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MCDONALD'S GAME OF THE WEEK (Prep Football): 2019 Opening night
Belmont kicks off the season with inaugural 8-player game against visiting Elkhart Lake–Glenbuhlah
Logan Page
Platteville's Logan Page catches a pass and turns up field during last Friday's practice at PHS. The Hillmen will host Cuba City to kickoff the 2019 Friday night at 7 p.m.

PREP FOOTBALL: 2019 opening night

The start of the 2019 prep football season begins tonight when Belmont hosts Elkhart Lake–Glenbuhlah in the school’s first game since becoming an eight-player program. 

The Braves went 1–8 overall and 0–7 in the Six Rivers Conference last year in its final season as an 11-player program, but return three-year starters in running back/linebacker Riley Christensen, and two-way lineman Michael Douglas, Mitchell Douglas and Brady Wedig. 

Belmont head coaches Matt McKinley and Brandon Wiese are optimistic for a fresh start in eight-player competition.

Platteville, as well as nearly every other team in Southwest Wisconsin, opens it 2019 season Friday night. The Hillmen will host Cuba City in the first game as head coach for Platteville’s Jason Weittenhiller. 

Weittenhiller replaces Ryley Bailey as both head coach and offensive coordinator after spending last season as Platteville’s defensive coordinator. Weittenhiller was a running backs/linebackers coach for the Hillmen in 2017, and prior to that spent eight seasons at Belmont’s head coach, leading the Braves to a 32–46 mark and five playoff appearances from 2008–15.

The Hillmen are coming off a 6–3 campaign and a 2–3 finish in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference, which kept Platteville out of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The SWC will look slightly different this season, as Lancaster has moved to the Southwest Wisconsin Activities League, while Arcadia, Westby and Viroqua will join the league for one season.

Iowa–Grant will open its final season in the SWAL Friday night at home against future Six Rivers Conference rival River Ridge and its first under new head coach Zach Raimer. Raimer, who spent the last five seasons as an I–G assistant replaces Gary Allen, who went 55–39 in nine years as the head coach.

The Panthers, who went 2–7 overall, will play one final year in the new-look SWAL along with SWAL holdovers Cuba City, Darlington, Fennimore and Mineral Point, and league newcomers Lancaster, La Crosse Aquinas and Onalaska, before moving to the Six Rivers in 2020.

Potosi/Cassville, which finished second in the Six Rivers a year ago behind 2018 WIAA Division 7 state champion Black Hawk, will travel to Hillsboro Friday night to begin Coach Mark Siegert’s 21st season. The Chieftains dominated the conference earlier in the decade winning five straight titles, but the third-year Potosi/Cassville co-op has taken a back seat to defending D7 state champion Warriors, who won the last two Six Rivers Conference titles.

Southwestern and Boscobel have joined the Chieftains, Black Hawk/Warren, River Ridge, Pecatonica/Argyle and the new Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg tri-op in the Six Rivers this fall. 

Highland moved to the Ridge & Valley this year.

Black Hawk will open its D7 title defense Friday night at Fennimore. The Golden Eagles had a sensational 2018 campaign, going 10–2, finishing second in the SWAL behind Mineral Point, before ending the year with a Level III playoff loss to Lancaster, 21–14. 

Fennimore lost a slew of talents, including two-year starting QB Reid Larson, 2018 SWAL Lineman of the Year Logan O'Brien, who is in fall camp at Wisconsin right now, 2018 SWAL Defensive Player of the Year Derek Kephart and WFCA All-Star WR/DB Maguire Fitzgerald. Coach Jonah Roth's Eagles will also be without senior two-way starters Aaron Ragels (OT/DE) and Will Ahnen (FB/LB), who will both miss at least the first month of game, possibly more, as both recover from knee surgeries. Ragels tore his ACL in the spring at a wrestling tournament. Ahnen had his knee scoped on Monday.

Lancaster, which is coming off a 9–4 season which ending with a D6 state semifinal loss to Racine Lutheran, will travel to Pecatonica. The Flying Arrows must replace four offensive lineman, but all of their main weapons, including  seniors  Corey Hahn (FB), Dawson Bowen (RB), and Weston Pink (WR), and juniors Hayden Knapp (QB) and Preston Nothe (WR).

(all games at 7 p.m. unless noted)

Thursday, August 22
Elkhart Lake–Glenbeulah at Belmont, 7 p.m.

FRIDAY, August 23 
(all games at 7 p.m.)
Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg at Royall
Boscobel at Brookwood
Black Hawk/Warren at Fennimore
Cuba City at Platteville (UW–Platteville)
Dodgeville at New Glarus/Monticello
Lancaster at Pecatonica/Argyle
Potosi/Cassville at Hillsboro
River Ridge at Iowa–Grant
River Valley at Nekoosa
Southwestern at New Lisbon
Viroqua at Mineral Point
Westby at Darlington
Wisconsin Dells at Richland Center

SATURDAY, August 24
Prairie du Chien at La Crosse Aquinas, noon