Game of the Week Preview: Monona Grove at Waunakee

Monona Grove (0-0) at Waunakee (0-0) - 6:45pm Friday on 1070 AM, 100.9 FM, and iHeartRadio

Last Year: These two teams met in Level 3 of the playoffs, and Waunakee surprisingly dominated the match-up to the tune of a 33-7 drubbing of Monona Grove. The Warriors would lose the following week by one score to Brookfield Central and end up a game short of state in their Division 2 title defense. You can listen to last year's broadcast by clicking here.

Last Week: For Week 1, we look at the last game played. As mentioned above, Waunakee played Brookfield Central on a cold, snowy night in Oconomowoc, falling 20-13 in Level 4. You can listen to that broadcast by clicking here. Monona Grove's last game was against Waunakee last year, as noted above.

Season To Date: Both teams enter the year with quite an overhaul of personnel. Waunakee has 10 returning all-Badger North players, but have moved several players around to new positions for the upcoming season after suffering big graduation losses. Monona Grove has just 14 seniors, and only about half of whom have extensive varsity experience. Each team is working in brand-new backfields and replacing the bulk of their offensive line on offense, while also trying to fill over half of the starting spots on defense. It's non-conference, but this game could be a measuring stick of how far each program has come in terms of solving some of the positions ahead of the conference season in two weeks.

Coaches' Corner: Pat Rice has the state record for winning percentage as a coach, having gone 286-40 over 27 seasons. The 2014 WFCA Hall of Fame inductee has coached the Warriors to state six times, and the Warriors currently enjoy a 28-game conference winning streak. Rice acknowledges the past two years, the offseason puzzle has been a challenge because of the heavy graduation losses, but he's fine with getting a top-notch week one opponent because it's been easy to motivate players leading up to the opener with a solid program coming to town... Brandon Beckwith has a fine winning percentage of his own, going 42-7 in four prior seasons, which includes a 9-4 mark in the playoffs and a silver ball in 2016. Waunakee has been a thorn in the side of the Silver Eagles' program for most of the last dozen or so years, as Waunakee has taken 9 of the past 10 match-ups. Beckwith broke an eight-game winning streak by the Warriors in the match-up in 2016, leading the Silver Eagles to the state championship game. Like Waunakee, Monona Grove has a lot to figure out going into the season, but the opening-week test will challenge both returning players and those getting their first run at varsity football.

Three Keys: 1. Monona Grove's offensive line returns a pair of all-conference performers last year. They'll be tasked with creating space and time for the new backfield, and doing it against a very active front line. Waunakee's bringing back most of its talent on the edges so setting the edge will be a challenge for the Silver Eagles. 2. For both teams, who totes the rock? Whether it's the quarterback or running back, there will be some fresh new faces in much larger roles. 3. Week one can be a myriad of penalties, turnovers, and mental mistakes. Especially for younger players, overcoming adversity will be key in a game that will likely feature a plethora of the three, even with top programs going head-to-head (and almost especially with top programs meeting right out of training camp).

Five Players To Watch: Waunakee returns a trio of first-team all-conference players: edge rusher Gaje Hughes, linebacker Jeb Frey, and safety Lawson Ludwig. Those three form the core of a defense that has seen changes at just about every other position heading into the 2019 season. On the Monona Grove side, center Garrett Hanson and guard Nathan Wilcox will try to provide some room to run for the new backfield of the Silver Eagles, and are two of the top-rated linemen in the state coming back in 2019.

Listen to the game this Friday night at 7pm on 1070 AM and thebig1070.com!

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