Adam Bakken addresses his team after last week’s victory. Bakken has led the Wolverines to the postseason in each of his six seasons as head coach. He has a 9-6 record, including a trip to the WIAA Division 2 state championship in 2011. (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

Two rivals, only 8 miles apart.

A long history of spirited competition that has at times boiled over.

Mostly friendly adversaries, but let’s face it, these guys want to beat the tar off each other in every single sport, in the continual quest to see who’s better.

As if the high school football playoffs weren’t already one of the greatest things in life, Friday night offers a rare treat that comes around maybe once every 10 years.

The WIAA Division 2 playoffs feature No. 5 Burlington (6-3) traveling to No. 4 Waterford (7-2) in a Level 1 matchup with everything on the line.

Burlington and Waterford last met in the Division 2 playoffs in 2006, when the

Wolverines won, 28-14.

It’s the 13th playoff appearance for Waterford and the seventh straight trip.

It’s the 16th playoff berth for Burlington and the first since 2014.

Waterford was the D2 state runner-up in 2011.

Burlington’s furthest advancement came in 2005 when it lost in the state semifinal to Waunakee.

Wilmot joins Burlington in Division 2, and the winner of Wilmot and Monona Grove will play Burlington or Waterford next weekend.

Lake Geneva Badger earned a No. 3 seed in Division 1 and will host No. 6 Kenosha Bradford Friday.

It was an excellent local high school football season, as Wilmot beat Westosha with playoff implications on the line last week, Waterford has won seven straight games and the Demons are winners of four straight.

Westosha quarterback Jaden Jackson, a transfer student from Utah, took the SLC by storm to lead the league in passing with 1,735 yards.

Waterford’s Tanner Keller reeled off five straight games of 150 or more yards to lead the league in rushing with 1,086 yards.

Only a sophomore, Keller and Ben Michalowski have formed a nearly unstoppable 1-2 punch for the Wolverines.

Finally, Westosha’s Nic Frederick, a speedy threat with glue-like hands, was the SLC leader with 653 receiving yards.

Don’t be a fool Friday night. Get out to Waterford for what should be an entertaining affair with an amped atmosphere.

Wilmot thinking upset?

Thanks to an immortal effort by senior running back Robert Brent, the Wilmot Panthers football team

lives to fight another day.

In yet another offensive change, Brent returned to his familiar role of running back, Austin Norton returned from injury, Zach Lamberson captained the ship, and the Panthers crushed rival Westosha Central, 47-13, at home to clinch a playoff berth.

Brent, who was determined to salvage the Wilmot season after the boys suffered two straight losses, totaled 380 all-purpose yards in a game last Friday at Frank Bucci Field that saw the Falcons close the gap to 21-13 before Wilmot pulled away.

Wilmot earned a No. 8 seed in Friday’s WIAA football playoffs and must travel to top-seeded Monona Grove, a Division 2 powerhouse that’s 9-0 this season, averages 50 points per game and hasn’t won by less than 28 points in 2017.

In fact, the Grove finished No. 4 in the final Wissports.net D2 state rankings a few weeks ago.

Alec Ogden, a 6-foot-3 senior quarterback, has lit up the Badger South Conference for 2,117 yards, 28 touchdowns and two interceptions.

While he’s also run for 500 yards, Jackson Thomsen leads the team with 1,090 rushing yards.

Lucas Gerlach, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound grown man of a wide receiver has caught 39 balls for 680 yards with 11 touchdowns.

 

FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS

Last week: 4-0

Season: 31-10

 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Division 2 playoffs

(5) Burlington (6-3) at (4) Waterford, Friday, 7 p.m.

The game of everyone’s lives will be Burlington and Waterford, as both teams are much different from their first meeting.

Michalowski is at full strength this time, and Tanner Keller is a full-blown star. Quarterback Joe Schauer continues to provide a serious threat in the pass game, so Burlington can’t load the box.

Waterford is still run-first, though, so I’d expect players like Burlington strong safety Grant Tully and safety Harrison George to cheat near the line of scrimmage.

Zach Wallace (12), Nate Crayton (10) and Harrison George (23) smother an Elk during last Friday’s game on a punt return. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

The Waterford defense will bring the hard hats like usual, as Adam Bakken-led teams will always play strong defense. Aaron Chapman had another two interceptions last Friday night.

The Demons are much better than they were a month ago as well, as they’ve shown an ability to win games passing or running. The defense has improved in the trenches and has enough playmakers to contain Waterford’s run game, though it can’t be stopped.

An instant classic could be in store, and with such high stakes, the atmosphere promises electricity.

These teams know each other inside and out, and the schools generally are passionate about their distaste, to be nice, for each other.

Right now, the Waterford offense is rolling at a rare level, and the inside pounding of Michalowski combined with the perimeter speed of Keller are simply too much.

Burlington has shored up its offense and has become much more careful with the ball, so I don’t expect a ton of turnovers.

It will be a competitive battle, but there’s a reason the Demons have lost three straight to Waterford.

The Wolverines have too many weapons, and their defense is athletic enough to keep up with the Demons’ playmakers.

While it’s cool to have a rematch between the teams, it would be ideal if they both had a chance to get out of the SLC and beat some teams before having to face each other again.

The teams average around the same amount of yards per game, roughly 320, and on paper appear evenly matched.

It will be interesting to see if comfortable, dry weather conditions can get the Demons back to their big-play passing capabilities.

Waterford will attempt to shut down the Demons’ run and make them one-dimensional, and I envision Burlington focusing on the run and forcing Schauer to beat them.

 

PREDICTION: Waterford 24, Burlington 21

 

Division 2 Level 1

Robert Brent amassed nearly 400 total yards in a drubbing of rival Westosha last week. In only six games, Brent has rushed for 593 yards, caught passes for 111 and thrown for 146 yards this season. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

(8) Wilmot (4-5) at (1) Monona Grove (9-0), Friday, 7 p.m.

Though the Panthers lost their first few games, an early matchup with Franklin, last year’s Division 1 state runner-up, where Wilmot lost by one point, had many people saying the Panthers were the best 0-2 team in the state of Wisconsin.

At their best, the Panthers almost knocked off Lake Geneva Badger in overtime, after taking a 21-6 halftime lead, even with starting quarterback A.J. Frisby out with an injury in the fourth quarter.

Wilmot showed more glimpses of its enormous potential last Friday with a 47-13 shellacking of Westosha Central, as the two-headed backfield monster of Brent and Norton should cause Grove’s defense nightmares.

In the Badger South Conference, Stoughton was Grove’s only formidable foe, as the rest of the conference posted sub-.500 records besides Oregon.

However, Wilmot endured battles with Franklin, Badger, Waterford and Burlington, four legitimate squads, in its up-and-down journey this season.

What separates Brent is his will to win, along with his big-play ability to hit on a long pass downfield.

The Wilmot defense is very strong, and while the Grove possesses playmakers including one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Ogden, I don’t believe Monona has seen a team like the Panthers all year.

Wilmot showed last Friday it’s capable of dominance on both sides of the ball, and if Brent and Norton can be at their best, look out for the upset-mined Panthers.

A trick play turned the tide last weekend, and I expect head coach Keiya Square to pull out all the stops Friday, with no play, no matter how risky, off the table.

After all, it’s win or go home, so desperation is normalcy.

 

PREDICTION: Wilmot 28, Monona Grove 25

 

Lake Geneva Badger quarterback Colton Surges and the Badgers are 8-1 and ranked No. 7 in the final Division 1 state poll. Surges will be the ex-factor if Lake Geneva wants to make it to state after two consecutive state semifinal appearances. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Division 1, Level 1

(6) Kenosha Bradford (6-3) at (3) Lake Geneva Badger (8-1)      

Lake Geneva (8-1) endures an extremely difficult draw, with state powers Bradford, Racine Horlick, Muskego and Franklin all providing tough matchups.

But history is on Badger’s side, as the team has found a way to advance to the Division 1 state semifinals each of the past two seasons.

A potential second-round showdown at Franklin will determine the team’s longevity this postseason.

Bradford beat Badger in the second game of the season, in the final moments, and the Red Devils took undefeated Horlick and state runner-up Franklin to the limit, losing to both by three points.

But Lake Geneva’s well-oiled, triple-option rushing attack is on fire, with 300 yards per game, and the Badgers enjoyed a second straight conference championship.

Expect the home-field advantage to help, and the revenge motivation will be a driving force.

Will Keller, who amassed 1,000 yards rushing this season, should have a big game, and look for quarterback Colton Surges to make enough plays in the passing game.

 

PREDICTION: Lake Geneva 35, Kenosha Bradford 30

 

Division 3, Level 1

(7) East Troy (5-4) at (2) Catholic Memorial (7-2)

PREDICTION: Catholic Memorial 40, East Troy 28

 

 

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