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Game of the Week - La Crosse, Meade always a good matchup

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

LA CROSSE -- Not all of the La Crosse High School football players consider Meade a rival. A two-hour drive separating the schools has a lot to do with it, but rivalries are often developed on the field, not on a map.

While some of the Leopard players might be hesitant to call La Crosse-Meade a rivalry, they all understand that when the two teams meet, there is typically a lot riding on the outcome.

And when this happens a lot, as it has in recent years, a rivalry is born.

"It seems like our season always comes down to playing each other," La Crosse coach Jon Webster said. "It's a big game. Both towns get into it. We expect a big crowd, a great atmosphere ... it's developed into what it is. It's different philosophies and styles of football. But each program does their thing very good and it usually results in very good football games."

Expectations are another is in the works when the teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday in La Crosse for the Class 2-1A sub-state championship. The winner will advance to play in the state championship game at Lewis Field Stadium in Hays a week from Saturday against the winner of Centralia and Lyndon.

Meade, 10-1 and ranked No. 3 in Class 2-1A in the statewide media poll, is coming off a 28-0 win over Smith Center. The Buffaloes' only loss came to Holcomb 21-20 in the season opener.

La Crosse (11-0, No. 2 in the poll) is familiar with Meade, and vice versa. The teams have turned a playoff matchup into an annual event, including last year's 34-12 win for Meade in the sub-state round. The Buffaloes went on to defeat Centralia 28-25 in the state title game.

"We've played La Crosse every year that I've been here. They were in our district for many years," eighth-year Meade coach Scott Moshier said. "There was quite a stretch where Meade had never won a head to head matchup with La Crosse until 2009. Since then we've had a couple of back and forths and it's just been one of those teams you play, and being late in the year like it is, it's not just a rivalry. It's a big game."

Meade's senior class from last year suffered only one home loss in their playing careers, a 21-12 loss to La Crosse in the Class 2-1A sectionals. The Leopard seniors this year can say the same thing, having lost only once at home in nearly four years. It came when they were freshmen, a 44-12 loss to Meade in 2010, also in the Class 2-1A sectionals.

The 2010 season ended with a state title for Meade, just as the 2012 season did. Meade has four state titles in school history, the other two coming in 1972 and 1980.

La Crosse has only been to the state title game once, a 20-14 overtime loss to Centralia in 2011. Nonetheless, expectations remain high for the undefeated Leopards.

"There is a lot of pressure. Everybody in the community, that is their expectation every year, for us to get to state," La Crosse senior lineman Jacob Reifschneider said. "It's a very big deal (being at home), especially for us seniors. The last time we lost on our home field was against Meade our freshmen year. Also, this is the third sub-state game and we've never got to play a sub-state game at home. So we are ready to see what kind of atmosphere there is going to be. We are really excited."

Meade opened the playoffs with a 49-14 win over Oberlin-Decatur County and followed with last week's 28-0 win over Smith Center, both games played in Meade. The Buffaloes will travel to La Crosse on Friday, their first road game since a 28-6 win at Elkhart on Oct. 25.

La Crosse defeated Plainville (41-14) and Oakley (12-7) in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Now La Crosse and Meade will meet in the sub-state round for the second time in as many years, the winner earning a trip back to the state title game next week.

"It's slowly turning into a rivalry. I wouldn't say it's a rivalry right now. We meet with them every year and it's just a great football game to come watch," La Crosse senior Marshall Jay said. "I feel like it's going to be more on them because a lot of people overlook La Crosse. Some say we just got lucky last week (against Oakley). It's more on them. I'm just going to go out and play knowing that I just have to do what I have to do to get it done."