The 2012 WIAA football title games will be held Thursday and Friday in Madison.
Here are the lineups and Ricardo’s picks.
Arrowhead vs. Sun Prairie
Matchup: Arrowhead (12-0) vs. Sun Prairie (12-0), Friday, 4 p.m.
The Warhawks are the top-ranked team in the state and for good reason. They boast a roster full of playmakers, including the state’s most explosive receiver (Ricky Finco, 41 catches, 968 yards) and one of the state’s best running backs in Dom Todarello, who ran wild in Arrowhead’s win over Kimberly in Level 3.
Todarello’s numbers appear modest (49 rushes, 511 yards) but don’t be fooled. He usually doesn’t play the second half of games, as the Warhawks are demolishing their competition by an average score of 46-8 this season.
Arrowhead won state titles in 1993, 1994 and 1996 and another in 2007. Sun Prairie is a good team with an outstanding running back in Donte Starlin-Merriam (243-1486, 16 touchdowns) but this Arrowhead team is as strong a Division 1 team as I’ve seen in a decade.
Ricardo’s pick: Arrowhead.
Homestead vs. Waunakee
Matchup: Homestead (11-1) vs. Waunakee (12-0), Friday, 1 p.m.
Waunakee is vying for its fourth consecutive state championship, an incredible feat that has the program in “dynasty” territory. The Warriors defeated a very good Whitefish Bay team in Level 4, 35-28 in overtime. Whitefish Bay also defeated Homestead earlier this season.
Waunakee can run the ball with Tyler Reynolds (217-1431, 22 TDs) but also had an underrated receiving corps that has big-play ability in Will Helbing (31-474), Ryan Knuser (27-524) and Willie Freimuth (20-527). That balance should be able to get the Warriors past Homestead’s running duo of Shaquille Cole (160-1,011, 13 TDs) and Jay Schneider (96-789, 12).
Ricardo’s pick: Waunakee.
Waupaca vs. Catholic Memorial
Matchup: Waupaca (12-0) vs. Waukesha Catholic Memorial (10-2), Friday, 10 a.m..
The Comets beat defending state champion West De Pere last week to advance, a team many believed was the best team in Division 3. Waupaca last won titles in 2008 and 2006, and this team appears to be on the level of those championship teams.
Sam Menzies was the player of the year in the Eastern Valley Conference this season and rushed for 1,108 yards on 197 carries and 20 touchdowns, while also throwing for 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns. Beau Ash, the program’s all-time leading rusher, has 1,027 yards this season on 141 carries and 13 touchdowns.
Waupaca has a great coaching staff and a defense that has played superlatively in the Comets’ run to state. Catholic Memorial’s two losses have been to Division 1 powerhouses Arrowhead and Mukwonago. Expect a very close matchup, with the Comets’ epic run game grinding out a victory and coach John Koronkiewicz receiving a chilly Gatorade bath from his players.
Ricardo’s pick: Waupaca.
Somerset vs. Big Foot
Matchup: Somerset (11-1) vs. Big Foot (12-0), Thursday, 7 p.m.
Somerset lost last season’s Division 4 title game to Wrightstown in double overtime and this season runs into another tough matchup in Big Foot. While Somerset has a fine backfield duo in quarterback Tyler Ledbeter (158 carries, 1,478 yards rushing) and running back Vernon Breault (199-1,289, 18 TDs),
I really think the Spartans will struggle with the physical play of Big Foot. The Chiefs have a huge, overpowering offensive line that opened up massive holes for running back Mason Dixon (168-2,080, 40) in their win over Freedom in Level 4. Big Foot doesn’t have a larger roster, so many of its players play both ways, but this game will be won in the trenches and that’s where the Chiefs have dominated this season.
Ricardo’s pick: Big Foot.
Amherst vs. Lancaster
Matchup: Amherst (12-0) vs. Lancaster (12-0), Thursday, 4 p.m.
Amherst is making its first appearance at Camp Randall and defeated defending state champion Colby in Level 4. This makes for an interesting matchup with Lancaster, a team many feel is the class of Division 5.
The Arrows lost to Colby in last year’s D5 title game but have a top-notch program (six state championships), a balanced offense and a defense led by defensive end Aaron Mahr (seven sacks) and defensive back Kile Jerrett (five INTs). They beat a very good Brillion team to advance.
For Amherst to pull off the minor upset, the Falcons need to let multi-talented quarterback Chris Zblewski take over the game. He has thrown for 1,690 yards and 25 touchdowns this year, as well as run for 1,140 yards and 17 touchdowns. He could be the difference in this game.
Ricardo’s pick: Amherst.
Regis vs. St. Mary’s Springs
Matchup: Eau Claire Regis (12-0) vs. St. Mary’s Springs (12-0), Thursday, 1 p.m.
This is a fantastic matchup of private school powers and one many have waited for in anticipation. Both Regis and Springs have blasted their way to the state final, with Regis recording five shutouts and the Ledgers outscoring their opponents 597-59.
Springs is the defending state champion and has two of the more explosive players among small schools in running backs Darin Ward (110-1,049, 13) and Ike Floyd (102-861, 18). Springs also has the state’s all-time winningest coach, Bob Hyland, patrolling the sidelines. This will be a tight matchup, but it’s tough to go against Hyland and the Ledgers.
Ricardo’s pick: St. Mary’s Springs.
Glenwoods City vs. Potosi
Matchup: Glenwood City (10-2) vs. Potosi (12-0), Thursday, 10 a.m.
The Hilltoppers knocked off Hilbert last week, my pick to win the Division 7 title, though Hilbert was playing without its top player in quarterback Spencer Schulz. Still, that Glenwood City defense was phenomenal and it appears that will be a big obstacle for a good Potosi team.
While I think Potosi’s strength of schedule is a little lacking when compared to Glenwood City’s, there is no doubt that Potosi quarterback Tim Fritz is the wild card here. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns and gives the Chieftans a passing dimension that Glenwood City doesn’t really have.
Ricardo’s pick: Potosi.