BELOIT- There is one thing that seemingly everyone agrees on as the football season progresses: The Beloit Turner Trojans are better than their record indicates.
The 1-3 Trojans will get a chance to take that back-handed compliment out of the Rock Valley Conference's vocabulary with a victory at 2-2 Brodhead-Juda Friday night.
Turner coach Derek Diehl was blunt when asked if he believed his team was underachieving nearly halfway into its season.
"Yes, I think we are up to this point," Diehl said. "There have been times in the past here where we've found ways to win. This year, we've found ways to lose. There's no question we have enough talent to win. There are times when we look like the best team in the league, and times when we really struggle out there."
After a season-opening victory against Whitewater, the Trojans have dropped three straight games. Gone are any vestiges of hope regarding a conference title, but a playoff spot is still there for the taking.
"Every week at this point is a big game for us,"Diehl said. "We have to play well and we have to win. Right now we are battling illness and many factors that have us up against the wall. We've had good practices from the kids that were there, and that's all I can say. "
Diehl said he's feeling positive about his team's offensive output of late, including putting up 35 points against Evansville.
"The offense has been really good," Diehl said. "But our struggles aren't on offense. They are as a team. There's been times where I've felt good about our defense, too. Whitewater and Big Foot were good games for them. And our special teams scored for us last week. There's aspects of the game where we feel really good about every single game. We just haven't been able to put it together."
Brodhead-Juda put it together in impressive fashion last week in a victory over a solid Jefferson team to even their record on the season.
Cardinals coach Jim Matthys is encouraged by his team's progress.
"I'm happy with the way we are playing," Matthys said. "But we sat down and talked this week about consistency. That's been our M.O. for the last few years, having a game or two where we look really good, then coming back and struggling. It's about putting those good performances together."
Despite its record, Matthys is very leery of the Turner team coming in Friday.
"They have a ton of talent, especially on that offensive side," Matthys said. "They are as talented as anyone in the league. They have a lot of explosive players, and (Kenny) Draeving is a nice quarterback. And they have good size. They remind me of some teams we've had that have started slow. The year we went to the state championship game we lost our first two or three games. Those guys got a win, then strung together a couple of wins, then you have the confidence to take off. I think that's where they are at, though I'd be fine if the winning streak started next week instead."
• CLINTON (0-4) at BIG FOOT (2-2): The Chiefs are hosting a rare matinée affair Saturday at 2 p.m., with the team showcasing its new facility to the community, while also honoring the 2009 team on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their WIAA state title.
"This is going to be a great experience for our community," Welden said. "They finally get to see the complex, and to pay respect for the people who put in a ton of time and accomplished something really great, and that's winning a state championship."
The Chiefs are on solid footing for a playoff run under their first-year coach, and are heavy favorites to move to 3-2.
"I feel good about where we are at," Welden said. "I'm not saying we are playing perfectly every week, that's for sure, and we have to continue to strive to get better. For the most part, we've also remained healthy this year, and that can be a big factor."
Although the Cougars have struggled mightily this season, Welden said he has a healthy respect for Saturday's opponent.
"I know they are 0-4, but they've played some pretty tough teams," Welden said. "They don't look like an 0-4 team on film. Their offense looks good, and they fly around on defense. They are like us in that they don't have a ton of depth, but the fact that they have a bunch of guys going both ways I don't think is an issue. We know we have a great opportunity this week, but it'll stay just a great opportunity unless we take advantage of it."
Welden said the unique circumstances of the afternoon game plus the celebration of the 2009 squad won't be a distraction to his team.
"We've had some weird things happen this year," Welden said. "The facility wasn't ready opening night, so we ended up opening at Delavan. When we played at Whitewater, we played at Perkins Stadium instead of the high school field. Then when we played East Troy at home, that was the first time we'd ever stepped foot on our own field. I think the only distraction might be that there are going to be a lot of people in the stands, but I think we'll handle it well."
• ROCKFORD EAST (1-2) at HONONEGAH (3-0): This game features two of the NIC-10's leading rushers. East heavily features Tay`Veon Lake, who leads the conference by a wide margin with 678 yards on just 51 carries, a healthy 13.3-yard per carry average.
Lake has also hit paydirt seven times in the three games. Hononegah's Christian Gomez is third in the league in rushing with 328 yards and also has scored seven times.
The difference between the two teams offensively has been in the passing game. Indians quarterback Payton Mather has thrown for 388 yards, while East's CJ Berry has thrown the rock just six times in three games. 3
.NORTHERN ELITE (0-3) at SOUTH BELOIT (0-3): Northern Elite, a combined team using players from Niagra, Goodman and Pembine High Schools, has hardly lived up to its name thus far.
• DIXON (1-2) at NORTH BOONE (2-1): The Vikings got a taste of humble pie last week in a blowout loss to a powerful Genoa-Kingston team.
Dixon hasn't played a close game yet. They Dukes were blown out by Stillman Valley and Rock Falls before bouncing back with an easy win over Oregon.
• MIDDLETON (2-2) at BELOIT MEMORIAL (1-3): The season is reaching a critical mass for the Purple Knights, who began the campaign with so much optimism after defeating Janesville Craig.
The Knights fell to the only team in the Big Eight that was winless after three games when they lost to Madison East Friday night.
Middleton might have their best team in recent vintage, but they are likely better than their 2-2 record suggests. They blew out Madison East in the opener, then had a solid win over Madison West.
Their two losses have come to conference powers Verona (61-36) and Madison Memorial (28-11), so they can be vulnerable defensively.
• PARKVIEW/ALBANY (0-4) :at MARKESAN (3-1): If the Vikings are going to break through and win a game this season, odds are this one isn't it.
The Vikings have scored just 42 points in their four games and have lost by an average of 22 points.
Markesan lost its first game 7-0, but has won its last three, including outscoring its last opponents by a combined margin of 76-8.