Knights look to finish strong vs. Vikes

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Jim Franz/Beloit Daily News Multi-talented senior Matthew Wedig (87) has averaged over 8 yards per carry for Beloit Memorial.

BELOIT - With just one opponent left on its Big Eight Conference football schedule, Beloit Memorial (1-7) has a lot of pent-up frustration to release Friday night.

The Purple Knights will try to finish on a high note as they host winless Janesville Parker (0-8) at Jacobson Field at 7.

Both teams are likely to to try to grind out a victory on the ground.

While Beloit suffered a 40-20 loss last week, it ran the ball effectively against second-place Verona (6-2).

"Ideally, this game plays to our strength," Beloit head coach Rodney Wedig said. "Our offensive line did a really good job against Verona. We rushed for over 300 yards. I think both teams are going to try to establish the run this week."

The Knights ran up all that yardage against the Wildcats thanks to productive play from a line that includes senior center Chris Reyes, senior right guard Jhalen Banks, sophomore right tackle Aidan Wright, senior left tackle Christian Winfield and junior left guard Tyler Sireci. With Banks the lone returning starter heading into 2018, the line has been a work in progress.

"Jalen has been the mainstay all season," Wedig said. "Wright has played very well for a sophomore. Winfield has done a good job playing both ways and Tyler didn't start early on but worked his way into the lineup. This is the first year out for Reyes. He's been in the weight room the past couple of years and during the past off-season he worked out with (Ripon College recruit) Angel Zuniga. We finally convinced him to come out and he has played every snap at center and been really solid."

The Knights were able to run effectively against Verona without using their top rusher, senior Eric Bridges (63 carries, 347 yards), who has a bone chip in his ankle and his status is unclear for Friday.

"Eric had an MRI this week to determine if he would do more damage if he played," Wedig said. "If he gets cleared to play he hasn't practiced in over a week, but he may see some limited action."

The Knights have plenty of options, including Radonis Smith, Brandon Perry and Frederick Davis. Quarterback Shelvin Garrett is averaging five yards per carry, while Matthew Wedig has 278 yards on just 33 tries (8.4) and three touchdowns.

"I have no problem giving any of them the ball," Wedig said.

The Vikings will counter with Garrett Sanwick (56 carries, 259 yards, four TDs) and Casey Vanderlinden (82, 203). Parker hasn't had the chance to run as much as it would like to because it has been behind so often. The Vikings have managed just 57 points this season while allowing a whopping 346. Sophomore quarterback Sam O'Leary has completed 38-of-94 passes for 270 yards (40.4) and two touchdowns while being intercepted seven times.

"We're going to try to force them to throw because they would rather run it," Wedig said. "Parker shows a lot of multiple formations and shifts. We can't over-think things. We need to get in a defense that is sound so we're not just running around. They've pulled out everything to try to put points on the board, so we have to be ready for some trick plays."

The past two seasons, Wedig kept his team around an extra week for a 10th game against a non-conference foe. That won't be the case this year.

"Two years ago, we did it because our seniors were good kids and played tough, but the Big Eight just happened to be really strong and they didn't win," he said. "I wanted to play that last game so they could experience it. (Racine) Park wanted to play last year and it seemed like a good idea with what we had coming back.

"If somebody had called me this year and I thought it was a good matchup, I might have been talked into it again, but nobody called me. We're a senior-dominated team and our goal had been to make the playoffs. I think with this being a rivalry game and both teams disappointed in their seasons this will be a good way for our seniors to go out."

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