FOOTBALL: ‘Golds go against Point

Aaron Vehling

UW-Eau Claire football coach Todd Hoffner began his college coaching career as an assistant to UW-Stevens Point’s John Miech.

Last year’s 21-16 Eau Claire win was Hoffner’s second against his former mentor, but both those wins have come in Carson Park. Hoffner still hasn’t coached Eau Claire to victory in Stevens Point’s Goerke Field.

In fact, no Blugold coach has won in Stevens Point in quite a while – 1987 to be exact.

Saturday, the Blugolds (3-2, 2-0 WIAC) will try to exorcise the Pointer demons that have been plaguing them ever since, and they don’t expect it to be easy.

Stevens Point (3-2, 0-2) is ranked 23rd in the Div. III rankings. A big reason for the Pointers’ success has been the play of senior quarterback Scott Krause.

Krause is tied for the national lead with 20 touchdown passes this season, and the Blugolds, ranked No. 25 nationally, know they have to contain him if they want to win.

“I don’t know if we can stop him,” Hoffner said. “He’s lighting the world on fire right now. It will be a difficult challenge for us.”

Two players in Krause’s line of fire will be cornerbacks Mike LaBarbera and Derek Sikora. LaBarbera, a senior who has gone through two empty trips to Stevens Point, said the Blugolds have to be able to pressure Krause, but even that won’t solve all their problems.

“He’s so good at scrambling around,” he said. “We have to contain where he goes and keep him in the pocket.”

Sikora, a sophomore who was named WIAC defensive player of the week after his two-interception game against UW-La Crosse, said he expects many different formations from the Pointers, including several empty-backfield sets.

“We want to make sure there’s no let down from last week,” he said.

Aside from the possible letdown, the Blugolds will have to deal with a Pointer team that has a little bit more on the line. Having already been saddled with two WIAC losses, Stevens Point will likely have to win to have a shot at the conference title.

Even if the Pointers win out, they still face long odds. Since 1956, only four WIAC teams won the conference title after losing two or more games.

“They’ll play like they have nothing to lose,” Hoffner said. “Hopefully, we’ll take the same approach.”

Aside from the throwing of Krause, the Blugolds will have to contend with the Pointers’ tough defense, ranked third in the WIAC with 17 points allowed a game.

“They have an outstanding, outstanding defense,” Hoffner said. “We’ll have to be patient and take care of the football. We were lucky to get out of last week after committing five turnovers.”

With sophomore Joe Gast suffering a leg injury against Bethel College (Minn.), sophomore Brian Mitchell figures to get the bulk of the carries at running back for the second straight game.

“We’ve been able to score on good defenses this year,” he said. “We should have more momentum coming off the victory. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”