Fort Atkinson (0-0, 0-0) at Portage (0-0, 0-0)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Portage High School

RADIO: 940 AM WFAW with Brett Ketterman and Josh Smith

The bus ride to Portage gives the Fort Atkinson Blackhawks 1 hour, 6 minutes to think about ways to earn their first victory of the season. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the winless 2018 football season was the most discussed athletic season of the school year.

After a positive scrimmage last week, a full calendar year to get organized as a coaching staff and a return to a realistic game plan, the Blackhawks like their chances on the road against the Portage Warriors.

The Warriors are in their first year under head coach Shane Haak, who spent his previous four years as an assistant at Portage. Haak inherits a roster with a variety of athleticism, but piecing that together is going to be the biggest challenge of the season, according the Portage Daily Register.

Portage returns Delnato Sheppard Jr., its top rusher and receiver from a year ago. The top returning lineman for Portage signify a size disadvantage that will likely plague them throughout the year in the Badger North.

“We saw some film on them from their scrimmage,” said head coach Brady Grayvold, “They have some good athleticism and they compare well, size-wise, to us. It’s a good matchup and should be a good test.”

It’s a test that should be won with the linebackers of Fort Atkinson — Mika Gutoski and John Klatt — and the offensive front of Portage.

“Our front seven is experienced and played a lot of football,” Grayvold said. “There are four or five seniors and that helps us a lot. Having that experienced front should be good for us.”

Fort Atkinson and Portage each were 0-9 in 2019. Portage hasn’t won in 14 attempts and has a streak dating back to September 8, 2017. Fort Atkinson has been defeated in 10 consecutive games dating back to a 30-23 victory on the road against Milton on October 6, 2017.

Jefferson (0-0, 0-0) at Walworth Big Foot (0-0, 0-0)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Big Foot High School

RADIO: None

The Eagles are taking the steps forward Steve Gee always wants to see this time of year. Each week, he sees as a chance to play faster, more confident football.

On Friday when Jefferson travels to Walworth Big Foot, he expects the Eagles to continue that growth.

“After our scrimmage, we brought it up to them that they were playing faster in the scrimmage than they were in the intrasquad scrimmage we had the week before, there was some agreement from (the players),” Gee said. “That’s good. We’ll need to keep doing that.”

Big Foot is one of the many teams in the Rock Valley Conference that Jefferson needs to not only play fast, but under control. The Chiefs rely on their spread offense with short passes designed to get athletes in space.

Understanding how to pursue sideline to sideline without getting out of control is a challenge for any defense. In Week 1, that will be heightened.

“It’s a difficult thing, but we just tell our linebackers, or any of our backs, ‘pick the lesser of two evils’,” Gee said. “If you find yourself with two guys and one is going behind you and the other is in front, we’ll give up that three-yard gain; just don’t give up the big one.”

Lakeside Lutheran (0-0, 0-0) vs. Adams-Friendship (0-0, 0-0)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Lakeside Lutheran High School

RADIO: KOOL 106.5 FM with Sean Maloney and John Archer

The Lakeside Lutheran Warriors will open up the non-conference slate with a home game against the Adams-Friendship Green Devils.

The Warriors will be trying to replace an astounding 19 starters from a team that lost one game short of the state championship in WIAA Division 4.

Leading the Warriors will be senior quarterback Matt Davis, who started a pair of games last year in the place of the injured Jack Monis. Shouldering the load on the ground will be a steady mix of Logan Pampel and Micah Cody.

Davis will have Carter Schneider and Tersony Vater as his main targets on the offensive side of the ball.

The focus in the first game of the season likely will need to be on the offensive side of the ball as Lakeside begins to get players situated defensively before the Capitol North slate.

OTHER GAMES

Thursday’s games

Lake Mills vs. Menomonie, 7 p.m., Campus Field

Johnson Creek vs. Orfordville Parkview, 7 p.m., Johnson Creek High School

Friday’s games

Deerfield vs. Dodgeland, 6 p.m.

Whitewater vs. Beloit Turner, 7 p.m.

Cambridge vs. Brookfield Academy, 7 p.m.

Milton at Baraboo, 7 p.m.

Palmyra-Eagle vs. Marshall, 7 p.m.

For updates on Friday night, follow @ByJalenKnuteson and @JohnClaudeMill

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