Lightning looking to strike in Level 4


APPLETON (WLUK) -- Appleton North is one win away from reaching its first state championship game and all the Lightning has to do is beat rival Kimberly, which owns a 68-game winning streak.

That seems like a tall hill to climb, but North is ready for Friday night.

"Atmosphere is definitely going to be electric.," North running back Will stewart said. "Every seat in the house should be filled, I imagine. It's just going to be an all-around great place to play, so I look forward to it."

It's been a while since North (9-2) reached Level 4. It was 2009, when the Lightning fell to Menomonee Falls, 10-0. Since then, North has had good teams, but not quite as good as this season.

"They're a talented group," North coach Rob Salm said of his team. "These guys really love each other, really care about each other. They're in this for each other. That's what you can see in different teams.

"What's the difference? You'll get talented groups but if they're playing for themselves it just never really comes together These guys aren't interested in statistics after the game, just interested in win or loss. That's why we're still here at Level 4."

Appleton North has confidence it can end Kimberly's state-record winning streak because during Week 7 the Lightning pushed the Papermakers to the brink before losing, 38-31, on a last-minute pass. North hasn't lost since then and is averaging 48 points per game since.

This is arguably the most important football game in North's history as a win would earn the Lightning its first state championship game appearance and it would end Kimberly's streak.

"Our objective has always kind of been one week at a time," Stewart said. "If we can take down Kimberly, that's a goal first of all. To end the streak, I guess, a little sugar on top."

For the Lightning that sugar would taste awfully sweet.

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay