JANESVILLE — Lightning struck twice against Janesville, while AGWSR found its team depleted of starters.
Unforeseen circumstances were part of the equation as these two teams suffered competitive losses to unbeaten Riceville in what has been a competitive 8-Player, District 2.
As a result, AGWSR (4-3, 2-2) enters Friday’s 7 p.m. game with Janesville (5-2, 3-1) competing for the district’s final playoff spot. A Northwood-Kensett team that beat AGWSR and lost to Janesville is also in the mix with a 3-2 district record.
Janesville currently has a significant edge in point differential should there be a three-way tie for second, but plenty can change in two weeks on an 80-yard field.
“If we take care of business on Friday night, it puts us in the driver’s seat to get into the playoffs,” Janesville coach Dale Eastman said. “A team like Ackley, they’ve been battle-tested. ... It should be a really good football game.”
Janesville had opportunities to take the district lead last week, but suffered a 22-14 homecoming loss to Riceville. The Wildcats had first-and-goal when lightning delayed the game in the second quarter, and later made a key third-quarter stop before a second delay.
“Both times I think we had momentum going, both times lightning decided to strike,” Eastman said. “It just didn’t work out in our favor. Weather is part of the game. I thought our boys played well. We still threw for 211 yards, even in the rain. We were able to execute, just a couple bad breaks.”
AGWSR’s first taste of adversity also came against Riceville. The Cougars were off to a 2-0 start to the season and led 10-0 before four starters went down with injuries midway through the third quarter. A wild 8-player swing resulted in a 36-10 Riceville win.
“When we’ve been healthy, we’ve been pretty competitive,” AGWSR coach James Koop said. “When we’ve had key starters hurt, we’ve lost games. That’s been the story of our season.
“In a very competitive district, if you don’t have all your weapons it’s hard to beat a lot of good teams.”
Though it has been an injury-plagued season, Koop anticipates everyone will be dressed and ready to play, with the likely exception of 6-foot-2, 220-pound middle linebacker and quarterback Aaron Roelfs. The senior leader left the Riceville game with a high ankle sprain and after gutting through a win over Turkey Valley was forced to leave the loss to Northwood-Kensett with an injury to his other ankle.
During last week’s 38-0 win over Clarksville, AGWSR used a rotation of wildcat quarterbacks Liam Stubbe, Alec Stahl and Lucas Starr behind a physical line.
“They’re really big,” Eastman said. “We’re going to have to really fly to the ball.
“On the offensive side, we’re going to have to use our speed. We’re going to have to try and get to the edge.”
Janesville’s Peyton Meyer has thrown for 862 yards and 13 touchdowns versus just two interceptions. Spencer Hoff is his top target with 18 catches for 519 yards and 10 scores, while Dalton Woodyard leads the rushing attack with 315 yards at 6.7 per carry while also working as a pass-catching option.
As a team, Janesville has taken a major step forward coming off last year’s 3-6 season.
“They’re phenomenal athletes,” Koop said. “We’ve got to make sure we know where they are. I think Janesville and their coaching staff does a great job with a bunch of formations, sometimes running the same plays, but giving the defense a different look.”