Wisconsin high school championship playoff football always offers some surprises and others where the best surprise is no surprise. But always a lot of excitement.
In most cases, you never know what you’re going to get.
Take Eau Claire Regis, for instance.
You’ve heard of Alabama’s legendary Hall of Fame coach Bear Bryant.
Now meet Rambler coach Air Bryant.
That, of course, is in reference to Bryant Brenner, known for his conservative tight double-wing ground attack that just hammers the ball at defenses with a different set of running backs play after play.
But suddenly, defenses have to be on the alert. They no longer can load up the box and try to figure out which back is going to be running at them.
He’s gone to the air. In last week’s 29-8 win over Spring Valley, he called for a ton of passes by multiple players.
Well, three in all by two different arms. That’s a ton in the versatile spread Rambler air bombardment.
One by Tristan Root was good for 35 yards to the 1, setting up a score on the next play. The other by Bennett Seelen for a 39-yard 6-pointer.
The late aerial spray were the game’s only completions and sealed the win.
That’s opening up an attack on the wild side. And as the Ramblers face Abbotsford Friday, he’s got defenses looking to the skies.
— And can you imagine a Menomonie football team without Joe LaBuda?
Neither can we.
But he had to iron out a few things last winter before he decided to return to the sidelines for his 31st season.
It wasn’t that he was worried about who would step up at the quarterback position for an otherwise fairly veteran team. He’s groomed newcomers before.
And when he opened the season with a win over a strong opponent without completing a pass, there was no panic.
Maybe the Mustangs could stick to the basics and run over opponents all season. They’ve had a decent history in such matters.
No sweat. Tyler Werner completed a pass in the second game. And the third. And so on.
Now it’s not news when he completes a pass, it’s headlines when he doesn’t.
In the last three games, he’s 20 of 25 for 476 yards and six touchdowns. In the last six games, he’s ... well, we could go on and on.
For the season, he’s 68 for 100 for 1,423 yards and 17 pay-dirt pitches. With two interceptions. That’s right, two. None in the last two games. He leads the NFL in passer rating.
But even more important, he leads the Mustangs into the state Division 3 semifinals this weekend against Menasha.
Well, LaBuda is back and with the emergence of his quarterback, he’s adding to that long string of victories. Two more would be just fine.
— Mondovi also had a quarterback question. Coach Craig Loscheider looked around and saw last year’s receiver Carter Johnson and said we know he can catch the ball and run with the ball, why not let him pass it some, too?
So Johnson was no longer a catcher, but a pitcher. And a leader. It was a natural.
He’s run and passed for 2,791 yards and 21 touchdowns. And the Buffaloes are unbeaten, heading into Friday’s semifinals against St. Mary’s Springs, a huge challenge against the two-time defending champions.
That’s thanks to last week’s 29-22 comeback with over Mineral Point. Led by Johnson, Tanner Marsh and, well, the whole Buffalo herd.
And don’t think that Johnson has forgotten how to catch the ball. This time, he’s being nasty about it, catching them from the opponent’s passer. The legal thief has four for the season.
None bigger, of course, than last week’s pick-six with few seconds left to play that broke up a tie. And the Buffaloes are still alive and unbeaten.
— The same can not be said for Northwestern, which got bumped out rudely by Stratford 35-0 in Division 5. And that leaves Regis and Mondovi as the last two standing unblemished.
The Big Rivers has two Camp Randall hopefuls remaining with Superior the miracle team of the playoffs to date. After coming from behind in the final minute to upset Pulaski 36-27, the Spartans did it again last week, rallying from a 20-8 fourth quarter deficit to stun Kaukauna 22-20 on two late Jarrett Gronski touchdowns in Division 2. And now they face Brookfield East with hopefully enough gas in the tank to get to Madison.
Who’s going to take the last step to the big time?