BY MURRAY GLEFFE
MADISON—The West De Pere football team has been an absolute juggernaut in getting to 13-0 on the year.
They were not tested in the regular season, and in their four playoff victories, they outscored their opponents 139-37.
The Phantoms’ opponent in the Nov. 16 Division 3 state championship game, Catholic Memorial, has been equally as impressive.
The Crusaders are 12-1 on the season, with their lone loss coming to Muskego, 28-27. In that game, Catholic Memorial rolled the dice on a two-point conversion and was unsuccessful. Muskego is playing for the Division 1 state championship later on Friday.
Out of their 12 victories, Memorial has defeated the likes of Hartland Arrowhead, Mount Horeb, New Berlin Eisenhower, Sussex Hamilton and Waukesha West.
“They are a really, really good football team,” said West De Pere head coach Jack Batten. “In watching film, they have no weaknesses. They have played a high caliber schedule and have come out victorious in all but one of them.”
The Phantoms are coming off a three-touchdown victory over Rice Lake in which they did not throw the ball once.
On the season, West De Pere has rushed for over 4,000 yards and thrown for only 800 yards.
Despite not throwing much, quarterback Josh Blount has shown that he is very capable of moving the ball down the field with his arm.
“We haven’t needed him (Josh) to throw the ball a lot these past few weeks,” said Batten. “He has been such a force on the ground and we have gotten off to good starts where we haven’t had to go through the air. That will change this week. We need Josh’s arm and our receivers to step up and make plays against Catholic Memorial.”
Defensively, the Phantoms have given up no more than three touchdowns in any game this season.
The state championship game could be their stiffest test.
The Crusaders are led by quarterback Luke Fox, who has passed for over 2,200 yards and thrown 27 touchdowns.
Behind him in the backfield are Tate Kopulos and Tommy Schmitzer, who have accounted for 1,500 yards.
Third-down back Dominic Hoffmann also could present a challenge with his elusiveness.
All-conference receiver Joe Sikma is a deep threat every time he hauls in a catch. On the season, he has 13 touchdowns and is nearing 1,000 yards.
“Every player that goes onto the field for them is a threat,” added Batten. “They block tremendously well, and their offense is very balanced. When they substitute in, they don’t lose anything with their backups.”
Defensively, the Crusaders have given up only 35 points in the last four games.
Cole Dakovich, Luke Hubley and Ben Kreul lead the charge from the front line with over 300 combined tackles, 40 of which have been for losses.
If that weren’t enough, there is 6-foot-6, 275-pound sophomore JC Latham, who has accounted for six sacks and three fumble recoveries.
“It is going to be important to put points on the board early,” said Batten. “Everything we do is going to have to be spot on for us to win this football game, including blocking well and running hard after the initial contact to get extra yardage.”
The Phantoms are playing in their first title game since 2011 in which they defeated Wisconsin Lutheran 39-24.
The year prior (2010) was a matchup of these same two teams – one in which West De Pere hoisted the gold ball after a 35-0 victory.
“It’s an exciting week for not only our coaching staff but the players,” Batten said. “These kids have never played where the Badgers play every Saturday. It’s a tremendous opportunity to accomplish something special for all involved.”
Game Information: WIAA Division 3 Championship Game: Catholic Memorial vs West De Pere, Nov. 16, 10 a.m. at Camp Randall Stadium, Madison.