The Reedsville, Manitowoc Lutheran, Roncalli and Two Rivers football teams not only talked in training camp about making it to the postseason, but advancing to the second round as well. Today, the four Manitowoc County teams to make the WIAA State Football Tournament will be in action at 7 p.m. as they attempt to achieve the goal they set for themselves several months ago.
The Division 6 bracket features the most area schools as No. 3-seed Manitowoc Lutheran (7-1) hosts No. 6 Lourdes Academy (6-2) at Reedsville High School while Reedsville (6-2), a No. 7 seed, plays at last year’s state runner-up, No. 2 Shiocton (7-1).
The matchup between Lourdes and Lutheran will feature a pair of teams that each run the Wing-T offense. Aside from facing that style of offense every day during practice, the Lancers have also faced it against teams like Hilbert and Sevastopol during the regular season and didn’t struggle to stop it.
“Our theme all year has been “Get better every week,” so we have another week to improve our execution and improve our enthusiasm on each play and we are looking at it as another week to prepare,” Lutheran coach Jim Carolfi said. “(Lourdes is) a good team. They look like they are good sized, aggressive and they execute pretty well.”
The Panthers on the other hand are expecting to see a lot of different formations thrown their defense’s way. Shiocton primarily works out of the Wishbone, but they like to spread things out while still being a run-dominated offense. Reedsville has struggled throughout the season at stopping the deep passes and outside runs, so this week the Panthers practiced taking away the quick pitch from Shiocton and getting their defensive backs to where they need to be in order to be effective.
“They are a good football team. They are a real athletic team,” Reedsville coach Aaron Frederick said. “We just have to be prepared for this team. They are not overly big, they are just physical and come off the ball hard and are solid tacklers. Just a really good football team all around.”
After suffering its first loss of the season last week, No. 4-seeded Two Rivers (7-1) will host No. 5 Menasha (6-2) in a Division 3 matchup.
“We are explaining (to the players) that this opportunity will not only be a first playoff game for them, but also the first opportunity (for Two Rivers) to win a playoff game in 20-plus years,” Two Rivers coach Brent Luebke said. “We were here two years ago, but we fell short. We try to stick with as much routine is possible. However, we do have to clean up mistakes from our past few games.”
Menasha has a pair of experienced running backs and a veteran quarterback that have carried it to yet another successful season despite having what Luebke said was one of the toughest regular-season schedules in the state.
“We have to execute offensively — run blocking and catching passes — to advance the ball, which will be key,” Luebke said. “Defensively we have to be disciplined, assignment sure, staying home in relation to field position for each player. We have to utilize our fundamentals and capitalize on our opponent’s mistakes.”
In Division 4, No. 3 Roncalli (6-2) will be the only area squad to have an opponent with more than two losses as it hosts No. 6 Edgerton (4-4). The Jets, however, are not taking their opponent lightly, though, as the team understands anything can happen when facing a team you aren’t familiar with.
“I know where it is,” Roncalli coach Ray Baranczyk joked when asked what he knew about Edgerton ahead of the game. “The bottom line is, you don’t get a real good feel for them after watching just two tapes. … I believe that we will have success on the defensive side of the field. On the offensive side, it’s hard because we don’t know how they will defend us, so we have to follow our blocking rules and continue to block way we have. Our offense is really gelling and we hope the challenge for them is to stop our offense.”
Edgerton runs out of the shotgun the majority of the time with the quarterback rarely going under center while he throws to a variety of wide receivers. The squad typically runs a one-back formation which features a 200-pound running back. Baranczyk said he is preparing his team to focus on that running back during running situations and getting pressure on the quarterback in passing situations.
“We are not going to underestimate their offense or anyone on their squad for that matter,” Baranczyk said. “Our kids will come out ready to play and will play for pride. … We have been focusing on our offensive game plan, as well as our defensive game plan, and that way we will be ready to go.”