Going into the final week of the regular season, just about all business has been settled for Racine County high school football teams.
Five of the nine county teams are going to the playoffs with Horlick, St. Catherine’s, Racine Lutheran, Burlington and Waterford having earned berths.
What remains to be answered this weekend are two questions. Will Waterford earn a share of its sixth Southern Lakes Conference championship in seven years? Union Grove would have to deliver its marquee performance of the season and upset Lake Geneva Badger for the door to be opened for Waterford, which trails Badger by one game.
The other question is whether Case will finish with its first winning record in 24 seasons. The Eagles will finish 5-4 if it can defeat Kenosha Bradford Friday night at Hammes Field – no small task considering Bradford gave state-ranked Horlick its biggest test this season – but Case is confident.
“It would be our legacy,” senior tight end-linebacker Tervell Jackson said. “We want to leave our mark here. We want to make this team something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”
But even if that doesn’t happen, the Eagles are clearly making big strides under third-year coach Bryan Shredl. After going 1-8 and 2-7 his first two seasons, Shredl has produced a team that feature’s the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 20 years (Jaylon Edmonson) and the top-ranked defense statistically among the nine county teams.
The Eagles allow an average of 208.5 yards per game. In 2015, Shredl’s first season as head coach, Case’s defense ranked last in the county with an average of 327.7 yards allowed per game.
What’s more, seven starters return to that defense next season, including linebackers Tay’Zharion Willis and Chris Fish, lineman Jezreel Grays and cornerback JayVian Farr.
“They stepped up their football program out there,” Horlick running back Joe Garcia said. “Their defense is solid. The only thing that comes to mind for me is they have to play four quarters. After halftime, I feel they don’t have the same energy as when they started the game. It’s all about playing four quarters.”
Friday’s game will be streamed live by www.gatewaysportsweb.org
A kid with courage
Given Horlick’s ability to score touchdowns in bunches, kicker Jack Sides is understandably one of the Rebels’ most overlooked players. The senior is rarely needed to attempt a field goal, but has responded when called upon.
Sides, who doubles as a defender on Horlick’s soccer team, has converted three of six field-goal attempts since his sophomore season. His most clutch kick came this season, when his 20-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining was the difference in the Rebels’ 24-21 victory over Kenosha Bradford.
He has also converted 80 of 91 extra-point attempts at Horlick in his three seasons.
While putting up these impressive numbers, Sides has been managing Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with midway through his sophomore season in 2015. Sides initially lost 23 pounds and battled extreme fatigue.
“I was diagnosed the Friday morning of our homecoming football game at Children’s Hospital,” Sides said. “My doctors wanted me to not play for a couple of weeks, but when I explained my role as a kicker, they allowed me to stay with football if a took a week off from soccer.”
The disease remains a challenge for Sides, but he has done his part for the Rebels, who are 8-0 and moved into the top 10 among large schools in this week’s Associated Press state poll.
“I have low and high blood sugars weekly and, during the game, we monitor closely my levels and adjust if needed,” Sides said. “I have taken 100 percent control of this disease and have not let it get the best of me.”
Off to the races
For the second straight season, St. Catherine’s will rent Union Grove’s football stadium for each of its home playoff games.The move 15 miles to the southwest will enable St. Catherine’s fleet players to maximize their speed on Union Grove’s artificial turf rather than potentially slog around on Horlick Field’s battered turf.
It sure worked last season. In the Angels’ only playoff game at Union Grove, quarterback Da’Shaun Brown ran and passed for 303 yards and five touchdowns in their 47-16 victory over Brookfield Academy.
How does Brown, coming off a Racine County record 402 rushing yards and six touchdowns last Saturday against Kenosha St. Joseph, feel about a return to Union Grove’s fast surface?
“It’s so much better,” Brown said. “My wide receivers are faster, it makes me faster, my running backs are faster, my line gets to dig into the trenches and just push, push, push and it just makes us all play better.
“Last year in the playoffs, it was a great place to play football.”
St. Catherine’s will take this weekend off after Catholic Central, its scheduled opponent at Horlick Field, forfeited the final three games of the regular season. St. Catherine’s athletic director Mike Arendt said the Angels will likely open in the playoffs Friday, Oct. 20 at Union Grove.
A wise decision
Union Grove wide receiver Jack Pettit admittedly has a preference for basketball – his father, Dave, is the school’s head coach in that sport – and had all but decided not to play football as a sophomore in 2015.
But then fate intervened.
“I didn’t want to play before the season started,” he said. “But then our wide receivers coach (Sam D’Alie) told me I would regret it. I toughed it out my sophomore year and ended up liking it a lot more my junior and senior years.”
He sure has. Going into his final high school football game Friday, Pettit leads the county is receiving with 39 receptions for 506 yards and five touchdowns. In the last two seasons, he has 64 receptions for 858 yards and nine touchdowns.
“I’m glad he talked me into it,” Pettit said. “I think I would have regretted not playing.”
This week’s honors
Team: Horlick did just about everything right in defeating Franklin 21-7 for its first victory over the Sabers since 2008. Joe Garcia ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns, Sawyer Schick threw a clutch scoring pass on fourth and 17 just before halftime and the Rebels held a powerful Franklin offense to 202 yards and forced two turnovers.
Offense: St. Catherine’s junior quarterback Da’Shaun Brown produced the greatest rushing performance in Racine County history. Playing less than three quarters, Brown rushed for 402 yards yards and six touchdowns in a 55-7 victory over Kenosha St. Joseph. Brown broke the previous record of 376 yards set by Waterford’s Bobby Sossaman against St. Catherine’s in 1999.
Defense: Racine Lutheran senior Thomas Moore, a first-team All-Metro Classic Conference player last season, has been a fixture at middle linebacker because of his run-stopping ability. But when Lutheran coach Scott Smith switched him to outside linebacker, Moore set a school record with four sacks in the Crusaders’ 67-14 victory over Whitefish Bay Dominican. Moore broke the previous school record of three set by Mark Ziolkowski in 1974.
Special teams: Burlington needed every point it could manage against Wilmot in its pursuit of securing its first postseason berth since 2014. And sophomore kicker Cora Anderson was on top of her game, connecting on a 30-yard field goal – the first of her career – and converting two extra points in a 17-6 victory.
Horlick moved into the top 10 among large schools in the Associated Press state poll for the first time this season following its victory over second-ranked Franklin. The Rebels are No. 6. St. Catherine’s moved from No. 5 to No. 4 among medium enrollment schools after defeating Kenosha St. Joseph 55-7.