Level 3 preview: Abbotsford, Coleman both feature powerful running games

Abbotsford faces Coleman tonight at 7 p.m. in a Level 3 playoff game.

WIAA Division 6 Level 3
Abbotsford (11-0) at Coleman (11-0)

Friday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m. at Coleman High School

Two dominant ground games will take the field as the Abbotsford Falcons and the Coleman Cougars play tonight for the right to advance to a WIAA Division 6 state semifinal game.

Abbotsford, the undefeated champions of the Cloverwood Conference, has scored an incredible 62 rushing touchdowns and is averaging 384.5 rushing yards per game and 8.8 yards per carry this season.

Coleman, unblemished winners of the Marinette & Oconto Conference, averages 293 rushing yards per game and 7.5 per carry.

And with both defenses fairly stout against the run - Coleman has limited opponents to just 72.5 rushing yards per game, Abbotsford 140.9 - something has to give.

Both teams score with ruthless efficiency - Abbotsford 44.2 points per game, Coleman 42.7 - and build up big leads for their defenses to maintain.

They don’t turn the ball over either - Abbotsford just seven turnovers all year, Coleman nine - so what’s going to decide the game?

The Falcons are a little more battle-tested coming in, having navigated the always-tough Cloverwood, and boast a Level 2 playoff win over an excellent Marathon team.

Coleman has out-scored Crandon and Northern Elite 86-0 in two playoff wins, so they definitely won’t be lacking confidence on their home field.

What’s on the line

Abbotsford has reached a state semifinal game two other times but has never gotten all the way to the title game. The Falcons lost 33-14 to St. Mary’s Springs in a Div. 6 state semifinal in 2003 and fell at that same level in 1997.

Coleman reached Level 4 last year but was defeated 35-7 by Pepin/Alma, the eventual Div. 7 runner-up. Tonight’s game against Abbotsford is just the second Level 3 game for the Cougars in program history.

Players to watch - Abbotsford

Abbotsford’s ground game begins with senior Brock Halopka. The 180-pound back has racked up 1,391 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns, all while averaging a dominant 12.4 yards per carry.

Of course, he’s just one of many Falcons who will carry the ball in Abbotsford’s high-powered offense. Entering tonight, eight players have carried the ball at least 10 times and three have carried it more than 90 times.

Abbotsford’s been so good during their two playoff games that Halopka has only been needed for 12 carries. Eight have gone for touchdowns.

Senior Ethan Kramas (922 yards, 12 TDs) and junior quarterback Ean Rau (655 yards, 11 TDs) also have a big impact on offense.

Halopka and Rau, both starting linebackers, are the anchors of Abbotsford’s defense, which has held opponents to 16.2 points per game.

Halopka leads Abbotsford with 90 total tackles while Rau leads with team with 8.0 sacks and also has 80 tackles, including 11 for loss.

Senior linebacker Tyler Kunze (55 total tackles), defensive back Cody Friedenfels (51 total tackles, 4 interceptions) and sophomore lineman Angelo Hutman (37 total tackles) give the Falcons additional playmakers at all three levels.

Players to watch - Coleman

Jacob Zeitler, a 205-pound back, leads the Cougars with 1,308 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Sophomore Jake Baldwin is next at 453 rushing yards.

Quarterback Bryce Karban has attempted 52 passes this season for 249 yards and seven touchdowns. Big tight end Gunnar Patz has caught four touchdowns.

The Cougars offense has been nearly unstoppable, but the team also relies on a dominant defense, one that has held foes to just 63 points this season (5.7 per game) and posted three shutouts.

Coleman has given up more than eight points only once - a 60-13 win over Gillett on Oct. 7.

Senior linebacker Patz leads the team with 84 total tackles, nine for loss, along with four sacks and three interceptions.

Baldwin has 64 total tackles, seven for loss, and five other players have at least six tackles for loss.

But Abbotsford will be the Cougars’ sternest test to date.

You can view the full WIAA Division 6 playoff bracket here: http://halftime.wiaawi.org/CustomApps/Tournaments/Brackets/HTML/2016_Football_Boys_Div6_Sec1_2.html

For more coverage of Abbotsford football's run through the playoffs, see next week's edition of The Tribune Phonograph.

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