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Prep Football: McDonell hosts Gilman with Central Wisconsin West Conference title on the line

Gilman at McDonell football 11-5-20

McDonell's Dale Tetrault makes a catch in front of Gilman's Branden Ustianowski during a game on Nov. 5, 2020 at Dorais Field.

A conference championship is on the line Friday at Dorais Field as McDonell hosts unbeaten Gilman in an eight-man matchup.

The Pirates (7-0, 4-0) have already clinched a share of the Central Wisconsin West Conference championship after a 49-0 win at Alma Center Lincoln last week. Gilman can win its second straight outright league title with a win while a victory for the Macks would create a shared title situation with the Pirates, Macks and possibly Phillips if the Loggers defeat Bruce on Thursday evening.

McDonell (6-1, 3-1) lost the opportunity to possibly win the title outright after a tough 46-44 loss at Phillips last Friday. The Macks led the game 44-34 with six minutes and 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter before the Loggers erupted for two scores in the final 4:34 to take the lead and deal McDonell its first loss.

Jason Cox Mugshot

Cox

“We were pretty disappointed in the defense up there, obviously not getting stops when we needed. But the offense had chances to win the game too and we didn’t execute late in the game to seal it,” McDonell coach Jason Cox said of the loss. “Pretty disappointing all around but we’re hoping we can rebound from that. Gilman is going to be really physical, even more than Phillips so we have to bring it up a notch and try to get up on their level.”

Gilman’s second season in eight-man has been just as impressive as its first. The Pirates have scored at least 41 points in every game while allowing more than eight points just once. A tough, physical and disciplined squad led by longtime coach Robin Rosemeyer, the Pirates are led through the air by quarterback Julian Krizan (510 passing yards, nine touchdowns, according to WisSports.net) and on the ground by running backs Grady Kroeplin (528 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns) and Troy Duellman (491 rushing yards and seven touchdowns).

Robin Rosemeyer

Rosemeyer

“For the most part we’ve been pretty consistent,” Rosemeyer said of his team. “Defensively we’ve been able to control teams for the most part without giving a lot of points. We’ve given up a few games where we’ve given up some yards but not a lot of points, so we’ve been able to keep ourselves in games pretty well.

“At the same time offensively we’ve been pretty consistent running the ball and throwing the ball, we’ve had pretty good balance there.”

Krizan was named the WisSports.net Eight-Player Football Defensive Player of the Year last year and he along with fellow senior linebacker Bryson Keepers are two players Cox pointed out as being among the best defenders in the state on a deep and strong defense for the top-ranked Pirates.

“Gilman is a really good team and we know that,” Cox said. “They’re ranked number one in the state for a reason and I think that ranking is very accurate. They’re very tough up front on both sides of the ball. They’re very disciplined, very well coached. It’s hard to fool them with anything because they always seem to know what is coming and they just sort of pound it at you and take it to you.”

McDonell has found more balance on offense this season with running backs Landon Moulton (431 rushing yards, five TDs) and Xayvion Matthews (340 rushing yards, six TDs) on the ground and quarterbacks Grant Smiskey (1,014 passing yards, 14 TDs) and Ethan Goulet (318 passing yards, seven TDs) throwing to wide receivers Dale Tetrault (36 receptions, 510 receiving yards and nine TDs) and Ben Biskupski (33 receptions, 444 passing yards and five TDs) through the air.

“They present a lot of problems offensively,” Rosemeyer said of McDonell. “They run the ball very well and throw the ball very effectively well so we’re very similar in that sense. But we’re different styles of how we do things but overall the idea is the same – do some play action stuff, throw the ball, run the ball.”

Friday’s game is the regular season finale for both teams, but with the Macks and Pirates both expected to qualify for the eight-man playoffs, it shouldn’t be the last time they see the field in 2021.

“The good news is we have a home game here, its homecoming, we still have a chance for a conference title share,” Cox said. “All that’s still there and we have all the motivation in the world. Hopefully the guys will rise to the occasion and play a good game.”

Gilman has been ranked number one in the WisSports.net eight-man state coaches poll all season while the Macks were ranked for much of the season until last week’s loss. Following Friday’s game, both teams will learn their playoff fates when qualifiers and pairings are released late Friday night.

“They’re playing for a lot this weekend, also,” Rosemeyer said of McDonell. “Both teams are playing a lot just to try to finish strong and do the best they can do to go into the playoffs.”

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