Melrose-Mindoro hadn't won a playoff football game in over a decade prior to three weeks ago. Since then, the Mustangs have won three straight, and are on the verge of their first state finals appearance in school history.
The Mustangs (10-2) will face Darlington (12-0) in the Division 6 WIAA Level 4 playoff sectionals on Friday night in Middleton for the right to go to state next week.
Darlington was the top-ranked team in Division 6 in the last Wissports.net poll and has an elite rushing attack led by Hunter Johnson. They've breezed past Pardeeville, Mineral Point and Cambridge in the playoffs to reach the sectional finals as the only #1 seed left in the tournament.
The Mustangs earned a #3 seed and beat #1 seeded Pecatonica/Argyle on Saturday to advance to Level 4 for the first time since 1997. While they've accepted the role of underdog to some extend, the team is more concerned about playing the same level of football each week.
"We're not changing anything we've done, we just are doing everything we've done all year and we're trying to do a better job of it each week," head coach Tom Wisniewski said. "At this stage of the game it's who's playing well right now, it's not really what you did during the regular season, it's how you're playing now, and how you execute right now."
The Mustangs will run the ball, but they like to throw more than most teams. Wisniewski credits time spent at UW-L's passing league during the summer for the improved pass game, and ultimately advancing to Level 4.
Junior Sam Boone has thrown for more than 2,000 yards, and wideouts Aaron Scafe and Erik Christopherson have been two of the Dairyland Conference's top performers.
"We know what we can do, we know nobody's going to stop our passing game," Scafe said. "Big plays have always been us all season, they're just going to have to keep that up."
"They're big, they hit pretty hard in the secondary," Christopherson said. "Hopefully we can throw it underneath and get some yards."