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Birds soaring like eagles
MONROE - On Saturday, 56 teams in seven divisions from across Wisconsin will fight for the right to keep their seasons alive. Twenty-eight will move on to the semifinals, and 28 will join the other 420 teams watching box scores.

Two local teams, Darlington (Division 5) and Brodhead-Juda (Division 4), are back in the quarterfinals for the second-straight year.

Arcadia (9-2) at Darlington (11-0)

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

The Redbirds have run the table for much of the year, rarely needing their first-team offense and defenses to play deep into the third quarter - except for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

On the road in the opening round, Darlington let a 30-0 half-time lead get closed to 30-19 at Lancaster before defense stopped the Flying Arrows for good. In the second round, the Redbirds again jumped out early on Stratford, only to half Stratford tie the game in the waning minutes. Darlington won at the gun on a short field goal by Zach McArthur.

"In our first game against Lancaster, it was a lack of focus. We thought we had it in the bag," Darlington head coach Scott Zywicki said. "Against Stratford, it was much different. They made adjustments and we missed some plays. We gave up a couple of turnovers inside our own 15-yard line. You can't make mistakes against good teams like that."

Senior quarterback Alex Erickson continued his phenomenal season by rushing for 363 yards and five touchdowns in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Erickson, along with fullback junior Seth Rowe and senior playmaking running back Tucker Wiegel have exploited every defense the Redbirds have played this year.

"Experience is so important at this time in the season. The seniors can help the other guys get through the stress and pressures that come. Plus, they don't want it (their careers) to end," Zywicki said. "You'll get every ounce of effort from the seniors for the full 48 minutes."

Arcadia went to the state championship last year and returns 20 seniors.

"They are very experienced, they have good size and a lot of really good athletes," Zywicki said.

Arcadia quarterback Alonzo Genelin has thrown for over 1,200 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Genelin's top target all year has been Zach Bisek, a 6-foot, 4-inch wide receiver who has over 20 catchers and 563 yards this season. Senior running back Reid Christ ran for over 1,550 yards and 20 scores in 2009, earning all-area honors. This season, Christ has again averaged over 100-yards rushing a game with 19 touchdowns. At 6-1, 192 pounds, Christ's frame and speed (he was a two-time state track qualifier) makes it tough for defenses to stop him.

Darlington also has the advantage of playing at home, and not making the long morning drive up the Mississippi.

"Last year we had to go to Palmyra-Eagle, which is nowhere near as far away as Arcadia, and we came out lethargic in the first half," Zywicki said. "Being at home makes things nice for preparation. It eases the nerves a bit."

Zywicki also said that with just one other game going on in southwestern Wisconsin (Mineral Point plays Bangor at Iowa-Grant), he expects a big crowd at Marten's Field.

"The adjoining communities want to see good football, and if we we're still in the playoffs I would too. I'd be going to Monona Grove or wherever there is a good game," Zywicki said. "Nearly everyone in southwest Wisconsin will be either watching us or watching Mineral Point."

The winner of Saturday's game will play the winner of Waterloo (10-1) and Brillion (11-0) for the right to play at Camp Randall.

Brodhead-Juda (9-2) at Nekoosa (8-3),

Saturday, 4 p.m.

The Cardinals have rebounded well from the first three weeks of the season, when they went 1-2. Since that time, no team has been able to slow Brodhead-Juda's offense. All the while, the defense has shut down virtually every team in its path.

"(We) are playing great football right now," Brodhead-Juda head coach Jim Matthys said after his team knocked off New Glarus-Monticello in Level 2 Oct. 30, 49-14.

Next up for the Cardinals, Papermakers junior running back Austin Kukulka, a 5-11, 185-pound running back that has gained over 3,000 rushing yards the last two seasons, including 1,555 yards and 27 touchdowns rushing this year.

The Papermakers have rushed for 3,329 yards this season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Derek Baker has thrown for nearly 900 yards as well.

To defend Nekoosa's offensive attack, the Cardinals will rely on their staunch defense that stacks the box and covers receivers man-to-man. Senior linebacker Jesse DeLorme leads the Cardinals with 62 tackles, 28 of which are solo. Jaron Harding is second on the team with 56 tackles, including 12 for a loss and two forced fumbles.

The Cardinals have allowed just 2,478 yards this season, an average of 225.2 yards a game, and are out-scoring their opponents by an average of 41-17 each game.

Offensively, Brodhead-Juda can run with any team in the state, having eclipsed 3,154 yards on the ground. DeLorme has amassed 922 yards on 117 carries (7.88 ypc) and has 16 touchdowns. Senior Alex Wallace has home run ability on the ground, rushing for 734 yards and 10 scores. Wallace also has 444 yards receiving with five touchdowns.

Michael Peterson has caught 30 of quarterback David Earleywine's 65 completions for 556 yards and 10 scores. Earleywine has been efficient all season, completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,218 yards, 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

The winner of Saturday's game will play the winner of Big Foot (9-2) and New Holstein (8-3). Big Foot beat Brodhead-Juda by one point in Week 3 after the Cardinals went for the win in overtime, but failed to convert the two-point conversion.