The persistence paid off for the 6th Grade Blue team of the Lake Country Chiefs. This was a group of kids that had played better than their record and deserved a better fate than what football’s bottom line had delivered them all year. But they kept coming and working and even on a day against East Troy where “here we go again” would have been the easy thing to say, the 6th Grade Blue used a big 26-point explosion in the third quarter and got their first win of the year by a 32-12 count.
East Troy scored first, when they executed a 3rd-and-18 reverse to keep a drive alive as the first quarter ended, and then finished it off with a short quarterback keeper early in the second period to up 6-0. Lake Country got a drive going, with J.J. Smerz catching a swing a pass and using some nifty footwork to get up on the right sideline and inside the East Troy 20-yard line. But an ensuing sack caused the drive to stall.
Just before the half, the Chiefs’ defense came up with what would prove to be a big play. With 26 seconds left, East Troy completed a long pass down to the two-yard line. On the next play, the interior of the Chiefs’ line held on a running play, and with East Troy out of timeouts, the clock ran out. The half hadn’t gone as Lake Country wanted, but the score was only 6-0.
Head coach Tim Bonk implored his kids not to give up at halftime, and they heard the message. Keenan Klink caught a swing pass and scooted up the right side to convert a 3rd-and-8. Blake Meyers then swept right, cut back inside and gained twelve more yards.
Then it was time for Smerz. With the ball about the 30-yard line, he caught a swing pass and got open into the left flat. Running at full speed, he showed excellent body control in making a sudden cut back to the inside at the 3-yard line and got into the end zone. The game was tied 6-6.
Lake Country’s defense made a stop on fourth down and took over on the East Troy 46. Another swing pass to Smerz again got him into the open field and he again took it the distance. Now the Chiefs had a 12-6 lead, and were feeling the momentum.
When East Troy took the ensuing kickoff and ran it back for a game-tying touchdown, it was another moment where the Chiefs’ kids might have tossed up their hands in frustration, but they did exactly the opposite. Instead, on their own chance with the ball, Meyers got the ball went left, and took it the distance.
Then when the defense got back on the field they immediately intercepted an East Troy pass. A quick swing pass to Klink produced over twenty yards and got the Chiefs inside the East Troy 20. Smerz again finished the drive, catching a pass in the flat and using his combination of size, speed and terrific footwork and body control to maneuver his way into the end zone.
It was a stunning sequence of events. In a matter of one minute and 54 seconds a 6-6 game had turned into a 26-12 lead for Lake Country. And with the taste of victory in the grasps, the sixth-graders didn’t let go. The defense stabilized the game in the fourth quarter, they added a late touchdown and had their long-sought win.
“We have some really good players,” Coach Bonk said after the game. “And they know they’re good.” Indeed, it takes good players to produce a 26-point quarter and a three-touchdown margin of victory against anyone. “But it’s hard for the kids to go to school each week and the other kids ask how they’re doing and they haven’t won a game.”
All very true. The coaches and parents might know that the virtues the sixth-graders have shown all season–their hard work and their persistence–have enduring value regardless of what happens on the scoreboard. The 6th Grade Blue kids didn’t need to win a football game on Saturday to deserve the admiration of those who follow them. But it was fun to watch them get it. And it will be fun for them to go to school on Monday morning.
5th GRADE BLUE CLOSES THE YEAR STRONG
The season for the 5th grade teams came to an end on Saturday and for Lake Country’s 5th-Grade Blue team it ended on a high note, as they overcame a slow start, gradually took control of the game defensively and beat Mequon/Thiensville by a 25-13 count.
Mequon scored on the game’s first possession, and converted the extra point, so even when Lake Country countered with a touchdown, the Chiefs trailed 7-6. Lake Country was getting their sea legs though, with quarterback Jimmy Stefl repeatedly making some nice throws, as he and receiver Samuel Kredell clearly have a good chemistry together. Stefl then did some work with his feet, bulldozing up the middle for twelve yards to reach the 5-yard line and then finishing the drive with another keeper for a touchdown.
Lake Country’s defense stopped Mequon’s final drive of the half when Blake Ewer clogged up the middle on a 4th-and-1 play, and the Chiefs took a 12-7 lead into intermission.
Though the Chiefs’ defense was on control of the game’s basic rhythm and flow, Mequon was able to make a big play on a quarterback keeper for a 40-yard touchdown run and they grabbed a 13-12 in the closing minute of the third quarter. Cameron Gohde for the Chiefs responded by returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but a penalty nullified the play.
Lake Country would not be denied in their final quarter of the season though. Nicholas Enyon took a sweep and got up the left sideline, going from midfield down to the two-yard line, setting up a Stefl touchdown. Then Ewer recovered a fumble on the ensuing possession, and the Stefl-to-Kredell combination produced a long pass down to the 1-yard line and eventual touchdown. It was now 25-13 and just 5:33 remained.
The defense held firm, with Ewer making one more big play, a sack on third down with 3:18 left that put Mequon’s offense in an impossible fourth down spot.
“All the success we’ve had is about being a team,” head coach Jim Stefl said afterward. “We have 25 kids and the ones that aren’t on the field are always rooting hard for those that are.” The team effort includes good blocking on the offensive line, and Patrick Hall and Edwin Beilke repeatedly opened holes and created opportunities for their teammates.
7th GRADE RED STARTS FAST & CLOSES CLUTCH
The 7th Grade Red team used a fast start and some key plays at big moments to secure a 20-14 win over a good Slinger team. The Chiefs blocked a punt on the game’s opening possession, and worked their way down to the Slinger 20-yard line. At that point Davis Zeuztis took the ball on a quarterback keeper through a nice hole on the right side on 4th-and-2 to keep the drive alive.
Joey Biwer then threw a touchdown pass to Caden Bence. The Chiefs got the point after kick from Alex Peglow (kicks count for two points in youth football), to get an 8-0 lead. On their next offensive possession, the Chiefs scored again. This time it was Biwer swinging a pass to speedy Jacob Boray who took it up on the right side for a 50-yard touchdown play and it was 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Slinger used a quickened pace on offense and the heightened tempo, along with some good inside running helped them score and cut the lead to 14-6 with 3:48 to go in the first half. Lake Country did not score on the ensuing possession, but a 3rd-and-7 conversion from Zeuztis on a keeper ensured they were able to run out the clock.
The first possession after halftime was the biggest of the game. Lake Country chewed up more than half of the third quarter on a methodical drive, and then used the same combination as a previous drive. Zeuztis ran hard through the right side to get the ball on the door step, and then Biwer flipped a touchdown pass, this time a nice slant to Boray.
A Slinger drive was kept alive on a somewhat touchy pass interference call on fourth down, and the Owls scored with 6:49 left in the game to cut the lead to 20-14. Lake Country again responded with a clutch drive. On 3rd-and-7, Biwer dropped back. The pressure came and flushed him from the pocket. He spotted Josh Kilmer who made a catch and then a nice run into Slinger territory. The Chiefs didn’t score, but they used a lot of clock and put Slinger in bad field position. The defense closed out the win, with Bence making a fourth-down tackle to put it on ice.
The afternoons for the 5th Grade White team and 6th Grade Black didn’t go as well, but in each case the teams played quality opposition. The 5th Graders dealt with a good Tosa East team, with Owen Arnett making several big defensive plays to keep them on it, but the Tosa defense was very stout and deserves its bows.
The 6th Grade Black team fell to another strong and disciplined defensive unit, this one from Slinger. Chiefs’ quarterback Keenan Kling is tall and athletic, with a nice arm. But the Owls always stayed at home defensively, with Grainger Anderson making one interception, coming close to another and leading up a secondary that never really allowed any open space. Slinger’s sixth-grade running backs work hard and press the edges, and while the Chiefs defense hung tough and kept it a game, Slinger was able to chisel out the win.