Football playoffs, state cross country highlight week

Runners from our area produced outstanding results at the WIAA State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, while several teams from our area are prepping for Level 3 games in the WIAA State Football Playoffs this weekend.
Congratulations to the Spring Valley girls cross country team for winning the WIAA Division 3 state championship. Western Wisconsin produced the top two runners in this division, with Ladysmith’s Andrea Ostenso winning the championship and Spring Valley senior Breanna Colbenson placing second for the second straight year.
Watching Colbenson’s progression through her four years of high school running has been a treat. She had an average build as a freshman. Each year she has gotten stronger and more refined in her physique and running style. She is an absolute machine now, running with such power and focus. Spring Valley did a wondrous job of seeing the opportunity to build a team around Colbenson and turning their program into one of the best in the state. Their girls improved so markedly in the past two seasons that it was a complete team effort that earned Spring Valley this championship. Spring Valley won the Division 3 championship by two points over Darlington, so developing depth in the varsity lineup was what carried the Cards to the state title.
Another championship from this area was produced by Hudson’s Ryan Kromer in the Division 1 boys state race. Kromer has been a standout in the area. His time of 15:27 was the best in any of the three boys state races. Kromer is one of the few runners who has placed in the top 20 in Division 1 during all four years of their high school career and he’s gotten better each year. He placed 20th as a freshman, 15th as a sophomore and fourth as a junior. Kromer has become an excellent tactical runner who knows how to handle the pressure of running in big races like this.

There are several big playoff games involving area teams this weekend in the state football playoff quarterfinals.
Somerset and St. Croix Central meet again in the Division 4 playoffs, with a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at Somerset’s Seibel Field. The Spartans and Panthers also met in Level 3 last year, when Central was the top seed in the bracket. Somerset completely shut down Central last year, 36-0, as part of the Spartans’ march to the state championship game.
Central is looking for redemption after last season’s blowout. That is good in theory, but the Panthers must prove they can stop Somerset’s running game better than last year. If Central’s had a weakness this season, it has been stopping opponents who possessed powerful running attacks.
Somerset’s defense will face a challenge too, facing the polished passing game possessed by the Panthers. Quarterback Carl Moll is more refined than a year ago and he’s got more skilled receivers, led by Cody Nyhagen, Dante Carlson and Tyler Lathe. Central’s passing game relied more on big plays a year ago. Now the passing attack has a better variety of short and mid-range passes.
One of the local teams will advance to the state semifinals, hoping to earn a place in the Division 4 state championship that will be played at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Another game on Saturday features a clash of undefeated teams as Hudson and Appleton North tangle at Goerke Field in Stevens Point at 1 p.m. Both teams are 10-0 for the season.
Hudson is coming off a 46-14 thrashing of Bay Port. Appleton had a much tougher time in Level 2, squeezing past Stevens Point 17-14.
Hudson has an exceptionally balanced team, led by running back Dan Loughney and quarterback Mike Hommes. Hudson’s line play has been a strength all season, helping the Raiders average 38 points per game against a challenging schedule. Hudson’s defense has surrendered 89 points in 10 games.
Appleton barely escaped a Stevens Point team that was without its starting quarterback. Appleton had to lean heavily on its defense to produce the win.
Another meeting involving two undefeated teams comes in Division 5, where Middle Border Conference champion Durand faces top-ranked Lancaster.
Durand has been outstanding this season, led by Jake Weber and a massive group of linemen. Weber is the main ball carrier in Durand’s deceptive offense.
Lancaster hasn’t beaten their opponents this season, they’ve brutalized them. The Arrows have outscored their opponents by an average of 45-6 this season. You won’t see any Lancaster player with huge statistics, because their starters are out of the games by halftime in many games. Lancaster averages 8.1 yards per rushing play this season. That will be the ultimate test for Durand’s defense.
Durand isn’t the only Middle Border Conference team still active in the playoffs. Prescott is coming off its second straight upset against a conference champion in the playoffs. First the Cardinals stunned Heart O’North Conference champion Cumberland 31-0. Last week, Prescott took it to Dunn-St. Croix Conference champion Elk Mound 34-15. Prescott may have finished fourth in the MBC, but facing that strong schedule has toughened the Cardinals for the playoffs.
Prescott faces defending state champion Colby this Saturday, playing at 1 p.m. in Colby. Colby is 8-2, but had to rebuild much of its team following a large graduation class. Prescott will need another huge game from standout lineman Nick Jacobsen and senior scatback Sam Smith.
Three Dunn-St. Croix teams are still alive in the playoffs. Central is joined in the playoffs by Boyceville and Glenwood City. Boyceville has been one of the biggest surprises in the playoffs, reaching Level 3 as a seventh seed. The Bulldogs pulled off a stunner last week, shutting down a powerful Athens team 18-0. Boyceville will need an even bigger effort in their game against Eau Claire Regis, which will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday at Eau Claire’s Carson Park. Regis has been scoring an obscene number of points in the playoffs, but don’t count out Boyceville. Boyceville’s defense has posted three straight shutouts. With a potent running attack led by Will Kraft and Zach Klassen, the Bulldogs are a team that can control the clock.
Glenwood City has been shredding the opposition in Division 7. The Hilltoppers are the fourth seed in their bracket, but they have scored 100 points in wins over Turtle Lake and top-seeded Clayton. Glenwood City plays at third seed Pepin-Alma at 2 p.m. on Saturday, looking for its third straight upset.
The Hilltoppers have an excellent group of linemen. Between running backs Isaac Tuttle, Jeff Kopacz and Adam Holmquist, along with quarterback Nick Mrdutt, the Hilltoppers have a formidable group of playmakers.
Pepin-Alma is coming off a 28-13 upset of second seed Frederic.