Push for the Playoffs: Player of the Week

Rashadeem Gray flies through a big hole against Shorewood-Messmer on Oct. 19.

Rashadeem Gray flies through a big hole against Shorewood-Messmer on Oct. 19. Photo By Jerry Luterman

Aug. 30, 2013

Level 2: Homestead has just been churning out the wins all season, and the 31-7 win over Germantown was no different in Level 2 as the reigning state champs get closer to a return trip to Madison. Bradley Woldt carried the ball 26 times for 141 yards and four scores as his squad continued its steady progress.

Level 1: Not only did Brookfield Central's Zach Heckman rack up some impressive numbers on the ground, per usual, with 126 yards and three touchdowns, he also threw a score to Drew Leszczynski on a trick play that was part of Central's easy win over Wauwatosa West. He also caught a 22-yard pass. Tosa West was the eighth seed to Central’s top seed, but the Trojans have some talented players and handed Pewaukee its only loss of the year, but Central put this one away early.

Week 9: Seldom do defensive players get noticed in this space, but in the final game of the Muskego season, A.J. Spychala was undeniable. He returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter, returned an interception for a score in the second half and also stripped away the ball to clinch victory for the Warriors over Arrowhead in a 21-14 battle. Had the Warriors not fallen at the buzzer to Waukesha West in the league opener, they’d be going to the playoffs after three straight wins to close the year.

Week 8: In a huge win, Germantown's Austin Mozdzen ran 17 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns as the Warhawks kept their playoff hopes alive against Port Washington in convincing fashion. The two-way player and his teammates will battle Milwaukee Lutheran next week, with the winner getting a playoff berth and the loser staying home. Mozdzen was a membergame of the All-Suburban Team last season.

Week 7: In the midst of an eye-popping run of statistical success, Jake Simuncak of South Milwaukee was again a one-man wrecking crew in a 33-27 win over Whitnall, a victory that gave the Rockets the three wins they need for playoff eligibility (and, almost certainly, actual qualification). Though playing quarterback, he did all his damage on the ground, carrying the ball 42 times for 309 yards and all five touchdowns, including the tiebreaking score with 5:03 left in the game.

Week 6: In a battle that kept Whitefish Bay alive for the North Shore Conference title, Alex Anthony caught 13 passes for 165 yards and two scores, and a field goal in the final seconds played a huge role in Bay's win over Germantown. Quarterback Cade Garcia, for whom Anthony once filled in when Garcia went down with an injury a couple games ago, threw for 245 yards on 22 of 41 passing. Apologies to other players with big stats this week, including Jake Simuncak of South Milwaukee, Jacob Rams of Oconomowoc, Thomas Gibson of Brookfield Central, Rayvon Bartlett, Jr. of Greenfield and Darios Garrett of Martin Luther.

Week 5: Griffin Johnson of West Allis Central delivered a sterling performance to help his team beat West Allis Hale in a rivalry battle that might be the last of its kind with Central moving to the Woodland next year. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 187 yards and four touchdowns, and he completed 14 in a row at one point to help the Bulldogs take control. He also ran for another 22 yards. There were some great quarterback performances this week, so apologies to Max Alba of Franklin, Rayvon Bartlett of Greenfield and Jake Simuncak of South Milwaukee.

Week 4: Oconomowoc’s passing game is a delight, and quarterback Ben Nienhuis is usually in the running for this award every week. This week, we’ll give it to his top receiver, Zach Clayton, who racked up a monster day of 18 catches (two shy of state single-game record), 284 yards and four touchdowns in a 50-40 win over Watertown to improve to 4-0. The Raccoons have given up a ton of points in the early going, but nobody has been able to match them on offense, and Clayton is on his way to another first-team All State season. He also ran for 54 yards in the win.

Week 3: Peter MacCudden never leaves the field for Waukesha West, so you can forgive him for being gassed and needing to take a breather in the second half at times as he battled cramps Thursday. But he still notched 176 yards rushing and 34 receiving, racking up three touchdowns in a brilliant 26-24 win over Muskego. He may have done his best work on the final drive, when he was a one-man wrecking crew that set up a game-winning sneak by quarterback Robert Kobza as time expired.

Week 2: Brennan Demark finished with an eye-popping seven touchdown passes for Waukesha North, completing 18 of 28 passes for 382 yards and helping his 2-0 squad to a 49-13 victory over Whitnall and moved to 2-0 on the season. Taylor Anderson caught three of those scores, part of his six-catch, 164-yard performance, and Kendall Gould caught five balls for 114 yards and two scores.

Week 1: Mitchell Gnadt of Greendale was at the front of an offensive explosion that helped the Panthers open the season with a 45-40 shootout win over powerhouse Menomonie. The Panthers' junior standout completed 17 of 26 passes for 268 yards and fourth touchdowns, and he ran for another 24 yards. Three different Panthers -- Tommy Kujawa, Isaac Seibold and Zach Harrison -- finished with two touchdowns apiece. The Panthers had, by their standards, a down year in 2015, but they appear to be back to their high-flying selves. 


Championship weekend: Arrowhead quarterback Johnny Duranso was part of five touchdowns, setting a Division 1 state record with his 275 passing yards when he completed 11 of 16 for three touchdowns. He also ran for two scores and led his team in rushing. It was totally his night to shine right up until Kimberly scored four touchdowns in the final 13 minutes to break Arrowhead's heart in the title game, 49-42.

Level 4: There were many stars in Level 4, from Arrowhead's Johnny Duranso to Waukesha West's Conor Blount and the rushing attack of Catholic Memorial. Homestead running back Matt Winters was his usual steady self, rushing 177 yards on 25 carries and finishing with two touchdowns, one on a 17-yard pass and one on a run. When Chippewa Falls took a 13-0 lead, his two scores granted the Highlanders a lead by halftime and helped his team prevail, 27-23.

Level 3: Franklin's Ben Wachter was at the forefront of the night's most resounding statement, a 42-15 victory over a powerful Muskego team that led the Sabers to the state semifinal against Arrowhead. Wachter completed eight of 15 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns, and he also returned an interception for a touchdown that gave his team a two-score lead.

Level 2: Jack Risch has been more than a capble substitute for Arrowhead quarterback Johnny Duranso, and he was really able to show what he could do in a 41-0 blowout of Sun Prairie in Level 2. Risch completed 19 of 26 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, helping what appeared to be a vulnerable Warhawks team move to 10-1. Duranso appears likely to return for Level 3.

Level 1: Sam Santiago-Lloyd was not going to be denied by the rain, a talented Whitefish Bay team or anything else in Level 1 of the playoffs. The Brookfield East junior racked up 328 yards rushing and four touchdowns, with 10.2 yards per 32 carries, as East won one of the highest-profile first-round matchups in the state, 41-27.

Week 9: Sam Streeter engineered one of the biggest upsets of the season when he ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns to lead his Greenfield team past Greendale in the Woodland Conference championship game. With running back Ezekiel Banks still limited by injury, Streeter showed he was wise beyond his sophomore standing on local TV.

Week 8: Mitchell Gnadt, who didn't even start the season at quarterback for Greendale, threw for 444 yards and seven touchdowns in a win over Whitnall on Oct. 9. The Woodland crossover win didn't count in the standings, but it continued a strong turnaround for the Panthers, who opened 0-2 but now sit at 6-2.

Week 7: Rusty Murphy of Cudahy delivered 231 passing yards and a touchdown, but he also ran for two scores, including a score with 24 seconds left to pull the Packers within 1 point of South Milwaukee. When the Packers elected to go for two, Murphy scored on that play as well, giving his team an upset victory that kept its playoff hopes alive.

Week 6: Brookfield Central rolled up 52 points on the presumed favorite in the Greater Metro and became the frontrunner for the league crown, and running back Malik Turner played a huge role in chewing up yardage and clock. Turner ran 26 times for 188 yards and five touchdowns, and the Lancers came away with a stunning 52-13 win that also clinched a playoff spot.

Week 5: Muskego seldom passes the ball at all, let alone in the rain, but Caleb Wagner completed 5 of 10 passes for 50 yards and two scores as the Warriors topped previously undefeated Catholic Memorial, 23-14. Wagner, who typically hands the ball off to Muskego's talented stable of backs, also ran for a 70-yard touchdown that sealed it with 2:33 to play.

Week 4: Ezekiel Banks was given high praise by coach Joe Koch after the running back rattled off big plays of 95 and 80 yards on Sept. 11, one touchdown that tied the game against South Milwaukee and another that gave Greenfield the go-ahead score against the defending Woodland East champion. The Hustlin' Hawks moved to 4-0 as Banks racked up 188 yards on 17 carries.

Week 3: Ethan Kennedy was everywhere for Lake Country Lutheran in a huge league win over previously unbeaten St. Francis on Sept. 4. He ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the 35-28 win after St. Francis found itself nursing a 28-27 lead in the fourth quarter. Not only that, Kennedy's interception near the goal line thwarted a second-half St. Francis drive, and he also blocked an extra point. He did all of this despite choosing to take his junior year off from the sport.

Week 2: Ben Nienhuis and Zach Clayton had something special cooking for the TV cameras in a Thursday-night win over Waukesha South, 52-31. The junior reciever Clayton, in his first game of the year, caught 12 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns. The fellow junior Nienhuis now has 10 touchdown passes in the first two games after five against South and 359 yards on 28 completions. He also ran for a score, and Oconomowoc (2-0) has more wins than it did all of last year.

Week 1: Macklin Kortebein had a special night for Whitefish Bay on a special night with ailing head coach Jim Tietjen in attendance. Kortebein rushed for 230 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries, recovered a high snap for a turnover on defense and also threw for a key 28-yard pass on a trick play to help the Blue Dukes grab a season-opening win over Brookifeld Central.


Level 4: Johnny Duranso and Arrowhead are back in the Division 1 state championship game for a third straight year. The junior quarterback was huge, rushing for 157 yards and three touchdowns and also passing for 173 yards and two scores in a 42-28 thrashing of previously undefeated Bay Port. The two-time defending state champion has its work cut out for it against another state powerhouse, Kimberly, at Camp Randall on Nov. 21.

Level 3: Cody Sellhausen rushed for 56 yards and caught ofur passes for 123, and he scored all four touchdowns as Arrowhead avenged a regular-season loss to Mukwonago with a 28-10 victory in Level 3 of the Division 1 playoffs. The Warhawks, two-year reigning state champions, moved into a meeting with undefeated Bay Port for a chance to get back to Madison.

Level 2: Franklin's calling card over the years has been its passing attack, but in Level 2 of the playoffs against longstanding rival Oak Creek, the Sabers went by land. Gavin Boeck rushed 23 times for 124 yards and four touchdowns as the Sabers built a 31-0 lead, though they had to hold on for a 38-34 victory that counted as an upset even though the two teams shared the Southeast Conference title.

Level 1: We normally try to avoid choosing the same player twice in one season, but there simply is no denying what Brown Deer quarterback Zack Baun brought to the table in Level 1 against Pewaukee, a 49-40 victory. The Falcons virtuoso ran for 402 yards and six touchdowns -- all but one from 39 yards or more -- as he answered every Pirates score and willed his team into the second round.

Week 9: Josh Ringelberg and the Greendale football team have been rolling all year, and the Panthers capped off an undefeated season with a convincing 42-7 win over fellow unbeaten South Milwaukee in the Woodland title game. The senior quarterback finished with 194 yards passing and three scores, plus another 70 yards rushing and three more touchdowns.

Week 8: Mitchell Dess logged some insane numbers Oct. 10, part of a video-game Woodland Conference win over Pewaukee, in which South Milwaukee won, 56-42. Dess caught 10 passes for a ridiculous 305 yards and four touchdowns, conneting with SM quarterback Justin Oliden for an all-out aerial assault. Did we mention Dess also intercepted a pass to snuff out a fake punt?

Week 7: Wauwatosa West needed a win over New Berlin West to maintain its playoff chances, and the Trojans delivered on the back of workhorse running back Demaris Purifoy. One of the state's best at his position, Purifoy racked up six touchdowns and ran for 281 yards on 25 carries.

Week 6: We can't ignore Spencer Francis in this space forever. With a staggering 401 yards passing and four touchdowns, not to mention his 101 yards rushing and another touchdown, the Brookfield Academy virtuoso led his team to an important 39-34 win over St. Francis in the Midwest Classic, one that kept the Blue Knights undefeated heading into a battle with fellow unbeaten Lake Country Lutheran next week.

Week 5: It's almost impossible to believe that Ryan Borton ran the ball 13 times for 256 yards (19.79 yards per carry) Sept. 19 and yet his average yards per carry for the year went down. He scored three touchdowns for Muskego, and the Warriors ascended to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Classic 8 Conference, alone in first place for the first time in the school's three-year history with the league.

Week 4: Somehow, Zack Baun finds a way to out-do himself on a weekly basis. The Brown Deer star quarterback played a role in seven touchdowns in his team's 58-14 win against Cudahy on Friday ... and that was all in the first half. He wound up with five rushing scores on 218 yards rushing and completed 8 of 13 passes for 188 yards and two scores. And did we mention he landed a greyshirt scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin.

Week 3: South Milwaukee was engaged in a crucial Woodland East battle, and Rockets quarterback Justin Oliden helped deliver his team past the incredible work by Brown Deer's Zack Baun. Oliden completed 17 of 25 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown, and he also rushed for 146 yards as the Rockets held on, 41-35. The contest could be a de facto league title game. Apologies again to Spencer Francis of Brookfield Academy and Baun after posting crazy numbers.

Week 2: On the week's biggest stage, Homestead senior quarterback Nick Allen rose to the occasion, rushing for 141 yards and two scores while also passing for 152 yards and a touchdown in a 24-20 win over Arrowhead. The two powerhouse programs met for the second year in a row, with Allen delivering a breakout performance both times to lead his squad to victory. Apologies to Spencer Francis of Brookfield Academy, who delivered some eye-popping two-way numbers at the QB spot.

Week 1: Kettle Moraine defensive back Isaac Scott hauled in three interceptions, including one with 1:18 left in the game to snuff out Oconomowoc's final possession, as the Lasers recorded five takeaways and held on for a 14-7 victory to stage an upset over the Raccoons on the night they unveiled their renovated facilities.


State: Sophomore quarterback Johnny Duranso was unfazed by the big moment. The Arrowhead quarterback completed 18 of 29 passes for three touchdowns and 235 yards in the Division 1 state title game, leading Arrowhead to a second straight gold ball and showing that AHS still has plenty of weapons next year. The yardage mark would have set a new Division 1 record, though Franklin's Sean McGuire threw for 250 yards in the game. Apologies to Greendale's Josh Ringelberg, who set the Division 3 passing record in defeat.

Level 4: Junior quarterback Josh Ringelberg has been the cornerstone for Greendale's tremendous offense this season, and in Level 4 against Appleton Xavier, he was no different. Ringelberg passed for 211 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 132 and three scores as the Panthers reached state for the first time since 2006 with a 44-17 victory. Special mention to Franklin running back Chad Walton and receiver Austin Meyer for their roles in Franklin's 35-8 win over Mukwonago.

Level 3: Elijah Fort of Waukesha West was a workhorse in his team's Level 3 win over Waterford, rumbling 193 yards on 32 carries with two touchdowns, including one from 35 yards in the third quarter that helped the Wolverines get a strong foothold in the eventual 27-7 win. Fort has emerged from a backup last year to one of the area's best rushers.

Level 2: Dominic Cizauskas of Mukwonago continues to find ways to top himself. The University of Wisconsin recruit scored three touchdowns, including a long interception return for a touchdown, forced another turnover and racked up 12 tackles as Mukwonago shocked previously undefeated Sun Prairie in Level 2 of the Division 1 playoffs.

Level 1: Drew Patterson rushed for 280 yards and scored five touchdowns, and his Sussex Hamilton team needed every one of them in a 37-34 thriller over Brookfield Central in Level 1 of the playoffs. Patterson went for a 73-yard run with 3:11 to go, putting the Chargers in prime position. Apologies to Oconomowoc receiver/kicker Casey Bednarski, who caught three touchdowns, racked up 197 receiving yards and kicked three field goals, including one from 55 yards.

Week 9: Ryan Stepanovich
of Pewaukee needed just 13 carries to rack up 206 yards and three touchdowns, and the Pirates shook off an early deficit to score 49 unanswered points and down Brown Deer in the Woodland Conference, 56-10. Stepanovich also caught a pass for 34 yards and helped Pirates finsh 8-1.

Week 8: Sean McGuire
of Franklin has racked up bigger numbers than the 171-yard passing performance against Kenosha Indian Trail, but he had a hand in all four of his team's touchdowns in a 28-21 win that served as a de facto Southeast Conference title game. The senior slinger threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.

Week 7: Christian Almonte racked up some big yardage for Menomonee Falls in a comfortable win over West Allis Central, carrying the ball 34 times for 267 yards and four touchdowns. Not only that, but the win helped Falls move back into a tie for first place in the Greater Metro after Brookfield Central knocked off Marquette on the same night.

Week 6: In the highest-scoring game in state history and perhaps the craziest game in the country this year, Oconomowoc quarterback Canton Larson threw for 295 yards, ran for 198 and amassed eight total touchdowns as the Raccoons defeated longtime Wisconsin Little Ten powerhouse Wisconsin Lutheran in a surreal Homecoming environment, 84-82. It's the first time Cooney has knocked off Wisco since 2001, and it needed every ounce of offense to make it happen.

Week 5: University School running back Michael Tucker racked up some impressive numbers, rushing 30 times for 278 yards and a mind-boggling six touchdowns. The output helped USM record a 62-30 win over Living Word Lutheran, a team that had been previously undefeated in the Midwest Classic. The result gives the Wildcats new life in the postseason chase.

Week 4: In a second consecutive huge performance, Waukesha South's Isaiah Pitchford ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns and also came away with three interceptions, as South improved to 4-0 with a win over Kettle Moraine. It's the first time the Blackshirts have won four games in an entire season since 2003. Special mention to crosstown rival Elijah Fort of Waukesha West, who ran for 311 yards in a win against Muskego. He became the first West player to ever clear 300 in one game.

Week 3:
Brown Deer running back Zack Baun ran for touchdowns of 78 and 88 yards during his monster 322-yard rushing performance on just 10 carries in his team's 42-7 win over St. Francis. For good measure, the quarterback also completed two passes, including one more another touchdown. It came against an opponent the Falcons should have beaten, though Brown Deer took a 35-0 lead by halftime to activate the running clock.

Week 2: Greendale receiver Mitchell Brees was on fire, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns as the Panthers scored a landmark win, a 37-13 win over a Franklin team considered one of the state's best. With quarterback Josh Ringelberg tossing the ball, the prolific receiving connection is one reason Greendale might have a special season in 2013.

Week 1: Mukwonago linebacker Dominic Cizauskas, a University of Wisconsin recruit, forced a fumble and was his usual self on defense. But he also sparked the Indians offense in a 43-33 win over Racine Horlick, returning a kickoff 94 yards for touchdown, taking a 76-yard handoff to the house and catching an 8-yard touchdown pass. 


Championship weekend: Catholic Memorial's Andre Bodden caught a touchdown pass and hauled in three interceptions, including one he returned for another touchdown as Catholic Memorial shocked previously unbeaten Waupaca for the Division 3 state championship, 42-7. His 77-yard touchdown catch set a new Division 3 title-game record.

Level 4: Arrowhead quarterback Brady Kelliher rose to the occasion in Level 4 of the Division 1 playoffs against fellow unbeaten squad Hudson. The senior threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns, going 24 for 35 in the 43-20 victory. He also ran for 44 yards, helping his team back to the state title game for the first time since 2008. 

Level 3: Mitch Meindel caught two touchdown passes, helping his Catholic Memorial rally from a 14-0 deficit to pull back to even with mighty Wisconsin Lutheran in Level 3 of the Division 3 playoffs. Meindel also had a huge 68-yard punt that helped set up a key defensive stand, but his 33-yard field goal as time expire was the real story, giving his team a 24-21 upset win.

Level 2: Matt Hubley of Catholic Memorial had a very good week. He committed to the University of Wisconsin to play football Tuesday, then led his team to a 21-0 win over previously undefeated Pewaukee. Hubley scored on two long touchdown runs and keyed the defensive effort.

Level 1: Two weeks removed from an overtime loss to the same opponent, Greendale dismantled Wauwatosa West in Level 1 of the Division 2 playoffs, and quarterback Josh Ringelberg was a big reason why.  The sophomore opened scoring with a 74-yard run and finished with more than 100 yards rushing, and he also completed 13 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-16 win.

Week 8: Lake Country Lutheran was the overwhelming favorite to top Racine Lutheran in the league finale, but anytime a receiver catches six touchdowns, it's notable. Lightning wideout Jacob Demman hauled in seven passes for 178 yards, including the six scores, and LCL won, 62-0.

Week 7: New Berlin Eisenhower needed a win over Milwaukee Pius to remain playoff eligible, and thanks to a career night from Nick Taylor, that's exactly what happened. Taylor finished with 243 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including a 72-yard run that set the tone offensively for the Lions in a win over Milwaukee Pius.

Week 6: Oak Creek standout running back Virgil Hammond has been a big reason why the Knights are undefeated. Against Kenosha Tremper on Friday, he ran for 219 yards on 23 carries, setting the tone with a 92-yard touchdown to give his team a quick lead. Special mention to Dominic Pfister of SJNMA, who ran for 254 yards and five scores in a crucial win over University School.

Week 5: Whitnall quarterback Zach Sutton completed 18 of 32 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns as the Falcons endured a shootout with South Milwaukee and won the battle for first place in the Woodland Conference East Division. The showing comes the same week a former Whitnall quarterback, Joel Stave, starts for the University of Wisconsin.

Week 4: Pewaukee quarterback T.J. Watt led the Pirates to a first-ever victory over Greendale in a battle of unbeaten Woodland teams in Week 4. He scored three touchdowns, returned an interception 48 yards to set up another score, forced a fumble and ran a fake punt for a first down on 4th and 8 to ice it.

Week 3: Whitefish Bay workhorse running back Rashadeem Gray scored four times (165 yards), and the Blue Dukes dismantled Cedarburg by a 38-8 score, taking a huge North Shore Conference battle in surprisingly easy fashion. Last year, Bay fell to Cedarburg after conceding 22 fourth-quarter points.

Week 2: Sussex Hamilton's Drew Patterson, just a junior, didn't match his 247 yards recorded in Week 1 against Franklin, but his five-touchdown, 158-yard performance will do just fine in a remarkably lopsided win over Marquette, 42-3. The Chargers are serious contenders to reach the upper tiers of the state playoffs this year, and Patterson is a big reason why.




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