from today's JSOnline.com -
Photo by Mike Sears - Running back Tommy Garza signals a touchdown in a game earlier this season. He has rushed for 780 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
One can almost hear Packers general manager Ted Thompson when Catholic Memorial football coach Bill Young talks about how his team has overcome numerous injuries to reach the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.
"It's our philosophy to build and develop depth," Young said. "It's a grind playing in (the Classic 8 Conference) for us. The game of football is based on numbers and quality of numbers. You can have 100 guys on a team, but if they're not very good, you're not going to have a good team."
Memorial, the reigning Division 3 state champion, is seeded second with an 8-1 record heading into its first-round playoff game against seventh-seeded New Berlin West at 7 p.m. Friday at Carroll University despite injuries to at least seven key players at some point this season.
Defensive tackle Mitch Ulrich, who started every game last year, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in July. He missed the entire season and was replaced by Zack Taylor. And Nick Schulze replaced linebacker Chris Rupel, who also missed the season after he tore his ACL in the preseason scrimmage.
Free safety/tailback Alec Kocour missed three games with a pulled hamstring, including Memorial's only loss of the season.
Cornerback Jake Shomin was out a month with a sprained knee. Running back Jake Piette and offensive guard Jake Drwila sat out two games, and nose guard Tyler Tevich had to miss one.
Memorial doesn't have any standouts — at least from a statistical perspective — either.
Quarterback Cam Krausert has thrown for 437 yards and rushed for 248, and the running game is led by Tommy Garza (780 yards, seven touchdowns), John Clark (508 yards, nine touchdowns) and Kocour (404 yards, eight touchdowns).
But Memorial is healthy now, and has won its last five games by allowing 14 points or fewer each time since a 12-0 loss to Arrowhead on Sept. 13.
The Crusaders enter the playoffs with loads of confidence after beating Mukwonago and Waukesha West — both playoff teams in higher divisions — the final two weeks of the season.
"They're big, fast and really disciplined," Arrowhead coach Greg Maling said. "CMH has Division 1 size and are so well-coached that it's very difficult to find weaknesses. They were obviously really good last year, but I think they may be even better this year."
Last year, Memorial reached the championship game as a three seed.
"I think it's going to be a pretty tough bracket, but it'll be a good challenge for us to see where we are at as a team, I think," Memorial defensive lineman Sam Gromacki said.
If Memorial, ranked fourth in the area by the Journal Sentinel, beats West, a possible second-round matchup would be against eighth-ranked Pewaukee. The Pirates will not only try to avenge a playoff loss to the Crusaders last year, they are 8-1 with their only loss to third-ranked Greendale by six points.
Win that game, and top-seeded Monona Grove or fourth-seeded Edgerton will likely be waiting in the quarterfinals.
Monona Grove is 9-0, having allowed a total of 23 points in its last six games and received votes in the large division of The Associated Press state rankings. Edgerton is 8-1 and its only loss was by seven points to Lodi.
"The thing about the playoffs, if you're not focused and dialed in on one game at a time, there'll be no second game," Young said. "But it's a tough road. There's three tough games right in a row for us, if we can make it that far. The biggest thing I talk to our kids about is win and advance."