Frost covers the car windows and snow flurries flutter through the air.
The bright side of that forecast is that football playoffs arrive the same time as the inhospitable weather.
This year’s WIAA football playoffs feature several local teams with high aspirations and several area brackets that are stacked with talented teams.
Hudson, Menomonie, Ellsworth, Somerset and Mondovi are teams from local conferences that earned either a one or a two seed in their regional football bracket. It’s realistic for all of them to think they can advance to the third round of the playoffs or further.
Here’s a look at the local playoff possibilities for the teams from our area.
Hudson is the number one seed in the Division 1 bracket and justifiably so. The Raiders seem to make incremental steps to get better every year. The Raiders were unbeaten and largely unchallenged by Wisconsin opponents. The only Wisconsin opponent that finished closer than 18 points from the Raiders was Rice Lake, before the Warriors were decimated by injuries. The Raiders only loss was to Minnetonka in the first week of the season.
The journey to the state semifinals does have some land mines awaiting the Raiders. Appleton North and Bay Port also finished with 8-1 records this season. Both took second in their conference, but they play in top quality conferences. Getting past either one of them won’t be an easy assignment.
Menomonie, despite its 28-10 loss to Hudson, got the second seed in the Division 2 bracket over undefeated Hortonville. Hortonville plays against smaller schools all season and isn’t guaranteed to get through the first round after drawing Superior as an opening opponent.
If Menomonie can win in the first two rounds, it would set up an intriguing battle with undefeated Ashwaubenon, which has torn through its opposition this season.
There are no teams from our area in this bracket.
Our area has traditionally fared very well in the state playoffs and that should be the case again this year. Middle Border Conference powers Ellsworth and Somerset drew the top two seeds in this bracket. Both these teams are trained by coaches who have successfully navigated the state tournament meat grinder successfully before. If these two teams meet up in Level 3, don’t miss this game. It should be a classic.
There are other teams to fear in the bracket. Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau and Black River Falls drew the fourth and fifth seeds. None of the northern schools wanted to face either team. Both are finally healthy and playing extremely well.
There are two Division 5 brackets which include area teams. In the northern of the brackets, Stanley-Boyd, Bloomer and Chetek-Weyerhaeuser are three potent teams that all have legitimate hopes of going deep into the playoffs. They could do it too. Stanley-Boyd is undefeated. Bloomer’s only loss is to Somerset. Chetek’s only setback was a 7-6 loss to Bloomer.
The Division 5 bracket to the south might be the most top-loaded bracket in the state. It includes two unbeaten teams (Arcadia and Mondovi) and four teams that are 8-1 (Amherst, Stratford, Marathon and Colby). A very solid Durand team is the eighth seed in this bracket. If Durand had gone into the northern bracket, the Panthers likely would have been the fourth seed.
Spring Valley and Colfax are the only area teams in this bracket and they will have to pull off major upsets to get through the opening round of the tournament. Spring Valley is the seventh seed, drawing a high-powered Hurley team. Colfax’s reward for getting into the playoffs is facing Edgar, which has a long tradition of playoff success.
The area Division 7 bracket is another one that’s top heavy with successful teams. Undefeated Pepin-Alma gets the top seed, which is an accomplishment, considering defending state champion Glenwood City is the second seed. Owen-Withee, another team that always seems to make a run at state, is the third seed after finishing 8-1.