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Big test for Redbirds
Darlington's Myles Leahy avoids a tackle during the second half of a Division quarterfinal playoff matchup against Lake Country Lutheran Saturday. (Times file photo: Anthony Wahl)
DARLINGTON - When Darlington football coach Scott Zywicki looks at tape on Edgar it's like looking into a mirror.

"Edgar has a team built like ours," Zywicki said. "It will be an interesting matchup of who can impose their will on the other team. They have excellent size, are very well disciplined and have good athletes. It will be a toss-up. We will have to be at our best to win."

Darlington (11-1), ranked No. 5 in the Coaches poll, rolls into the WIAA Division 6 state semifinal showdown against No. 1 ranked Edgar at 7 p.m. Friday in DeForest, on an 11-game winning streak.

Edgar (12-0) has advanced to the state semifinals in five of the past six years and won two state championships (2009, 2010) and had one state runner-up finish (2008) in that six-year span.

The Wildcats run a double tight and also use split backs with a slot in offensive sets. Edgar was the conference champion in the Marawood Conference. Will the Redbirds have any areas they can attack with a big advantage?

"Nothing jumps out on film," Zywicki said. "We will have to limit the explosive plays."

Edgar averages 38.8 points per game, and its defense has six shutouts this season. Edgar is led by running back Wylie Frahm, who has rushed for 691 yards and 10 TDs this season. The Wildcats feature three running backs with six or more touchdowns including Kaleb Wolf (12 TDs) and Cody Weiler (518 yards and six touchdowns). Frahm also is the leader on defense with 11.5 sacks.

The Redbirds have lived by forcing turnovers with 14 in three playoff games.

"Turnovers are a key when teams are of equal ability," Zywicki said. "We will certainly be tested and we will see if we are up to it."

When the Wildcats pass, Zywicki said they like to throw deep off play action passes. The top two wide receivers for the Wildcats are Austin Borchardt (16 receptions for 483 yards and six touchdowns) and Camden Heidmann (11 receptions for 436 yards and six touchdowns).

"They will certainly keep running it at you for four or five yards down the field if you can't stop it," Zywicki said.

The Redbirds' Wing-T offense has been up to every challenge in the postseason. Darlington, which averages 51 points per game, has steamrolled its way through the playoffs. Darlington senior fullback Myles Leahy has rushed for 1,089 yards and 24 TDs, while senior Jason Singer has rushed for 1,053 yards and 16 TDs. Sophomore Hunter Johnson has rushed for 893 yards and 12 TDs. It's a three-pronged attack that has kept defenses off-balance. Singer is averaging 9.8 yards per carry and Johnson averages 9.4 yards per carry.

"Myles relishes contact," Zywicki said. "He doesn't shy away from it. You can't bring him down with just one arm. He runs through most kids and has decent speed for a kid his size. He has the power and endurance to keep taking the pounding."

Edgar relies on a 4-3 defense to shut down opposing teams.

"They don't need to stack the line of scrimmage to stop the run," Zywicki said of Edgar. "They have that good of a defense. You can count on them to not stack the box. They are good at what they do."

Both Singer and Johnson add an element to a high-powered offense.

"They compliment each other well," Zywicki said. "Jason and Hunter can get to the perimeter and score on any play."

Another aspect of the Redbirds' offense that is more efficient this year is the passing game. Senior quarterback Cole McDonald is completing 61.8 percent of his passes. He has passed for 1,056 yards with 15 TDs and just three interceptions this year.

"It will be important that we run the ball with some consistency; otherwise it will be a long day," Zywicki said.