Something has to give Friday night. It's that simple.
After just three weeks of play in the highly competitive Classic 8 Conference, only two football teams sport perfect 3-0 records. It's not surprising that those teams are defending WIAA Division 1 state champion Arrowhead and perennial powerhouse Waukesha West.
In what could turn out to be the game of the year in the Classic 8, West travels to Arrowhead for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday.
"This is what I like most about the conference," Arrowhead coach Greg Malling said. "Every week, it's a big game. There are a lot of very good football teams in this league, and you have to come prepared to play every night. We look forward to all of these big games. It's a lot of fun for the coaches and a lot of fun for the kids. I'm sure the fans for both teams are going to be ready come Friday."
Friday's game could very well determine the 2013 league championship. If Arrowhead wins, it would appear to have a good shot at running the table for a second straight year. If West gets the victory, the Wolverines will most likely either win the outright crown or share the title with the Warhawks.
On paper, West has the edge, sporting a perfect record. Arrowhead is 4-1 overall, having suffered its only setback to perennial state powerhouse and defending WIAA Division 2 state champion Homestead by a 13-7 score.
These two teams have been going at it hard for the last nine years, with Arrowhead holding a very slight 5-4 edge in those nine games. AHS broke the 4-4 tie last year when it scored the most lopsided win in the storied history between the two schools, winning by a 52-7 score.
For Arrowhead, it will mark the third straight conference game against one of the three powerhouses in the Classic 8. The Warhawks blanked Catholic Memorial (defending Division 3 state champion) two weeks ago by a 12-0 score and then topped Mukwonago last Friday night, 24-3.
West has defeated Mukwonago (45-44), Muskego (51-13) and Waukesha North (35-0) in league play. The Wolverines are averaging a hefty 43.3 points per game in conference games.
But Arrowhead has not allowed a touchdown in three conference games and has given up just six points in those three games. In all five games, the Warhawks are allowing just 5.2 points per contest.
Based on that, the game appears to come down to West's offense vs. Arrowhead's defense.
West has utilized the offensive skills of running back Elijah Fort and quarterback Conor Blount to put up those gaudy numbers. Fort is the leading rusher in southeastern Wisconsin with 1,006 yards on 120 carries, good for 16 touchdowns. The talented Fort is averaging 201.2 yards per game and a hefty 8.3 yards per attempt.
Blount, only a sophomore, has played with a lot of poise this season. He's completed 47 of 76 passes for four touchdowns and has done an excellent job of running the offense.
Fort and Blount will be staring into the eyes of arguably the best defense in the state. Despite losing two of their top six players due to ACL injuries (Logan Rupard, Alex Romeneski), the Warhawks appear to be an immovable object for opposing offenses. Mukwonago came into last week's showdown with the Warhawks averaging 36.2 points per game. All they could put on the board was a second half field goal that came after an Arrowhead turnover.
"We pride ourselves on playing great defense and getting better and better each week," said senior defensive back Charlie Reuteman after the Mukwonago win. "We were challenged by Memorial two weeks ago and tonight by Mukwonago. And now we have to play against West. They've got a bunch of great athletes so we'll work hard this week and prepare the best we can for them."
Arrowhead's defense is anchored by linebackers Matt Seitz, Andy Hessler and Sam Seonbuchner and defensive end Billy Hirschfield.
AHS has played the tougher schedule so far. The Warhawks' five opponents sport a 13-11 mark, while the five West opponents are a combined 9-16.
Inside the Numbers
7 Combined conference championships in the past seven years for Waukesha West and Arrowhead.
7 State titles between the two programs, including West's crowns in 2004 and 2010.
5 Arrowhead wins in the past 9 meetings against Waukesha West.
22 wins in the last 23 conference games for Arrowhead.
A look back at the recent meetings between West and Arrowhead:
2012: Arrowhead 52, Waukesha West 7. As the Warhawks headed toward an undefeated state-title run, Arrowhead took a 38-0 lead in the third quarter and surrendered its only points in the fourth.
2011: Waukesha West 19, Arrowhead 13. In a superb playoff atmosphere with the backdrop of the Milwaukee Brewers' NLDS Game 5 taking place up the road, West's Joe Schobert scored two or his three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a clincher with 1:43 to play.
2010 playoffs: Waukesha West 14, Arrowhead 10. En route to the Division 1 state title, West stopped Arrowhead at the Wolverines' 16-yard line for four downs in a Level 2 playoff thriller, reaching Level 3 for the first time since the 2004 state championship.
2010: Arrowhead 10, Waukesha West 7. Six turnovers cost Waukesha West in a tight battle with Arrowhead, including one on the Arrowhead goal line and two others to kill drives in the fourth quarter.
2009 playoffs: Arrowhead 21, Waukesha West 14. Arrowhead scored all its points in the third quarter, with Brian Crook rushing for two touchdowns, and West quarterback Ryan Young ran for two scores in a nail-biting loss that snapped West's undefeated season in Level 2. With the score tied at 14, Blake Mattson recovered a fumble for Arrowhead that set up the go-ahead score.
2009: Waukesha West 12, Arrowhead 6. Senior quarterback Ryan Young, whose father Bob graduated from Arrowhead, snuck into the end zone in overtime to give West the victory and snap Arrowhead's 16-game conference winning streak. West managed just two first downs and 79 yards in regulation.
2008: Arrowhead 14, Waukesha West 0. Brady Steinbach and Calvin Ramsey scored for Arrowhead in a season that ended for the Warhawks in the state-title game.