A Lot On The Line

IU football commit Mike Stark talks about his team's 5-0 start, a big football contest this weekend against Lancaster H.S., and how solid his commitment is to the Hoosiers.

There's a pair of huge games in Wisconsin this weekend, and IU football commit Mike Stark hopes to be at both.

On Saturday, Indiana takes its perfect 3-0 mark into Madison to face Barry Alvarez's undefeated Wisconsin Badgers (4-0). The 6-7, 285-pound Stark hopes to be able to make 75-mile trip from his home in Platteville, Wis., to see the pair of unbeatens square off in an 11 a.m. contest at Camp Randall Stadium.

"I'm going to try to make it, see if I can get some tickets up there," said Stark.

While that's the biggest game in the state on the college front, there's a Friday night high school contest that also pits a pair of undefeated squads. Stark and his fourth-ranked Platteville H.S. squad will put its 5-0 mark on the line against the state's No. 1 ranked team, Lancaster H.S.

The game is big not only because of the rankings, but because of the fact Platteville and Lancaster are neighboring towns that are long-time rivals. During Stark's sophomore season Lancaster handed Platteville a 21-20 setback, while a year ago Platteville bounced back with a 44-32 win on its way to a 9-2 record and the Southwest Wisconsin Conference championship.

"The game on Friday is going to be a season-making game," said Stark. "I don't really care what our record is, so long as we beat Lancaster. That's one of our mains goals on our list, and that's what we want to do every year."

Stark might say he doesn't care about Platteville's record, but the fact is if Platteville can handle Lancaster, it has an excellent shot at finishing the season 9-0 (its final three opponents are a combined 4-11) heading into the state playoffs, potentially as the top-ranked team in Division IV.

"I thought we were going to be good, and I'm sure they thought they were going to be good," said Stark. "But probably no one else thought we'd both be where we are right now. It's going to be a fun game."

Stark will certainly be a key to Platteville's success on both sides of the ball. Offensively he's playing guard as has been a player Platteville runs behind often in its power running attack. Defensively, Stark has been a load for opposing teams to handle at defensive tackle.

Stark says one of primary focuses this season has been to be more a dominant presence on the field, and he's been pleased with the results.

"I wanted to be the hammer not the nail, as some of the coaches at Indiana say sometimes," said Stark. "That's what I wanted to from the start of the season and I think I am."

Stark said he remains committed to the Hoosiers, although he admits that schools continue to show interest in him. He has scholarship offers from Indiana, Northern Illinois, Air Force, Ball State and Illinois State, while other schools have shown varying amounts of interest as well. One of those programs is Wisconsin, which is a school that Stark was once holding out hope would offer before he opted to verbally commit to IU in August.

"I talk to the IU coaches every week – they are good guys," said Stark. "I do still listen to other schools, so we'll see how it goes."

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