Football empires collide on Friday when Arrowhead visits Homestead
Highlanders belt Hartford in opener
Many questions were answered Friday for the almost completely rebuilt Homestead football team when the Highlanders opened the season on a happy note with a convincing 42-10 road win at Hartford.
But veteran coach Dave Keel knows better than to read too much into just one game, especially as the defending WIAA State Division 2 champs have many other questions to be reviewed yet and because of the magnitude of their upcoming game.
Everybody in the state circled this contest when it came up on the schedule, so fans are advised to get to Homestead early Friday, when two of the most dominant forces of the last 15 years in Wisconsin prep football collide as defending Division 1 champ Arrowhead comes to visit at 7 p.m.
The Warhawks, who are overwhelming favorites to win another state title this year, are loaded, with seven athletes already having NCAA Division I scholarship offers on the table. Arrowhead blasted Kenosha Bradford, 42-7, in their opener last week.
Not a make-or-break game
Meanwhile, Keel is not going to overplay or underplay the importance of this game.
"These are not college kids we're playing here," he said. "We're going to keep to the same philosophy that we always have. We're just worried about Homestead. We'll just worry about ourselves and our goals and how we can get better.
"It's a Friday night game. An exciting nonconference game with two great bunches of kids involved. We're going to get after it and I'm sure they're going to get after it. But, it's still just a game. A nonconference game that is not going to make or break our season."
But before anyone thinks that the Highlanders are not going to take this contest seriously, just listen to Shorewood/Messmer coach Drake Zortman, who spent several years on the Homestead staff before heading up his own program.
"I tell you, if their game (the Highlanders) ended at 9:15 p.m. Friday, I can guarantee you the scouting report (for Arrowhead) was in the kids' hands by 10 p.m.," he said. "They'll be ready."
The two teams played a trio of memorable WIAA State D1 title games in a row from 2006-2008, with Homestead winning in a blow-out in 2006, 35-0; Arrowhead overpowering the Highlanders in 2007, 31-7; and Homestead taking the brilliantly intense and physical rubber match, 13-11, in 2008.
Start off strong
In preparation for that, Homestead shook off some dust and answered some questions Friday against Hartford. The Highlanders scored on the first possession (a 19-yard Nick Allen to Vincent Wilkerson pass) and before the end of the quarter were up 22-3, as Anton Ragozin broke off a 55-yard run and Eric Wade, a 62-yard yard jaunt for scores.
The Orioles closed the gap to 22-10 early in the second half, but then the Highlanders scored the final 20 points of the game, as Ragozin (six carries for 154 yards) ripped off a 76-yard run for a score, Allen found Jack Popp on an 84-yard pass and Cole Murphy ran it in from three yards out.
"The kids really did some nice things," Keel said. "We were going against a quality program and a quality staff. At times it was a good battle, but we broke a couple of long ones, which we hadn't done in the scrimmage (the previous week) and that really helped.
"That first touchdown was set up by a nice kick return from Cameron Marotta and then Nick made a perfect pass (to Wilkerson). We mixed it up, used three different backs and two or three different receivers and the O-line opened some nice holes. Their defense had a hard time keeping up at times."
On defense, new middle linebacker Jakab Mirgai had a good game, including an interception, noted Keel. Allen wound up completing five passes for 139 yards while Wade rushed for 92 yards on 10 carries.
"We've just got to keep improving," Keel said, "and play the way we're capable of. We've got to improve, and given what's going to happen this week (Arrowhead), we better do it in a hurry."
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