By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – Every high school football team plays the game for this moment – a chance to make it to the state finals in Madison. For the first time in six years, Marshfield will get that chance.
Marshfield (12-0) will play Mequon Homestead (12-0) in a battle of undefeated squads in a WIAA Division 2 Level 4 state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Calder Stadium in Menasha.
The other semifinal is a rematch of last year’s Division 2 state title game between Waunakee (12-0) and Brookfield Central (11-1), a game Waunakee won. The winners move on to the D-2 state finals, next Friday, Nov. 16, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Marshfield is coming off a thrilling 32-29 win over Pulaski in a Level 3 game last week. The Tigers trailed 29-22 with 9 minutes left before rallying for a tying touchdown and a game-winning 25-yard field goal on the final play of the game by senior Mason Coffren.
The win has given the Tigers another week to play and they plan on taking advantage of the chance.
“I think they’re really relaxed,” Marshfield coach Denny Goettl said. “They’re getting stuff done and having fun, that’s the idea. We have a couple of new little wrinkles. They have a really solid defense and we have to see if our men are better than theirs. We’re going to have to play our butts off.”
Goettl said Homestead will prove to be the toughest foe yet for the Tigers.
Homestead has scored at least 33 points in every game this season and put up 55, 59 and 42 in its three playoff wins against Milwaukee Vincent, Watertown and Slinger, respectively.
The Highlanders have a high-powered running game led by Willie Garrison, who has more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jared Schneider has added 800 yards and 15 TDs, and quarterback Emory Weeden has nearly 500 yards rushing, 1,100 passing yards, and 27 combined touchdowns.
Homestead, the North Shore Conference champion, is back in Level 4 for the fourth time in the last five years. The Highlanders won the D-2 state title in 2015, and lost semifinal matchups in 2014 and 2016.
“Big, big, big, fast, fast, fast, tall, tall, tall,” Goettl said, describing Homestead. “They’re a really solid team. We’ve been pretty battle-tested here throughout the playoffs. I think we know what we have to do and how hard we have to play if we want to get things done. They’ve won their games by a lot of points and haven’t let anyone score on them.”
There is a history between Marshfield and Homestead, having met four times before in postseason play. Homestead beat Marshfield 23-13 in the 1999 Division 1 state championship game, and knocked off the Tigers in the D-2 semifinals 49-8 in 2012, the last time Marshfield has gotten this far in the playoffs. Marshfield won a pair of Level 4 state semifinal matchups in 2001 and 2002 on its way to back-to-back Division 1 state championships. The Tigers won 41-20 in 2001 and 13-6 in 2002.
Marshfield relies on a diversified offense led by a strong senior class that includes quarterback Ryan Krueger, and running backs Brant Bohman, Caden Pearce and Isaiah Baierl.
Krueger has thrown for 1,666 yards and 21 touchdowns, and has 452 yards rushing and five scores, including a pair of running TDs last week.
Bohman, who rushed for a team-high 139 yards in the win over Pulaski, is approaching the 1,000-yard mark on the season with 972 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Pearce has added 509 yards rushing, on a 7.2-yard per carry average.
Bohman and junior receiving Isaac Meverden are tied for the team-lead in catches with 32.
“There’s a lot of good things that happen, guys fumble, you get a pick, those things have happened,” Goettl said. “We’re thankful that we have some athletes that can respond when something like that does happen. If we can get lucky and get a turnover, run a kick back or a punt back, those are game-breakers.
“We pride ourselves in our special teams and have an offense that has a lot of different working parts. We just have to find the ones that are going to work at the right time and call the right plays at the right time. It’s going to be a good football game, and I hope that we’re in it at the end and have a chance to win it at the end.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com and a contributor to focusonmarshfield.com.