WEST BEND — It’s safe to say this year was one of the best seasons in recent history for West Bend East football. The Suns are 92 overall, tied for second in the North Shore Conference at 5-2 and are two wins away from reaching the state final, a feat the East has never accomplished before.
But tonight, the Suns will face what will likely prove to be the biggest obstacle standing between them and Camp Randall Stadium, and that is top-ranked Monroe.
Here’s the breakdown ahead of tonight’s game:
Monroe has yet to lose a game this season as they are 22-2 since last year. While winning the Rock Valley Conference, Monroe held opponents scoreless in six of its nine regular season games.
The Cheesemakers reached tonight’s state quarterfinal game by defeating defending Division 3 state champion Pewaukee 22-21 last week at home. It was just the second time Monroe had allowed 20 or more points all season, and the first time his margin of victory was less than 25 points.
East quarterback Peyton Fountain has thrown for 1,090 yards and six touchdowns this season, according to wissports. com, completing 72 of 145 attempts with six interceptions.
For the Cheesemakers, George Brukwicki was the main man under center, but with the offense struggling, Brukwicki passed for just 412 yards and five touchdowns while completing 19 of 23 attempts with one interception.
The Suns’ pass defense has been one of the top units in the state this season, allowing 85.8 yards per game while throwing 14 interceptions – tied for 30th in the state.
Meanwhile, Monroe has allowed 100.4 yards per game through the air this season, although they are not far behind the East in interceptions, as the Cheesemakers have 12 as a unit this season.
CHANGE AND CONFUSION
What will make or break this matchup is how the Suns can handle the Cheesemakers’ running game. Monroe has been nothing short of dominant on the field this season, racking up 4,394 yards and 67 touchdowns — both leading the state by a wide margin — and averaging 399.5 rushing yards per game.
Monroe has eight players rush for over 100 yards this season and not one but two 1,000-yard rushers in Keatin Swinney (1,196) and Alex Hernandez (1,244). Sweeney has scored 22 touchdowns this season to lead the team, followed by Hernandez with 13 and Caden Kuester, who has scored 12 touchdowns while rushing for 618 yards.
East has been held back in run defense this year, allowing 148.2 yards per game on the ground and surrendering 16 touchdowns. The Suns also managed to limit opponents to 4.9 yards per carry.
And while they’re nowhere near the Cheesemakers’ level on offense, the Suns still put together a solid year on the ground, averaging 239 yards per game with 35 touchdowns. East’s average of 6.9 yards per carry also ranks among the top 50 teams in the state.
Leading the ground attack for the Suns is their own 1,000-yard rusher Colton Cress, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry while running for 1,488 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kress formed a 1-2 punch on the fly played with Cutler Schmidt, who has rushed for 567 yards and eight touchdowns and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
For East to advance to the semifinals, it will all come down to its ability to slow down the Cheesemakers’ running game. And despite Monroe’s gaudy numbers, it’s very possible the Suns could keep the game close.
In last week’s win over Pewaukee, Monroe’s running game was limited to 234 yards — just over half of what averaged per game this year. Hernandez was limited to 85 yards rushing, while Sweeney managed just 46. Now that proved to be just enough to win and advance, but it shows that the Cheesemakers can be slowed down on the ground and when that happens, they can turn their opponents around back in the game.
If the East defense is strong, it will be a close game and the Suns have a chance to advance. But if Monroe gets wild early, it will likely spell the end of the road for the East.