20 years. Expect that momentum to continue Friday night.

There could be a four-way championship tie with Elkhorn, Burlington, Wilmot and Waterford if the Elks can pull out the win.

 

PREDICTION: Burlington 28, Elkhorn 21

 

Receiver Christian Nicholls moved back to the area from Florida this year. Though it's his first year on varsity, he has 286 receiving yards and is a big-play threat. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

Receiver Christian Nicholls moved back to the area from Florida this year. Though it’s his first year on varsity, he has 286 receiving yards and is a big-play threat. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

Catholic Central (6-2, 5-1) at Kenosha St. Joe’s (3-5, 3-3)

The Trojans edged Martin Luther by three points last week.

This game will be played at Carthage College, which offers a wonderful view of Lake Michigan.

Catholic Central had turnover problems last week in an MCC showdown with St. Cats, but should be able to get back to their running ways Friday night.

Cole Kresken needs 114 rushing yards to top the 1,000-yard plateau.

St. Joe’s counters with quarterback Josh Moser, who is third in the Metro Classic with 989 passing yards.

St. Joe’s has lost by double digits to St. Cats, Racine Lutheran and Shoreland Lutheran. The Toppers have beaten both Lutheran squads handily.

Expect the Toppers to be safer with the ball and finish the season strong.

PREDICTION: Catholic Central 35, Kenosha St. Joes 20

Jake Benzing of Delavan (5) is the second-leading receiver in the SLC with 542 yards. (Michael Hall/Delavan Enterprise)

Jake Benzing of Delavan (5) is the second-leading receiver in the SLC with 542 yards. (Michael Hall/Delavan Enterprise)

 

Waterford (5-3, 4-2) at Delavan-Darien (4-4, 2-4)

After a 2-3 start to the season, the Wolverines have a chance at a fourth straight SLC title.

If Waterford wins and Burlington loses, the Wolverines will share the crown thanks to a dominant three-game win streak that’s featured big wins over Elkhorn, Westosha Central and Union Grove.

Waterford’s offense has stepped up big time, with 117 points (39 ppg) in the last three games.

Last week against rival Union Grove, nine Waterford rushers accumulated 291 yards, and quarterback Dylan Malecki passed for 166 yards and two scores.

Dyln Ross combined for 133 total yards (70 rush, 63 receiving) and scored a rushing and receiving touchdown.

The Comets are coming off a big win over Westosha Central, but they are playing simply for pride.

Jesse Collins, Delavan’s senior quarterback, is second in the conference with 1,443 passing yards.

However, Waterford coach and defensive guru Adam Bakken knows how to make opposing passers uncomfortable.

 

PREDICTION: Waterford 33, Delavan-Darien 17

 

Wilmot (5-3, 4-2) at Westosha Central (1-7, 1-5)

The SLC’s only Kenosha County teams have a nice little rivalry.

Located only about 10 minutes from each other, these schools love beating up on each other.

This Friday, Wilmot should be fuming from last week’s 4-OT heartbreaker.

Ethan Scott and Bryce Kothe both battled injuries to come up big against Burlington, and the Panthers showed plenty of grit and guts in the best game of the year.

As for Central, it was another painful loss for the young squad last week.

It’s the season finale and pretty much the Falcons’ Super Bowl against their biggest rival.

Expect a fight, but Wilmot can still win a share of the SLC title with a win and a Burlington loss.

 

PREDICTION: Wilmot 40, Westosha Central 14

 

Union Grove (3-5, 1-5) at Lake Geneva Badger (3-5, 3-3)

Badger has lost two straight and now only has one more chance to clinch its eighth consecutive playoff appearance.

But the Broncos come to town, with quarterback Matt Nelson coming into his own in his first year as a starting varsity quarterback.

The Grove hung tough with Waterford last week but lost, and Badger did the same at Elkhorn.

Both teams are led by plenty of youth. While Badger runs for more yards (218-151), the Grove passes for 30 more yards per game.

The Grove has playmakers in Travis Cadd and Jameson Radtke, but there is too much on the line for Badger to fall.

Don’t be surprised if it’s close.

 

PREDICTION: Lake Geneva 30, Union Grove 20

 

Other area predictions

Muskego 34, Mukwonago 30

Jefferson 45, East Troy 38

Big Foot 30, Brodhead 28

Williams Bay 55, Wild Rose 12

Whitewater 24, Edgerton 20

 

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