Roncalli head coach Ray Baranczyk is unlikely to admit it, but the game between his Jets and Kewaunee has probably been circled on the calendars of players and coaches alike for a few weeks now.
To its credit, Roncalli has maintained its focus throughout the course of the season. But, at a certain point, it becomes impossible to realize that you are on a crash course with another undefeated team with the Olympian-Packerland Large Conference title on the line.
After sizing one another up from afar, these two contenders get to step into the ring.
While each school qualified for the playoffs weeks ago, on the line this evening in the heart of Manitowoc is the chance for regular season perfection.
Both the Jets and the Storm enter the ballgame a spotless 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the O-P Large. Winner captures the league championship. It’s as simple as that.
“This is the biggest game for us for the season as well as for Kewaunee,” Baranczyk said. “This is the biggest game our kids have played in in a number of years since we’re playing for the conference championship.”
It takes an incredible amount of effort to carry an unblemished record into mid-October. Few people get to witness the time spent at practice, the hours in the weight room both in and out of season, the dedication of coaches and players alike who pick apart film after film of opposing teams.
What people will get the chance to see, however, is a 48-minute showdown between two of the state’s elite. Roncalli enters the contest as the No. 5 team in the medium schools division of the Associated Press state poll and No. 3 in Division 5 of the Wissports.net coaches poll. The Storm are receiving votes in the small school portion of the AP poll and are No. 5 in D5 according to WisSports.
“We have about six videos on Kewaunee, whether its through sharing videos or through our own personal scouts. In fact, I went to scout them the week of our Saturday afternoon game,” Baranczyk said.
“Kewaunee is probably one of the most complete football teams I have seen in a long time. They run the ball well and throw the ball well. They have good size. They have good speed and some terrific skills players and they play hard-nosed defense.”
It seems only fitting that fate has allowed these two teams to have the spotlight all to themselves for a rare Thursday night affair.
Though it is unfair to go back too far in the history books, recent years have established these two in some pretty clear-cut roles in this prize fight of sorts.
Kewaunee is the wily veteran looking to cap its return to prominence. Historically, they are a program that has been there and done that with 13 playoff appearances in the last 16 seasons to go along with at least a share of six conference titles in the last 10 seasons.
Though the Storm have not been knocked down often, last year was a disappointing one. They finished 3-5 overall and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
This year, they have proven they know how to answer the bell when things don’t go to plan.
Roncalli, on the other hand, is the lively challenger, looking for its first conference title since 1989 and eager to prove that last year’s 34-30 win over the Storm, wasn’t a fluke.
Baranczyk believes his team is prepared for the regular season finale.
“It’s going to be an interesting game. It’s a great way to finish the season. We are really looking forward to this game.,” Baranczyk said. “We’re focused. We’re ready.”
Perhaps the most beautiful part of this showdown is the fact that there is no reason to mentally toy with hypotheticals.
Rarely in prep sports is a matchup like this presented. When both sides walk off the field, no further guessing will be needed. One team will leave undefeated and a conference champion. The other will have a better idea what needs to be shored up before next week’s playoff opener
It will all be settled between the lines tonight at Municipal Field.
(Week 8 results)
1. Roncalli (8-0) — def. Southern Door 42-24
2. Two Rivers (7-1) — def. Kewaskum 35-14
3. Man. Lincoln (5-3) — def. Green Bay West 56-18
4. Man. Lutheran (5-3) — def. St. Mary Central 54-14