The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater faces off with a team that has done something only the Warhawks can claim in recent seasons, and Oconomowoc graduate Canton Larson will be a part of it.
The Warhawks, ranked No. 1 in one NCAA Division III poll and No. 2 in another, meet John Carroll University on Saturday (Dec. 3) at noon in Whitewater.
John Carroll reached the national quarterfinals with a double-overtime win last week, but perhaps an even bigger win came earlier this season when it defeated Mount Union to win the Ohio Athletic Conference title Nov. 12. Mount Union had a 112-game winning streak in regular season battles and a 98-game winning streak at home overall. The Purple Raiders had won the past 24 conference titles.
Mount Union has also won five of the past 11 Division III national championships, reaching the title game in all other years in between and, of course, falling to UW-Whitewater on each occasion.
But if Whitewater will get another chance to down Mount Union, it'll have to go through John Carroll first. In a 37-9 win over Wittenberg last week, Oconomowoc's Canton Larson caught two passes for 17 yards. He has 23 catches for 284 yards and three scores on the year.
He also has 44 rushing yards, including a 25-yard rush in the playoff opener, a 45-27 win over Lakeland.
UW-Oshkosh, who actually accounts for John Carroll's only loss of the year after winning a game Sept. 3, has lost only one game all year -- a tense battle to Whitewater. Oshkosh downed Washington University in the playoff opener, 49-13, and topped St. John's of Minnesota last week, 31-14. With a win over St. Thomas (noon Dec. 3 in Minnesota), Oshkosh and Whitewater could meet once more in the national semifinal.
Oconomowoc's Aaron Cramer has seen the field in nine games this year and made nine tackles. OHS graduate Luke Venne serves as the Titans' offensive coordinator.
UW-Platteville also made the playoff field this season, falling to St. John's on the opening round of the playoffs, 32-31, on a touchdown scored by St. John's on the final play. OHS graduate Sam Siefkes was the team's co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. It's the first time three teams from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference earned spots in the D3 playoffs, and the Pioneers appeared for just the second time in school history (2013).
In Division 1, it's been a wild ride for Oconomowoc graduate Zach Poker and the Pitt Panthers, who defeated Syracuse on Nov. 26 in a crazy 76-61 game. Pitt (8-4) is ranked 24th in the nation after the win.
Pitt's other claim to fame this season has been a 43-42 win over Clemson on a last-second field goal, accounting for Clemson's lone loss of the season. Clemson heads into the ACC Championship Game as a favorite to become one of four teams selected for the College Football Playoff.
Poker has seen the field in 10 games this year, registering two solo tackles and two assists. The redshirt junior tight end/defensive end missed time last year with a foot fracture and 2014 with a shoulder injury.