After a one-year absence, I will be announcing high school playoff football tonight when Lodi plays Platteville at UW–Platteville. If you’re in Grant County, you can tune in to 1280 or 1590 AM. If you’re online, you can go to wglr.com and select the appropriate Sports Stream.
As I pointed out a year ago on this blog and mentioned this week, I have some postseason history not with Platteville, but with Lodi, which played Ripon in consecutive seasons last decade. The 2005 Division 4 Level 4 game between Ripon and Lodi at Beaver Dam was a classic with a strange finish. After a pair of fourth-down holds by each team, Lodi took over at its own 1-yard line inside the last two minutes, with the score tied 14–14. You wonder at that point whether a team would try to move the ball or just hold and take its chances in overtime, but I never got that thought out because Lodi chose the worst possible time to fumble. Three plays later, Ripon scored to take a 21–14 lead.
Then came the weird part. Before the kickoff my partner suggested, in jest, an onside kick. We laughed. The ensuing kickoff spun out of bounds. The Lodi coach made Ripon rekick. The rekick went up in the air, looked as if it hit something on the air (winds from the south hit 35 mph), came back and landed in front of a Ripon player, who decided this was a good time to pounce on the ball. So instead of a series with the wind to try to tie the game, Lodi got one play, a Hail Mary pass that was swatted down. Ripon went on the following Thursday to win its second state title in three years.
One year later, Ripon was back in the playoffs, but unseeded, at undefeated and number-one-seeded … Lodi. The Blue Devils figured to be highly motivated after how the previous season had ended, and indeed the Blue Devils led at one point 20–7, seemingly unconcerned that two drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns.
Ripon, however, got its offensive act together and scored the next 21 points to take a 28–20 lead. Lodi scored but failed on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28–26. When the Blue Devils got the ball back, they marched into position for the game-winning field goal, which ended in … “BLOCKED! RIPON WINS!!!”
So I’m looking forward to tonight. The high school postseason is great because of its finality. One bad game — for that matter, one bad quarter or even moment — and boom goes your season and, if you’re a senior not skilled enough to play on Saturdays, your career. The pressure from the finality of that is great to watch, unless you’re a player or, I suppose, a parent.