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Medford gets a rematch, Gilman expects a battle and Hawks finish with short trip

Medford gets a rematch, Gilman expects a battle and Hawks finish with short trip Medford gets a rematch, Gilman expects a battle and Hawks finish with short trip


After being handed a bit of a wake-up call by the Rice Lake Warriors just two weeks ago, the Medford Raiders will get the chance to do better Friday when the teams meet again in round one of the WIAA’s modified 2020 playoffs.

After clinching a second straight undefeated season in the Great Northern Conference with a 24-7 win at Rhinelander, Medford drew the one-seed in its four-team Division 2 regional grouping and will host the fourth-seeded Warriors at 7 p.m. Friday at Raider Field for a chance to play in the Nov. 19 regional final against either second-seeded New Richmond or third-seeded Ashland.

Rice Lake is not your typical bottom seed as the Raiders well know. But that’s where the WIAA’s new computer-driven seeding process put the Warriors, based largely on their 2-5 overall record.

The Warriors lost five closely-contested games in the Big Rivers Conference before beating Medford 27-6 on Oct. 30 and then rallying from a 16-7 fourthquarter deficit and beating Wausau West 26-23 Friday on a last-second 22-yard field goal by Cole Fenske.

Having played each other at least once since 2009, there are few secrets between the teams. Wilson said winning this week’s matchup comes down to simply playing better than the Raiders did two weeks ago.

“That’s what we’re going to try to do,” he said. “It’s about execution.”

Some of the players said a back-to-thebasics approach in practice last week certainly paid dividends in the win at Rhinelander, where Medford surely and steadily gained control of the line of scrimmage and pulled away from the undefeated Hodags. “That was that whole feet, feet, feet thing and staying low,” senior offensive and defensive lineman Joe Gierl said.

“That’s the important part about football is you have to concentrate on pad level, stepping with the correct foot, moving your feet and, on defense, the same kind of thing, pad level when you go to tackle, break down, so on and so forth,” Wilson said. “Those are the things we always are trying to concentrate on. Sometimes you lose that in translation when you win most of the time. Kids can get a little lazy and forget how important those things are. Having a close game or a game where you don’t necessarily play the best can be good. It can help you move forward on concentrating on controlling the things you can control instead of big picture things. You have to worry about little things.”

Medford comes into the game 6-1 in games settled on the field. Officially, the Raiders got a forfeit over Lakeland for the week of the Rice Lake game. The Raiders typically play Rice Lake in week one. Cancellations for both teams allowed them to put together the Oct. 30 meeting a week before it was played.

In that game, Medford jumped ahead 6-0 at halftime, but the game swung in the third quarter on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Fenske to Rice Lake’s top receiver Alex Belognia in a third-and-long situation and a roughing the punter penalty that extended a drive that led to the Warriors taking the lead in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.

“They’re a good program,” Wilson said. “They’re very well coached. Obviously we didn’t play well in the fourth quarter. But we were in that game for three quarters, actually most of the fourth quarter too only being down one score. Then it got away from us a little bit. They’re going to be well-coached and well-prepared. They come off the ball, they’re physical. They’re tough. We’ll Week 8

look at the film and see what we can try to improve upon and try to put our best foot forward here at home.”

Gilman vs. Belmont

The Gilman Pirates opted out of the WIAA’s eight-man football playoff plan to assure they would get a shot at fellow unbeaten Belmont in what some are viewing as the unofficial “state championship,” though Gilman is having none of that talk.

“The Newmans and the Greenwoods of the world would need to be in that mix if we’re talking stuff like that,” Gilman head coach Robin Rosemeyer.

Regardless, this is the challenging matchup both teams have been craving all fall. They will play Friday at 6 p.m. at the Woodside Sports Complex just outside of Mauston.

Gilman improved to 7-0 Thursday with a 53-14 win at McDonell Central. It was their first first-half test of the season as the first quarter ended with the Pirates leading 16-14. But Gilman got some key defensive stops and the offense just kept rolling as it has all year.

Belmont was a state semifinalist in last year’s WIAA eight-player tournament, losing 49-16 to eventual runner-up Newman Catholic. The Braves beat defending state champion Luck 60-6 on Friday. Luck has been without their all-star quarterback Wyatt Jensen since Oct. 16.

Belmont (6-0) pushed forward this fall while many of its area rivals went to the spring football option. The Braves have two lopsided wins over Saint Mary Catholic- Valley Christian and Williams Bay to their credit as well as a 36-0 win over Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah.

They are led by 6-2, 220-pound senior Riley Christensen, who had 1,025 yards in six games and is averaging 13.7 yards per carry. He’s also completed 29 of 43 passes for 442 yards and nine touchdowns. The Braves’ defense has allowed 119 yards per game.

“He’s the quarterback in their shotgun,” Rosemeyer said. “He’s going to have the ball in his hands on every play. He’s fast, he’s 6-2, 220 plus he’s got some speed. They’ll run a little option stuff and they’ll run some set stuff too where he’ll get it and try to go up the middle of the field or go wide depending on what they want to do. The option is something we haven’t seen a lot this year, so we’ll need to be assignment sure on that. He’s a good enough passer. They do a lot of stuff to get guys open in space with their spread offense.”

While the Pirates will see a variety of formations, motions and fakes, Rosemeyer said the key will be to keep the defensive assignments as simple as possible.

“Leverage is the big word this week,” he said. “We can’t let (Christensen) get outside of us. It seems like he’s more of an outside runner than an inside runner. He’s capable of doing both. That’s how he gets his home runs by beating people to the outside.”

Hawks at Athens

Rib Lake-Prentice opted out of the WIAA’s regional playoffs and scheduled its own game at neighboring Athens Friday. Kick off is at 7 p.m.

The Blue Jays’ season has been marked by constant juggling of games due to COVID-related cancellations. They have managed to play five times and have a 3-2 record with wins over Thorp (56-8), Stevens Point Pacelli (44-35) and, this past Friday, Westby (46-28). Edgar (37-8) and Abbotsford (28-22) have beaten them.

Junior quarterback Cooper Diedrich is one of the Marawood Conference’s top athletes and is certainly a focus for the Hawks. He’s rushed for 453 yards and six touchdowns in five games and thrown for 249 more yards and three scores. Seniors Dayne Diethelm and Jake Denzine are also experienced backs capable of doing some damage. Diethelm was a first-team All-Cloverwood Conference pick offensively and defensively last year.

The Hawks expect to put together an improved showing over their 47-6 loss to Athens in last year’s season opener. Diethelm ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns in that game.

Rib Lake-Prentice is 1-3 on the field this fall having played three competitive Lakeland Conference games before getting blown out 54-0 Friday by undefeated Spring Valley.

Rib Lake-Prentice’s Ty Annala (67), Bud Schreiner (70) and others bring Spring Valley ball carrier Nathan Fesenmeier to the ground, holding him to a short 3-yard gain during the second quarter of Friday’s 54-0 loss in Prentice.BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWSContinued from page 4