If recent history is any indication, Sheboygan South’s football team will carry most of the on-paper momentum into tonight’s regular season finale against visiting cross-town rival Sheboygan North.
North coach Karl Nienhuis knows the rivalry’s history, though, and isn’t too intimidated by it. If the past tells him anything, it’s that tonight’s game — which kicks off at 7 p.m. — will likely be an up-for-grabs free-for-all that could come down to the last minute.
“When you think about rivalries and throwing out the records, that goes for North-South games, too,” Nienhuis said.
Recent North-South games have typically tilted the Redwings’ way. Since 2002 South has won all but two games against North.
But while that winning percentage favors South, there’s a silver lining Nienhuis is looking to bank upon: More than half of the rivalry games since ’02 have been decided by seven points or fewer. No matter South’s win streak in the series, Nienhuis knows tonight’s fortunes can turn on a dime.
If Nienhuis knows the history of the two schools’ rivalry and isn’t intimidated by it, his counterpart at South, Chris Hein, isn’t making room for any laurel-resting in the Redwings’ locker room.
“I hope it gives us some confidence going into the game,” Hein said of his team’s recent spate of success in the rivalry. But, he noted, “We certainly have to guard against being overconfident.”
South has largely anchored its offense on running back Boris Ristivojevic, who’s rushed for four touchdowns and 643 yards to help lead the Redwings’ stout ground attack. Andrew Wildman has complemented the team’s rushing leader with 171 yards and four rushing TDs of his own.
“We’ve become more of a rushing team this year, and our offensive line and Boris have been a huge part of that,” Hein said.
South quarterback Robert Hoffmann, meanwhile, has added six passing TDs and thrown for more than 800 yards through eight games. Mitchell Martinez leads the team in receiving yards with 327.
North, for its part, has become a force through the air. Quarterback Jacob Schmidt’s 2,136 passing yards leads the Fox River Classic Conference. He’s found a notable complement in receiver Noah Stengel, who’s racked up a conference-leading 1,063 receiving yards and secured a nomination for the Al Toon Award, given each year to the state’s top senior wide receiver or tight end.
Teammates Weston Nelson, who’s caught 32 passes for 518 yards and seven touchdowns, and Matt Theobald and Truman Schiebel have also emerged as go-to receivers, Nienhuis said.
“We feel like we’ve got four guys we can throw to,” Nienhuis said. “Most of our plays have come passing, so we’re hoping we can continue that.”
“We certainly expect a close game,” Hein said. “I think back to 2004, when we had the best team we’ve had at South since 1962 — we were 11-1 that season and we beat North in overtime. … I’ve reminded our kids of that this week, that you can throw the records out and the past doesn’t really matter.”