Winner of tonight’s marquee matchup has best chance at SLC title

Tanner Keller ran for 211 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns in a victory over Kenosha Indian Trail. He added a touchdown catch. Dominic Miller added 148 rushing yards, and Waterford nearly amassed 400 yards on the ground. Will it carry over tonight against three-time defending conference champion Lake Geneva Badger? (Rick Benavides/SLN)

 

  1. Nick Webley is a beast

The rumblings in the Burlington High School halls after Thursday night’s Burlington-Racine Horlick varsity football game kept mentioning one name – Nick Webley.

And after a performance like the 6-foot-3 wide receiver displayed for the Demons in their 35-21 victory over the Rebels, why wouldn’t the Burlington coaching staff gush with excitement?

Webley caught seven balls for 151 yards, including three touchdowns, two of which helped clinch victory in the second half.

The college football recruit’s raw athleticism was on full display, as he leapt above two defenders in the end zone to make it a 21-14 game before burning his corner with a textbook post corner route for another score to extend Burlington’s lead to 28-21.

Dalton Damon, who finished with 225 passing yards and only missed six passes (18-24) sealed the huge nonconference win over the area’s then-No. 8 team with a touchdown strike to Lucas Zasada that put the game away at 35-21 at the 8-minute mark.

Webley, who has been timed at 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and boasts a ridiculous 35-inch vertical jump, has received interest from the University of Wisconsin Badgers already, according to coaches, and if this tear continues, it is virtually a guarantee the gifted athlete will be playing on Saturdays in 2019.

“I thought we definitely took that next step,” Burlington coach Steve Tenhagen said after the game Aug. 23. “We’re getting out of Nick what we thought we were going to get out of him. He scored half the times he touched the football last season.”

“He averaged 26 yards a catch last year. He had a great offseason, and he offers us a great vertical threat. He’s a big, strong target, and he catches the high ball well. His route running has definitely taken a step forward. I expect him to continue to have a great year. He was double-covered all night long and still made big plays.”

For Webley, it’s about chemistry developed over a few years with Damon, who first threw passes to him two years ago.

“We did a lot of passing league stuff at Whitewater over the summer, and we ran players practices,” Webley said. “Just running routes and building chemistry, with all the wide receivers.”

 

  1. There’s a new #8 in town

Through two games, new starting quarterback Dalton Damon is doing a pretty good Nick Klug impression, and it’s not only because they both donned the No. 8 on their backs.

Klug, a first team all-conference pick in 2017, also wore Damon’s No. 8, and so far the position hasn’t dipped at all in production.

Damon fired three touchdowns in a 42-13 victory at South Milwaukee and followed it up with four more scoring throws against Horlick.

“Since freshman year, our coach told me to just throw it up to Nick, and he would make a play,” Damon said. “I know that all of my receivers will make plays.”

The quarterback needs to be a dual threat in Tenhagen’s offense, like Klug and Brad Burling in the past, and Dalton is the next in line of dynamic, run-pass weapons under center.

“There’s always a learning curve with a new quarterback,” Tenhagen said. “Our job is to put them in a position to take those steps as fast as possible. And I think Dalton’s done that over the last two weeks.”

What helped receivers get open was a respectable run game.

Damon added 64 yards, and sophomore Zach Wallace led the Demons in rushing with 78 yards.

 

  1. Catholic Central showing playoff potential

Despite a 41-21 defeat Saturday at Living Word Lutheran 50 miles north in Jackson, the Toppers showed signs of a comeback.

Considering Todd Suchomel threw two pick-6’s, Catholic Central was pretty even against a strong opponent.

The Toppers trailed, 28-7, but they cut it to 34-21 midway through the fourth quarter and had a legitimate shot to tie or win the game.

Payton Meinholz and Cade Dirksmeyer, who combined to run for 157 yards, each scored a second-half touchdown, and Suchomel added 50 yards, including a nice 30-yard run late based on a crisp fake of an option dive.

Brandon Pum added his second touchdown catch in as many games, and David Doerflinger had eight catches for 51 yards.

“Our kids battled back,” head coach Tom Aldrich said. “I was real impressed. They haven’t really been in situations where they’ve been down before where they felt confident they could do it.”

“I hope they learned to continue to be resilient. They showed a lot of class and character to persevere the way they did.”

The Toppers showed supreme conditioning late in the game, while Living Word Lutheran looked tired and had players asking to be taken out of the game.

 

  1. SLC still up for grabs

With Lake Geneva Badger at 0-2 after another loss, Wilmot 1-1 and Waterford 1-1, it’s clear no team is really invincible.

Elkhorn and Delavan-Darien have both shown improvement, and Union Grove is also 0-2.

The door may be more wide open than ever for the Burlington Demons to take the conference crown and run with it.

Currently, I would put Burlington’s quarterback above any in the SLC, along with wide receivers, and the offensive and defensive lines certainly compare with Waterford and Badger, the defending three-time champion.

The big litmus test, as always, will be Waterford versus Badger, a showdown that earns prime time status Thursday night in Waterford.

I strongly feel that the winner of that contest and Burlington will play for the unofficial SLC title.

Waterford’s run dominance is officially back, with last week’s lopsided victory at Kenosha Indian Trail. Tanner Keller totaled 249 yards with four touchdowns, and Dominic Miller added 148 yards on 10 carries. That 1-2 punch, combined with big-throw ability from Joe Schauer, will be the Wolverines’ ticket to the postseason.

We all know with head coach and defensive guru Adam Bakken in charge, Waterford’s defense will be legit, they just need consistent offense. Keller and Miller create the area’s most dangerous backfield, so the Wolverines have as good a shot as anyone to run the table.

 

  1. Luciano goes down

Perhaps the most consistent defensive/offensive threat so far this season, Julian Luciano, suffered a thumb injury in the Horlick win and required surgery.

The senior captain led the Demons in tackles with 4.5, along with Jack Shenkenberg, and also can catch the ball coming out of the backfield as the H-back.

According to a post from Julian’s dad on Facebook, Julian should be OK and return to action this season, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Thoughts and prayers go out to the Luciano family for a speedy recovery.

PREDICTIONS

Last week: 8-4

Season: 16-8

 

Game of the Week

Lake Geneva Badger (0-2) at Waterford (1-1), Thursday, 7 p.m.

The marquee matchup in the league for the past five to seven years, this will be more must-see football.

Though the Badgers still have a quarterback controversy and lost 10 all-conference performers from 2017, they have the ability to go into Waterford and upset the Wolverines.

But the experience of the Wolverines, who got back on track with their first win at Kenosha Indian Trail last week, should be too much in this one.

Look for Tanner Keller to break a few big plays, but quarterback Joe Schauer will be key.

Can Waterford pass the ball to set up its run?

At least this week, I think so.

Traditionally, the winner of this game wins the Southern Lakes.

 

PREDICTION: Waterford 24, Lake Geneva Badger 17

 

Burlington (2-0) at Union Grove (1-1), Friday, 7 p.m.

Though the Broncos showed they could at times keep up with mighty Racine St. Cat’s last week, they still were handled in lopsided fashion.

Also, while Luke Hansel is a talented dual threat at quarterback, he hasn’t played in two years and hasn’t totally caught up to speed.

Burlington dropped nearly 50 points on the Grove last year, and Nick Webley caught four touchdowns.

The Demons are solid on both sides of the ball and could be the most talented squad Steve Tenhagen has had in his five years back in his hometown.

Look for the black and orange to roll, especially on the fast turf of Union Grove High School.

 

PREDICTION: Burlington 45, Union Grove 28

 

Other area predictions

Elkhorn 27, Westosha Central 14

Wilmot 33, Delavan-Darien 14

Racine St. Cat’s 40, Burlington Catholic Central 18

Muskego 55, Brookfield East 12

Clinton 30, Whitewater 20

East Troy 40, Big Foot 23

Franklin 63, Racine Park 15

Mukwonago 34, Waukesha South 25

Palmyra-Eagle 45, Dodgeland 30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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