By Adam Roberts
The US Post Office has a creed that goes like this:
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
It seems that it was destiny for high school football in our area to follow the same mantra; neither snow nor rain nor COVID virus stays this area from experiencing the glory of Friday night lights. Although in fairness, the mood has definitely been dampened this evening.
Between the majority of Mississippi Valley Conference and Coulee Conference schools not playing this evening, a number of last-second game cancellations, and the constant sense that the season will be a day-to-day situation, it’s easy to feel less excited for football this fall than any fall before it. Everyone has an opinion on whether or not games should even be happening, but objectively it is at least a tad positive that, even amidst a global pandemic, SOME familiar traditions remain.
The Coulee Region only has three games to follow along with this week, but hey, we’ll take what we can get!
LUTHER @ BOSCOBEL (ESPN La Crosse 105.5)
Luther has been one of the most affected teams in Wisconsin when it comes to all the conference realignment of the last few years, Since 2018, they have been members of the Coulee, SWAL, and now Scenic Bluffs conferences, and with the Scenic Bluffs choosing the spring football option this year Luther will face a combo of Six Rivers and Ridge and Valley schools. Their first of the R&V teams is Boscobel, a Wayne Otto-led unit that is seeking just its third win since 2016 tonight. The 2019 unit struggled mightily on offense, scoring in the double-digits just once against Cambridge in a 49-14 losing effort in addition to four shutouts.
That’s not to say tonight won’t be a closely contested contest, as the ’19 Knights squad was able to produce only one winning effort of their own against Cashton 21-14. Still, a number of Luther’s losses last year were closely contested; NOT the case for the Bulldogs.
Matt Schiebel’s offense this season will likely run through senior back Lyndon Byus, who has made it plain he doesn’t mind busting through contact to gain yards. A stout offensive line core should give Luther the edge.
Prediction: Luther 28 Boscobel 7
ONALASKA @ TOMAH
48 hours ago, these two teams were scheduled to visit Westby and host Sparta, respectively. But with Sparta switching to virtual learning earlier this week and Westby pausing their football operations, the two teams had to scramble to find a match up. As luck would have it, this ends up being a much more interesting game than I think many are giving it credit for.
With regards to returning players, the two X-factors in this game will be the Hilltoppers’ wideout Landon Peterson and the Timberwolves’ QB Justin Gerke. Peterson was now-graduated Austin Larson’s favorite target last season racking up 12 TDs. Meanwhile, Gerke was a 1,000 yard passer last year who’s season highlight was a 265 yard, 3 TD performance against La Crosse Central, albeit in a 24-21 losing effort.
In addition, tonight will be new head coach Joe Protz’s debut for Tomah, and while it will be his first time manning the ship, the majority of his coaching staff are returning from the final year of Brad Pluegger’s tenure. Also, Protz himself has been an assistant with the team for the last 10 years. The familiarity will help the new coach approach the contest tonight with a level head. I think Onalaska takes this one, but don’t count out the Timberwolves, especially if Gerke has a hot arm.
Prediction: Onalaska 30 Tomah 21
VIROQUA @ MAUSTON
Viroqua is one of technically three Coulee Conference schools that has decided to push ahead with their fall seasonl; they’ll play new-arrival Aquinas next week (for now) while fellow rookie school Altoona plays Highland tonight and may likely play schools in the Eau Claire area for travel reasons.
Most of Viroqua’s offense this season will flow, similar to Luther, through its running back: senior Nick Schneider, a former offensive lineman. And while Viroqua didn’t exactly turn heads last year at 1-8, they had some close looks including a three point loss to an eventual 11-2 Prairie du Chien school.
That said, many who have voted on our Twitter page believe Mauston to be the easy pick this week. Despite having to find an answer to losing quarterback Cade Hall to the graduation bug, the Golden Eagles do return their leading rusher and receiver from last year in Kraig Armstrong and Jack Luehman, respectively.
Look for Viroqua to try and exploit a stout yet senior-lacking Golden Eagles offensive line, and for Mauston to try and feel Luehman on what figures to be a good night weather-wise for passing throughout Western Wisconsin: light winds and no precipitation.
Prediction: Mauston 34 Viroqua 14