By RICK SOLEM
MADISON – It hasn’t been a very interesting ride to the state title game for the Pepin/Alma football team.
The undefeated Eagles (13-0) have outscored their four playoff opponents 173-39.
Last on the list, Owen-Withee (12-1), for the WIAA Division 7 state title, which takes place at 10 a.m. today at Camp Randall.
To win, P/A just needs to stop the run – namely, Bryce Niemi and his 2,023 yards, 27 touchdowns. Perhaps, easier said than done, but that’s what they’ve been doing all along.
Potosi had a pair of 1,000-yard backs and a quarterback that was a solid threat. All the Eagles did was blow the game out 36-6.
Bangor was a run-dominant team that had given up just 15 points in the first half all season. P/A was up 20-0 in the first quarter and won 42-13.
Hillsboro now looks like it was P/A’s biggest threat, having lost just 47-20 – just? – but the Eagles were up 41-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
Once the final four teams were left in the D7 bracket, P/A was the highest-ranked team at No. 12. Potosi and Owen-Withee were both tied for 17th with one vote. P/A had eight votes.
Looking back on the run to get to state, one thing jumps out with the Eagles jumping out on Bangor so quickly. That’s been their forte all season, getting off to a fast start.
P/A has outscored its opponents 173 to 32 in the first quarter this season. Actually, it’s dominated pretty much the first three quarters, but they’ve scored more in the first quarter than points they’ve given up all season.
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are not quick to off the gun. They’ve outscored opponents 77-41 in the first quarter. They’ve been better in the second (161-42), but whoever sets the tone early may come out the winner in this one.
To stop O-W, the Ealges need just focus on the two backs between the 20s. Niemi and all his yards is a grind it back at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds in the Wing-T offense. He has just a 5.9-yard average. His counterpart, Austin Milliren, all 5-7, 160 pounds of him, counters with 1,282 yards (6.0 avg.) and 13 TDs.
Quarterback Josiah Goerlitz isn’t going to throw much – and if he does, it’s over. He’s completed just 22 of 40 passes for 265 yards this season with 2 TDs and 1 interception. He does, however, have 12 rushing touchdowns on the season (322 yards, 4.4 avg.). He will be a threat if O-W gets around the goal line.
P/A counters with a pair of dominant backs, itself, led by Trevor Heit and his 1,336 yards (8.7 avg.), 25 TDs. Lance Johnson compliments him with 1,162 yards (6.7 avg.) and 14 scores this season.
The Eagles can soar, too, if needed. Quarterback Sam Mueller has completed 61.4 percent of his passes (70-114) for 1,592 yards with 16 TDs and 7 INTs.
While the Eagles will just have to worry about two running backs and the misdirection of the Wing-T, Owen-Withee will have to contend with the pass just as much as the run.