There have been 32 Milk Bowl games played between Mater Dei and Central, with Mater Dei hoisting the white milk can trophy 28 times after a football victory.
“The hype is definitely anticipated,” said Central coach Brian Short, whose 4-0 team will be trying to pull off its second Milk Bowl victory in four years. “It doesn’t matter what anybody’s record is, it just doesn’t matter. It’s always the same. It’s the game that’s talked about the most most every year and there’s a lot of people that come to this game that don’t come to any other game.
“That’s the Milk Bowl.”
Game time: Mater Dei (2-2) at Central (4-0), 7 p.m. Friday
State rankings: Central is ninth in Class 3A; Mater Dei has been ranked as high as fourth in 4A but is currently unranked.
All-time series: Known as the Milk Bowl since 1984, Mater Dei leads in that series 28-4 and holds a 31-8 edge in games played between the schools (counting playoffs) since 1977.
Neither Short nor Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel are from Clinton County, so both were thrown head-first into the annual frenzy of intensity and bragging rights that is Milk Bowl week.
It doesn’t matter what anybody’s record is, it just doesn’t matter. It’s always the same. It’s the game that’s talked about the most most every year and there’s a lot of people that come to this game that don’t come to any other game. Central coach Brian Short
“It’s obvious how important it is to the kids and the community and what it means,” said Stiebel, a former all-state offensive lineman at Althoff who later played at Nebraska and Kansas. “The only thing I can compare it to back in my day was how Althoff-West was, but this seems more intertwined than what that was.
“Here, grandmas have kids on both sides in several cases — and I know one for sure.”
More than 3,000 people pack the stands annually. There’s tailgating and grilling on the level of a Division I college football game and the event is a true high school spectacle.
“It absolutely lives up to the hype,” Short said. “It’s close quarters, they’re right down the street from us. It’s a great atmosphere, a playoff-type atmosphere for a Week 5 regular season game. Any time you have that it’s special for your kids to be part of.”
It took a memorable performance in 2013 by Jacob Timmermann and teammates to help Central notch its last Milk Bowl win, a 29-28 victory.
“When you do lose one, you realize how important the game actually is,” said Stiebel, whose team has won the last two Milk Bowls 34-14 and 45-12. “Not just as coach, but as a community. Without a doubt there’s deep sense of pride that comes with this game.
“It means so much to our kids for that year because when the other team does win, they make such a statement with the trophy and everything because they don’t see it very often.”
When you do lose one, you realize how important the game actually is. Not just as coach, but as a community. Without a doubt there’s deep sense of pride that comes with this game. Mater Dei coach Jim Stiebel
Scouting Central: Averaging more than 46 points per game, the Cougars rely on a huge senior-based offensive line and strong running game led by Collin Thomas (566 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Ben Rakers (465 yards, seven TDs).
“There’s no doubt at that we’re going to try to run the football,” Short said. “That’s what we do best and that’s not going to be a surprise to anybody. I guarantee they’ll have a really good game plan to stop the run.”
Quarterback Hunter Toeben is 39-for-66 for 537 yards and five TDs with two interceptions. He also has 146 yards rushing and three TDs.
Toeben’s top receiving targets are Dalton Wise (11 catches, 101 yards, one TD) and Bailey Stewart (seven catches, 151 yards, one TD).
Defensively, the Cougars are stout up front led by Brice Haselhorst (32 tackles, seven sacks) with more solid defenders in Lucas Koopmann (22 tackles), Tyler Malone (24 tackles) and Thomas (22 tackles, three sacks).
Scouting Mater Dei: The Knights were 2-0 before losing the last two weeks to unbeaten and state-ranked Althoff (40-16) and Mt. Carmel (27-20).
Mater Dei’s offense revolves around talented senior quarterback Colin Schuetz (41-of-93, 509 yards, five TDs with three interceptions). Schuetz is Mater Dei’s second-leading rusher behind Jake Wieter (442 yards, two TDs) with 285 yards and four TDs on 41 carries.
Lucas Theising (14 catches, 176 yards, two TDs) and Jake Timmermann (12 catches, 147 yards, two TDs) are Schuetz’s top targets.
“When you’re talking about an all-state quarterback returning for his senior year, that’s big,” Short said. “He is such a big part of their offense. He’s 6-1, 210 pounds and he can throw the ball all over the yard and he’s probably their best runner.”
The Mater Dei defense has been unable to contain the strong running games of Althoff and Mt. Carmel and the Cougars present another challenge.