Phantoms and Warriors clash for a trip to Madison
BY MURRAY GLEFFE
WESTON – The West De Pere and Rice Lake football teams will square off Nov. 9 at D.C. Everest High School in a WIAA Level 4 playoff game for the right to play in the Division 3 state championship game in Madison, Friday, Nov. 16, at 10:00 a.m.
The Phantoms (12-0) ground out just 190 yards of offense in a 17-3 Level 3 victory over Notre Dame. The 17 points were the lowest offensive output since Sept. 7.
Sam Mommaerts will continue to get a majority of the carries in the backfield, with Cody Cavil and Kaden Kosobucki also shouldering the load.
Quarterback Josh Blount only completed four passes in the quarterfinal win over the Tritons but had an 80-percent accuracy rating.
Garrett Kempen and Aaron Wagner will be important assets at the split end positions, and Billy Wyatt at tight end.
Defensively, Cavil, Jake Karchinski, Dylan Danforth, Evan Frisque and Alex Spitzer will be a load up front for opposing teams but could be tested against the high-octane Rice Lake offense.
Special teams and penalties were a strength of the Phantoms throughout the year, but in the victory over Notre Dame, West De Pere committed 10 penalties for 88 yards.
“We have to continue to play smart on both sides of the ball,” said West De Pere head coach Jack Batten. “It was a very uncharacteristic game for our team. We have to be very disciplined against Rice Lake and walk away from situations.”
Rice Lake (10-2) defeated Sparta 42-31 in its Level 3 contest.
The Warriors are averaging 39.3 points per game and have scored 40 points or more in seven of their 12 games.
Peyton Buckley is a dual-threat quarterback that has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 700.
Complementing him in the option attack are DeAirus Clerveaux, Torien Hubbard and Marquez Clerveaux.
The trio has accounted for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season.
“They have tremendous speed in the backfield,” said Batten. “We will have to stay disciplined and know our defensive reads each and every down when they have the ball.”
Buckley’s favorite target through the air is Braeden Verbsky, who averages a robust 27.5 yards per reception.
Defensively, the Warriors were throttled in their first five games of the year giving up almost 35 points per outing.
The youth on the team has grown up down the stretch, with about half of the team being sophomores.
In its last seven contests, Rice Lake has given up 30-plus points just once and have limited opponents to 20 points per game.
“They have an athletic front four,” Batten said. “Our offensive line will have to block effectively and open up gaps for our backs to drive through.”
Leading the charge for the Warriors is Dalton Drost who leads the team with 95 tackles.
Defensive lineman Tony Lai and Keith Blechinger each have 50 tackles apiece and could present a problem up front for the Phantoms.
In the secondary, Tyson Tomesh has done a little bit of everything this year for Rice Lake. He has seven tackle for losses, three sacks and has matched up with the best receiver on the opposing team.
“Obviously, there is a lot on the line,” said Batten. “We were fortunate to host the first three games of the playoffs. Our community has been great not only in the postseason but all year. I know we will be well represented Friday for the right to go to state.”