KIEL – Mike Dressler isn’t about to sugarcoat things for his players.
The Kiel varsity coach isn’t going to invent weaknesses in top-seeded Freedom as the Raiders prepare to face the Irish in a WIAA Division 4 Level 2 playoff game in Kaukauna on Friday night. He’s not going to downplay what the Irish have done this year nor inflate his team’s accomplishments to gain some kind of edge.
Nope, Dressler is going to stick to the truth. And the truth is, Freedom is a very, very good team.
“We know how good they are. We have a smart group of kids and they know exactly what we are up against,” Dressler said earlier this week. “Half of the battle is making sure the kids believe what you are telling them and our kids do believe with what we are telling them and we are always honest with them. Sometimes they don’t like to hear the the things we are saying, but we are telling them the honest truth.”
Just how good is Freedom?
Well, the Irish come in with a perfect 10-0 record and spent much of the season ranked in Division 3 in the WFCA polls.
Freedom, the largest school in the Division 4 bracket, is averaging about 40 points per game, while outscoring its last two opponents by a combined 99-15 margin. The defense has shut out three opponents, allowed more than 20 points just once and surrendered a combined 18 points in their past four games.
Isaac Gonnering has rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the Freedom offense, while quarterback Charles Jadin has thrown for 1,548 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The defense has forced 15 turnovers in 10 games, including three interceptions and a fumble recovery from Andy VanStralen.
That’s what the fourth-seeded Raiders are going to try to knock off.
“We have a great deal of respect for them, but they are another team for us and we have to figure out a way to beat them,” Dressler said. “We have to play a very clean game and we have to try to create some opportunities for ourselves.”
Kiel comes in off a hard-earned 19-7 win over another North Eastern Conference school, Little Chute, in which quarterback Nick Walsh threw for a pair of touchdowns and Carter Voelker returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Despite facing a powerhouse like Freedom, don’t expect the Raiders to change a lot from what they have done all year – an approach that has earned Kiel a 9-1 overall mark and just the second WIAA playoff win in program history.
“We’re going to go to the dance with what got us there,” Dressler said. “It’s a great opportunity but at the same time it’s a phenomenal challenge.”
This is the second straight season the Raiders and Irish will collide in the postseason, with Freedom handing Kiel a 35-7 loss in a Level 1 game a year ago. That was part of Freedom’s current streak of five straight home playoff wins in which they have outscored their opponents 188-22.
It also gave the Raiders a chance to see the Irish up close, something Dressler uses as an example for his program.
“We were like, ‘That’s what we want to be like. That’s what a Division 4 state semifinalist, finalist looks like,” Dressler said. “There is only way to you can get it and that’s by working hard and keeping your nose to the grindstone.”
Around Division 4
All four No. 1 seeds in Division 4 posted easy wins in Level 1, but none of the four brackets stayed true to the seedings.
In the other half of Kiel’s bracket, No. 7 Fox Valley Lutheran stunned Sheboygan Falls and is the highest remaining seed in all of Division 4, while sixth-seeded Tomahawk blanked Black River Falls to make it to Level 2 in its bracket.
The remaining two brackets both had No. 5 seeds – and former state champions – advance with wins in Winneconne and Big Foot.
The difference between getting a No. 1 and No. 2 seed seems like it would be minimal, but last week’s Level 1 slate showed there is something to being put at the top of the bracket.
All 28 No. 1 seeds – there are four in each of the seven playoff divisions – posted wins last week and advanced to Level 2, while the No. 2 seeds went a combined 21-7. Each division lost at least one No. 2 seed, except for Division 7 where all four advanced.
The No. 3 seeds actually had the second best record in Level 1, finishing 22-6, while No. 4 seeds went just 16-12.
Steve Clark: email@example.com or follow on Twitter at @skcreno27