It’s a different year, different opponent and different locale, but there’s a familiar feeling for Campbellsport entering the WIAA Division 4 playoffs this season.
The Cougars, who finished tied for third in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference, will head to perennial state powerhouse Wrightstown for a Level 1 playoff game on Friday at 7 p.m. That echoes last year’s trip to Brodhead-Juda after the program ended a seven-year playoff drought.
“It’s kind of like last year when we went down and played Brodhead-Juda. It’s kind of the same of the thing,” Campbellsport coach Bob Hepp said. “Obviously we’re pretty happy. … They wanted to get back to the playoffs and the goal has been not only to get back to the playoffs but win a game.”
Beating third-seeded Wrightstown, though, won’t be an easy task.
The Tigers are making their 19th consecutive WIAA playoff appearance and have three state titles to their credit — in 1998, 2006 and 2011. They come in with a 7-2 overall record, with their losses to playoff qualifiers Roncalli and Kewaunee, and enter the contest on a four-game winning streak.
“They are a well-coached program, obviously. They are strong fundamentally and they don’t beat themselves,” Hepp said. “Watching them on tape, they’re kind of fun to watch from my point of view because they execute so well.
“It will be a tremendous challenge for our kids, but I think it’s one that we’re looking forward to and we’re up to the task this week.”
The Cougars didn’t qualify for the playoffs until the final week of the regular season, beating Kiel on the road, 45-20. That victory may have secured Campbellsport’s playoff spot, but it was a win earlier in the year that should give the Cougars the most confidence heading to Wrightstown.
In Week 6, Campbellsport went on the road and beat another perennial WIAA playoff team in Kewaskum, 22-14 — a win that should give the Cougars confidence for Friday.
“All situations are different, but for us it was a big win,” Hepp said. “It’s been 5 or 6 years since we’ve beaten a top tier team and I think that does help us. They know if the play well, they can beat anybody they play.”
Holding Kewaskum to just 14 points was a big key to that victory, but the Cougars’ defense faces a much stuffer test against Wrightstown. The Tigers enter the game averaging nearly 32 points per contest and sport a quarterback in Dylan Zwick who has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns and four runners — Zwick included — that are averaging at least five yards per carry.
But, in the Tigers’ two losses — which came to two of the three playoff teams on schedule — they have scored just 13 points combined.
“They don’t do anything fancy. They are just very, very good at what they do,” Hepp said. “Defensively, you have to be able stay disciplined with your keys and your fundamentals.”
Offensively, the key for Campbellsport is simple — don’t turn the ball over.
The Cougars, who feature five players with at least 300 yards rushing, had nine turnovers in their three losses combined and it will be difficult to overcome giveaways against a team the caliber of Wrightstown.
“The key for us all year has been, if we hold onto the football, we usually do very well,” Hepp said. “If we don’t have turnovers, we’re usually going to move the ball and score and that’s what we hope happens on Friday.
“When you’re playing a team Wrightstown, they’re going to make adjustments for you so I think you have to be aware of that and have some counters for what they’re going to do. But at the same time, you can’t get so carried away with it that you get away from what got you there. It’s on us on how well play and the things that we do.”