ANTIGO, GREEN BAY
- The Antigo football team never punted in its playoff-opening win last week against Fox Valley Lutheran. The Red Robins put up 56 points, their highest scoring output of the year.
It allowed them to advance to Friday night's Level 2 matchup with Green Bay Notre Dame in Division 3.
The Red Robins lost two of their first three games, but rebounded to go 5-1 in the Great Northern Conference. That allowed Antigo to tie for a conference championship for the second straight year. Beating Medford in the final week of the regular season sealed the title for the Red Robins.
But injury problems to starters like Matt Winter and Hunter Kirsch made that a major challenge.
"It was very difficult," said Antigo head coach Tom Schofield. "We were healthy Week 1, and we weren't healthy again all the way until Week 9. It was a good time to get healthy again, right before the playoffs, but throughout the season, we faced a lot of adversity."
Few people expected Antigo to win at Medford Week 9 to clinch a share of the conference title. But the upset win built the confidence of the Robins heading into the postseason. Now, Antigo is the only conference team still alive in the playoffs.
"We started off pretty shaky in the year, and coming off that win over Medford, we kind of shocked the conference," Antigo senior Luke Berner said. "Now that we're the only ones left, it's a pretty sweet feeling."
Notre Dame seems to have lost none of its momentum from last year's team, which won the Division 3 state championship. The Tritons were undefeated until Week 9 of the regular season this year, and earned a number one seed in their bracket.
Running back Nate Ihlenfledt has already racked up 21 touchdowns and more than 1,700 yards.
But Antigo might be peaking at the right time against this powerhouse. The 56 points last week against Fox Valley Lutheran was the most Antigo has scored since a 2008 game against Northland Pines.
"To be able to put up that many points was a great victory for us, a big, big, confidence builder," Schofield said. "We came off of a big win against Medford, a big win against Fox Valley Lutheran. Now, we're just trying to ride that high through Notre Dame."
"If you come off of a loss going into the playoffs, you're just kind of low. But once we came off of that win against Medford, we got the conference, we got a three-way tie [for the Great Northern Conference title], we were all pretty juiced after that," Berner added.
Antigo and Notre Dame kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Green Bay.