High school football season kicks off Friday night
Think the high school football season seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year?
Wait until 2017.
The majority of schools in the state already play two regular-season games before school officially starts. That's the case again in 2015.
In 2017, with July 30 serving as the first day of football practice, three games will be played before kids go back to school.
The reason is simple. In 2005, the state legislature passed a law prohibiting public schools from opening any earlier than Sept. 1. Wisconsin is one of only three states (Iowa and North Carolina) with this mandate.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) never adapted to this schedule.
The WIAA wants all football activites completed the week before deer hunting starts. Football overlapping with deer hunting is not up for discussion with the WIAA.
“There's all this talk about concussions playing a big part in numbers being down at some schools, but I think the early starting date plays a much bigger role,” longtime Edgerton coach Mike Gregory said. “Kids just don't want to give up a month of their summer vacation to play football.
“If we extended the season by a week or two, that would solve a big part of the problem, but the WIAA won't touch it because of deer hunting. That's sacred ground to them.”
So, like it or not, the 2015 kicks off in earnest Friday night.
Here's a look at three of Friday's area games:
n Middleton (0-0) at Janesville Parker (0-0), Big Eight, 7 p.m., Monterey Stadium—The Clayton Kreger era begins at Parker with a vistit from the defending Big Eight champions.
Middleton ended Sun Prairie's two-year reign as conference champion by going 8-1 a year ago. The Cardinals, led by running back Cam Maly, averaged 33 points a game. Maly returns after rushing for 1,143 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2014, earning him all-Big Eight first-team honors.
“They've got 82 kids on the roster with a lot of big kids with good size,” Kreger said of the Cardinals. “It's going to be a very physical game, but we think our kids are ready for the challenge.”
Parker is coming off a 3-6 season that included an impressive win in the season-finale over playoff-bound Madison West.
Kreger knows his program, which has won only seven games in the last three years, is not going to be rebuilt overnight. But he's confident the Vikings will get back to their winning ways and eventually back into the postseason mix.
“There's a lot of excitement in our program, and we think that's a great sign of things to come,” Kreger said. “We want to get back to where our stands are full for every game like they were a few years ago.
“Right now, we're taking it one day at a time and one game at a time. The only thing this team is thinking about is Middleton. That's a big challenge for our football team.”
n Best guess: Middleton 27, Parker 20.
n Janesville Craig (0-0) at Beloit Memorial (0-0), Big Eight, 7 p.m., Beloit Memorial High School—The Cougars look to extend the Purple Knights' losing streak to 13 games. Beloit hasn't won since Week 6 of the 2013 season when it held off Madison East, 50-43.
Beloit finished 0-9 last season and allowed 54 points per game, but Craig coach Ben McCormick expects an improved opponent.
“I got a chance to watch Beloit scrimmage, and I thought they did some good things,” McCormick said. “I was impressed with a couple of schemes they ran offensively.”
McCormick said the Cougars struggled in their scrimmage with Milton, Waterford and Lake Geneva Badger.
“We made a lot of mistakes and missed a lot of assignments, but the majority of those are correctable mistakes,” he said. “What we can't do Friday night is put the ball on the ground. We have to protect the football and eliminate the mental mistakes.”
Craig must replace all 22 starters from last year's playoff team, but it has not lost to Beloit since a 12-6 setback in 2009.
n Best guess: Craig 34, Beloit 26.
n East Troy (0-0, 0-0) at Delavan-Darien (0-0, 0-0), nonconference, 7 p.m., Delavan-Darien High School—The high-flying Comets are a consensus pick to finish in the upper half of the Southern Lakes and qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2011.
The Trojans were 2-7 a year ago and have not made the playoffs since 2012.
Delavan-Darien has put up 118 points on East Troy in the last two meetings, including 70 two years ago.
“I think it's very important to come out and have a good showing because that can often times dictate how the rest of the season goes,” Delavan-Darien coach Bret St. Arnauld said. “We know East Troy's numbers are down a little bit, but they've had a good program for a number of years.”
Delavan-Darien must replace all-Southern Lakes quarterback Jesse Collins, but St. Arnauld believes he has a very competent replacement in Jake Benzing. The junior is one of the top all-around athletes in the area and should keep the high-powered offense rolling.
“An athlete like Jake doesn't come around very often,” St. Arnauld said. “And I don't just mean at a school like Delavan-Darien. I mean at any school. He's just a tremendously gifted talent.
“And because of his ability to run the ball with his speed, I think that's really going to open up our passing game.”
n Best guess: Delavan-Darien 42, East Troy 21.
(7 p.m. starting times)
Madison East at Madison Memorial
Janesville Craig at Beloit Memorial
Sun Prairie at Madison La Follette
Middleton at Janesville Parker
Madison West at Verona
Fort Atkinson at DeForest
Milton at Baraboo
Edgewood at Waunakee
Monroe at Portage
Monona Grove at Mount Horeb/Barneveld
Oregon at Sauk Prairie
Kenosha Bradford at Wilmot
Big Foot at Westosha Central
Burlington at Racine Case
Kenosha Tremper at Lake Geneva Badger
Waterford at West Allis Nathan Hale
Waukesha North at Elkhorn
Milwaukee Madison at Union Grove
East Troy at Delavan-Darien
Whitewater at Catholic Central
Watertown Luther Prep at Jefferson
Brodhead at River Valley
Martin Luther at Palmyra-Eagle
Beloit Turner at University School of Milwaukee
Edgerton at New Glarus/Monticello
McFarland at Lodi
Dodgeville at Evansville
Wisconsin Heights at Orfordville Parkview
Clinton at Cambridge