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Beavers Sports

Eagles, Beavers Will Ground it out in Level 3

Varsity - 2009 Season
Posted Friday, November 06, 2009 by Jeff Seisser

11/6/2009 9:48:00 AM  Email this article • Print this article 
BOUNTIFUL BACKFIELD — Reedsburg has a bevy of talent players that run the football, among them junior standout Matt Lennon (above). Lennon, who has scored five touchdowns this season, joins quarterback Chad Mazur and fullback Shane Rockweiler in a backfield that has helped RHS average 28 points per game. — Mike Schmidt photo.
Eagles, Beavers will ground it out in Level 3
Both teams feature potent rushing attacks

By Jeff Seisser
Union sports editor

JEFFERSON - It you're looking for a big-play aerial show, then Saturday's WIAA Division 3 playoff battle between Jefferson and Reedsburg isn't the answer. 

But if you want to see two of the more efficient, and not to mention high-powered running attacks remaining in the Wisconsin high school football playoff field, then Jefferson Athletic Field will be the place to be when the fourth-seeded Beavers (8-3) visit the second-seeded Eagles (10-1) at 4 p.m.

Let's just say you may have a good part of your Saturday remaining after these two offenses are done.

"Obviously when you talk about them you talk about their great ball-control offense," said fourth-year Reedsburg coach Brian Pottinger of the Eagles. "It just eats up yards and clock; it's just very difficult to defend."

Reedsburg knows a thing or two about playing at this level. In fact, the Beavers played for the WIAA Division 3 state championship in 2008, losing 21-20 to Waupaca.

"I remember watching them play in Madison last year," said Jefferson's fourth-year head coach Steve Gee. "Now we get to see them first-hand."

It's been a dream season for Jefferson, a team that struggled early this decade. But Gee was hired in 2006 and has resurrected the program leading the Eagles to three consecutive playoffs. 

"Early in the year we met with the team and made some realistic goals, and we really thought about it. Lucas Smillie then said, 'I want to play in Round 3,' and I said that was a great goal," said Gee. "These guys are so happy to have reached that goal. Now, they want to keep going."

The Eagles tied McFarland for the Rock Valley Conference North Division championship, the program's first league title in 12 years. Meanwhile, Reedsburg finished in a three-way tie atop the Northern Badger Conference with Waunakee and DeForest. 

Jefferson's path to the WIAA quarterfinals went through two Badger Conference schools, and the Eagles are hoping to make it three against Reedsburg. The Eagles beat up on Madison Edgewood 49-20 in Level 1, before escaping on the road with a 34-28 victory at Mount Horeb-Barneveld in Level 2.

Reedsburg had little trouble with its opening-round opponent as well, shutting out Wisconsin Dells 35-0, but the Beavers needed everything they had to slip past No. 1 seeded Pewaukee 14-7 last Saturday. 

"It doesn't matter what your conference affiliation is, bottom line, because that's not what wins games," said Pottinger. "We do know (Jefferson) has beaten a lot of quality opponents, and not just in our conference. That concerns me more than anything."

Gee added: "You play who you play. The Badger Conference is a solid conference."

Senior running back Pete Linse leads the Eagles into their first WIAA quarterfinal since 1998. The minute 5-foot-9, 155-pound Linse has made it an art dodging defenses, to the tune of a school-record 1,627 yards and 20 touchdowns. 

Linse has been nothing short of unstoppable in the postseason, rushing for 408 yards while scoring eight touchdowns, four in both games.

But Linse isn't the only back Pottinger is concerned with. Senior running backs Tyler Tomczak (646 yards, 13 TDs, 2 playoff TDs) and Mike Stellmacher (412, 8) and junior fullback Matt Vogel (485, 6, 1 playoff TD) have led Jefferson to over 3,700 yards on the ground.

"They're similar to our offense where four backs can carry the ball, so we can't just key on stopping just one of them," Pottinger said.

Tomczak is also the Eagles' leading receiver with 262 yards and four touchdowns. 

The Eagles must find a way to contain Reedsburg junior quarterback Chad Mazur in the Beavers' option-style offense. The 6-2, 185-pounder has rushed for a team-leading 1,046 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"We need to play a very disciplined option defense, and we need to stop No. 30 (Shane Rockwell) and No. 10 (Chad Mazur) because the fullback and quarterback are the key to their offense," said Gee. "Mazur's a real talent, and we have to respect that."

Mazur has been on the Reedsburg varsity since his freshman year.

"He didn't play much quarterback last year, but he was on the field a lot as a wide receiver and a defensive back," Pottinger said. "He does a great job of running our offense."

Rockwell and junior halfback Matt Lennon each have scored five touchdowns for the Beavers.

The Jefferson defense passed last week's test from Mount Horeb-Barneveld, but the Eagles know the deeper you go in the playoffs, the offenses get tougher.

Senior defensive lineman Tom Scherer (43 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss) and linebackers Stellmacher (58, 5 TFL) and Vogel (44, 4 TFL) lead an Eagle defense that has held teams to 184.5 yards per game, and a mere 70.3 yards on the ground.

"They play very solid defense, too," Pottinger said. "I give their defense a lot of credit because they aren't giving up a lot of points."

Tomczak and junior Doug Beilke lead the Jefferson with six and five interceptions, respectively.

Parallel Paths

The similarities between Jefferson and Reedsburg are somewhat uncanny. Before their recent playoff runs, both programs struggled to even win a single game as both had 0-9 seasons. Between 2003-05, Jefferson won just three games, including a winless 2005 campaign. 

Reedsburg had even more struggles going winless from 2002-04. 

But the arrivals of Gee and Pottinger revived both programs, to the point where both are among only 28 teams remaining heading into the weekend.

Incidentally, Pottinger (26-17) and Gee (24-17) have similar records.

We Meet Again

This won't be the first meeting between the two programs. Jefferson won the two-year series in 1991 and 1992 with wins of 35-7 and 6-2 over the Beavers.

Family Affair

It's been well documented that Jefferson defensive coordinator John Stellmacher is the father of senior running back Mike, but there will be another family connection in Saturday's game.

Jefferson assistant coach Jay Benish's father John is the freshmen coach at Reedsburg. The elder Benish was previously head coach at Wonewoc-Center for 33 years and is a member of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Pulling Rank

Jefferson finished ranked No. 10 among medium schools in the Associated Press poll.

Reedsburg was not ranked, but did pull off one of the biggest upsets in the state beating Waunakee, 15-10, in Week 6.

What's Next

The Jefferson-Reedsburg winner will play either Waukesha Catholic Memorial (8-3) or Union Grove (8-3) in Level 4 next week for the right to play in the WIAA Division 3 State Finals.

The 2009 WIAA Division 3 State title game is set for Friday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

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