The WIAA football playoffs don’t officially begin for another three weeks.
Just don’t tell that to either the Greenfield or Whitnall players or coaches.
The sixth week of the regular season is here, and so are games with a playoff-like feel.
The Whitnall Falcons, who visit Brown Deer at 7 p.m. Friday, find themselves on the verge of their first conference title since 2000. With two Woodland Conference East Division games remaining (they also host Cudahy on Oct. 5), Whitnall is 4-1 overall and 3-0 in division games, one game ahead of three teams, including Brown Deer.
The 12-year drought is something the Falcons have been focused on all week, first-year head coach Jeff Wallack said Thursday. Players have been doing everything in 12s, like 12-yard sprints and sets of 12 up-downs.
“This week (a conference title) has been the focus, but from the get-go, it’s been one game at a time,” Wallack said. “We knew with the win last week, with only two conference games left, it was a realistic thing that could possibly happen. If we take care of business this Friday, it would be pretty much locked up and taken care of.”
Whitnall has won three straight games, including a come-from-behind victory over South Milwaukee last Friday. They’ve been riding the right arm of senior quarterback Zach Sutton, who has come out of nowhere to be one of the leading passers in the area with 1,268 yards, nearly double that of any player in the Woodland East.
Sutton was recently named a semifinalist for the Wissports.com Dave Krieg award, given to the top prep quarterback in the state.
Speaking of coming out of nowhere, Patrick Wyrowski has emerged as Sutton’s top target with 426 receiving yards, just ahead of a standout from a year ago, Sam Mentkowski (391).
“The kids are just hungry,” Wallack said. “They’ve been really working hard and doing what they’re supposed to be doing in practice. It’s been fun so far. It’s not surprising.”
Greenfield's playoff hopes still alive
Meanwhile across town at Greenfield High School, coach Scott Otto and his Hustlin’ Hawks are battling for their postseason lives when they visit South Milwaukee at 7 p.m. Friday.
Both teams are 2-3 and in need of two wins in their final three games to qualify for the WIAA playoffs (.500 or better record in league play), something Whitnall did with its win over South Milwaukee last week.
After visiting South Milwaukee, the Hawks host Brown Deer on Oct. 5 and visit Wauwatosa West on Oct. 12 to close out the regular season.
“The playoffs started for us,” Otto said. “This is our season. That’s what we told the kids. At the very least, we have to win two of three to qualify. That doesn’t get us in, it just qualifies us. If we win three, we have our second straight playoff berth.
“You win, you’re in. If you don’t, you’re out. We control our destiny.”
The Hawks put themselves in this position by shutting out Cudahy and St. Francis, both winless, in back-to-back weeks after starting the season 0-3.
“The teams we’ve lost to are a combined 13-2. The teams we’ve beaten are a combined 0-10,” Otto said. “But the thing I’ve taken out of those two games was we took care of business. It was 27-0 after the first quarter against Cudahy and it was 28-0 against St. Francis at halftime. To shut out anybody is impressive in my opinion. We did what we needed to do.”
Otto conceded his team came into the season inexperienced offensive and it has taken that unit awhile to get going. But the Hawks did not turn the ball over in either victory, and the infusion of two players at key positions seems to have jumpstarted what had been a stagnant offensive situation.
Sophomore quarterback Jeremy Swider was inserted into the starting lineup after a Week 3 loss to Whitnall, and senior halfback Reggie Blakely returned from suspension to turn in back-to-back 100 yard rushing efforts.
Their efforts have the Hawks poised for an improbable playoff push.
“South Milwaukee is in the exact same position we’re in. It’s a huge game for them too,” Otto said. “It will be a playoff atmosphere, and really, if we can’t win two of three or three of three, we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.”