No, not this “The Final Countdown” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw), the quasi-famous song by 1980′s one-hit wonder, big-hair band, Europe…what I’m trying to say is that the regular season is winding down for high school winter sports winter season.
February is just about upon us, which means, WIAA state tournaments are right around the corner. I’ll be one of a large number of Chippewa Valley residents who will be heading for Madison, to either cover, compete in, or watch all the exciting action–somewhat similar to how Joey Tempest, the long-haired, lead singer of Europe, crooned in the aforementioned song “The Final Countdown,” that he and his bandmates were heading for Venus. Unlike the song, however, all those who leave the Chippewa Valley for Madison, do plan to return, and we fully expect the area will be intact upon our arrival back home.
Between now and the end of March, I’m sure I’ll be hearing “The Final Countdown” hundreds of times, because, as I’ve noted before, it is on the playlist of just about every high school pep band in the state of Wisconsin. I’ve also discovered that the song’s popularity extends well beyond the borders of this state at the high school (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=final+countdown+high+school+band&search_type=&aq=f) and college level ( http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+final+countdown+pep+band&search_type=&aq=0&oq=the+final+countdown+pep+).
Between now and March, we’ll be treated to any number of very intriguing regular season matchups, that’ll go a long way toward determining conference championships…and those matchups that take place prior to WIAA seeding meetings, will no doubt have an impact on where a team winds up in its respective bracket.
Here’s a partial list of upcoming key contests:
BOYS HS BASKETBALL
Thursday, February 11, EC Regis @ Fall Creek
The Crickets won this season’s first matchup on the Ramblers home floor, so Regis will be looking to return the favor. That first game was a sellout, so if you’re hoping to catch the rematch, get your tickets early. Even though this second matchup will take place before the WIAA Division 3 seeding meetings, Fall Creek and Regis are in different regionals, and will likely earn #1 seeds regardless of the outcome of this game. Still, the tension in the gym that night is sure to be off the charts. It’s a great rivalry between two proud programs and two well-coached teams, each of which is loaded with talent–the type of matchup that sums up all that’s good about high school sports. If FC wins, you can all but hand the Western Cloverbelt Conference trophy to the Crickets…but if ECR comes out on top, then it’ll be a sprint to the finish.
Thursday, February 18, EC Memorial @ EC North
The Old Abes have surprised a lot of people by taking over first place in the Big Rivers Conference. On their trip to the top of the BRC standings, the Abes made the most of their home court advantage in a 50-37 win over the Huskies. What will North have in store for Memorial in the rematch? If the Huskies have been in an mid-season offensive funk, they certainly snapped out of it this past Friday in a very surprising 30-point road win at Rice Lake. Both ECM & ECN have some interesting matchups in the meantime, but if they can each take care of business until their rematch, it’ll add even more fuel to the fire. Oh, by the way, the WIAA Division 1, Sectional 1 seeding meeting is set for the Sunday after the ECM-ECN rematch.
Friday, February 19, St. Croix Central @ Colfax
At the moment, SCC leads the Dunn-St. Croix standings with an 8-1 record, with Colfax right behind at 8-2. The Panthers already have a 2-point win over the Vikings this season, so if SCC can win at Colfax, it could go a long way in wrapping up the DSC title for Mike Fern’s club. Still, with Mondovi and Glenwood City both lurking behind the Panthers and Vikings, there are still a lot of things that could happen down the stretch. The Division 3 seeding meetings are scheduled for the Sunday following this game, but both the Panthers and Vikings are in different regionals. The way the brackets are set up, a third meeting between SCC & Colfax is possible, in a sectional semifinal, although the Panthers may have a easier path there, since Regis is one of the other teams Colfax may wind up facing in its regional.
Thursday, February 4, Amery @ Prescott, Baldwin-Woodville @ Osceola
Tuesday, February 9, Baldwin-Woodville @ New Richmond, Prescott @ Osceola
Friday, February 12, Prescott @ New Richmond
Tuesday, February 23, Amery @ New Richmond
Friday, February 26, Osceola @ New Richmond, Baldwin-Woodville @ Amery
The Middle Border Conference race is shaping up to be one of the best in the area. Right now, only two of the eight teams in the MBC have sub-.500 conference records. New RIchmond and Amery are 6-2, Osceola, Baldwin-Woodville, and Prescott are 5-3, with Durand 4-4. Suffice it to say, there are any number of games that’ll have an impact on the MBC title race.
Tuesday, February 16, Ladysmith @ Northwestern
Thursday, February 18, Northwestern @ Bloomer
The Tigers have the inside track on the Heart O’North title, with a 3-game lead on both the Lumberjacks and the Blackhawks. Still, Ladysmith and Bloomer seem to be the only teams in the HON with a chance to hand Northwestern its first conference loss.
GIRLS HS BASKETBALL
Saturday, February 13, Rice Lake @ Menomonie
Friday, February 19, Menomonie @ EC North
The Indians and Warriors are tied for first in the Big Rivers Conference Standings, with the Huskies one game behind. Even though Chippewa Falls may have a say in who wins the BRC title, the outcome of these two games will likely determine the conference championship.
Thursday, February 4, Altoona @ Osseo-Fairchild
Thursday, February 18, Osseo-Fairchild @ EC Regis
Tuesday, February 23, Fall Creek @ Osseo-Fairchild
Osseo-Fairchild leads the pack in the Western Cloverbelt with a 9-0 record, with Fall Creek and Regis right behind at 8-2. If the Chieftains are going to run the table en route to a conference title, these are the three games O-F will need to win.
Tuesday, February 23, Neillsville @ Owen-Withee
A trip to the Blackhawks’ gym may be the only the only thing standing between the Warriors and an unbeaten record in the Eastern Cloverbelt.
Monday, February 1, Mondovi @ Boyceville
Thursday, February 18, Boyceville @ Colfax
The Bulldogs are closing in on a title in the Dunn-St. Croix, but to win the conference championship outright, they’ll need to win these two games. The Colfax matchup might be especially tricky for Boyceville, especially because the previous Monday, the Bulldogs host a solid Clayton club.
Friday, February 5, Hayward @ Barron
Thursday, February 25, Hayward @ Ladysmith
Hayward has a one game lead in the Heart O’North standings over Ladysmith, which has a one game lead over third-place Barron. The Hurricanes already have a 12-point win over the Golden Bears, along with a 13-point win over the Lumberjills, but both of those games were in Hayward. One more point of interest: the Hurricanes and Golden Bears could meet in a sectional semifinal.
BOYS HS HOCKEY
Tuesday, February 2, EC Memorial @ River Falls
Thursday, February 4, Rice Lake @ EC Memorial
Tuesday, February 9, Chippewa Falls @ EC Memorial
Thursday, February 11, EC Memorial @ EC North
The Old Abes have a chance to run the table in the Big Rivers Conference, and ECM would have to be considered the heavy favorite to win each of these games. The combined scores of Memorial’s previous games with these four opponents is 25-1. Only Rice Lake was able to put the puck in the net vs. the Abes. The team with the best chance to spring an upset figures to be River Falls, which lost 4-0 at Memorial earlier this season, and gets home ice advantage for the rematch.
GIRLS HS HOCKEY
Thursday, February 4, St. Croix Valley @ Hudson
Saturday, February 13, St. Croix Valley @ Central Wisconsin
When the Fusion visits the Raiders, it’ll be the matchup of the first-place and second-place teams in the Big Rivers. When St. Croix Valley travels to Greenheck Fieldhouse in Schofield to skate against the Central Wisconsin Storm, it’ll be a matchup of two of the top programs in the state. Last season, they met in a WIAA state semifinal, with the Fusion edging the Storm, 2-1 in two overtimes.
Beyond these regular season matchups, postseason action also begins in the month of February, with wrestling regionals set for Saturday, February 13, with team sectionals on Tuesday, February 16. Individual wrestling sectionals are on Saturday, February 20, with the WIAA State Individual Tournament at the Kohl Center slated for Thursday, February 25, through Saturday, February 27. Boys swimming & diving sectionals are Friday, February 12 – Saturday, February 13, with the state meet the following weekend.
If you’re one of those types who suffer from cabin fever at this type of the season, maybe the remedy is to check out some of the upcoming action at a local gymnasium, pool, or rink. You’ll never get more for your sports entertainment dollar. There’s even a good chance you’ll hear a rendition of “The Final Countdown” from a local high school pep band.
Whether or not you do attend, the News 18 Sports team will be working hard in the coming weeks, all the way through the WIAA state tournaments in March, to get you caught up on all the action.
Posted under Hometown Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on January 31, 2010