The youth football rivalry between the Lake Country Chiefs and nearby Oconomowoc renewed on Saturday afternoon with four successive games, covering 5th thru 8th grade, beginning at 2:30 PM and going right up to when the Wisconsin Badgers were kicking off for a late night at Arizona State. The Chiefs played well in all four games, won three and displayed some of football’s finer values in the process…
SIXTH GRADE SUCCESS A TOTAL TEAM EFFORT
Winning football games is always about a complete team effort. While that’s true in all sports, a player in other sports can still achieve individual success without a lot of help. Not so in football. That’s a message that the 6th Grade White team of the Lake Country Chiefs has taken to heart, and it showed in a 44-0 dismantling of Oconomowoc on Saturday afternoon.
“It starts from the ground up,” head coach Roger Porter said after his team’s second straight shutout underscored how well they are playing defensively. The coach was speaking very literally. “We work on footwork”, he said, tracing his team’s game day success to the frequency that they practice drills emphasizing moving the feet and being in proper position. It’s not the kind of thing that sounds dramatic, but it produces dramatic results.
If you look at the box score of a 6th Grade White game you can find who scores the touchdowns. From Max Beres to Coleton Borkewicz to Josh Nielsen, the White team has players who can attack the edge, hit the hole and finish a run.
But after a late touchdown in the first half where Beres took the ball into the end zone to give the team a 22-0 lead, Coach Porter could be overheard asking his team at intermission who it was the scored the touchdowns. “Everyone!”, came the enthusiastic and immediate reply, including from those who’d taken the ball into the end zone.
That kind of instinctive response from kids doesn’t come unless they’ve fully bought into a message that’s been consistently emphasized. Here too, Coach Porter sets the tone for his team by deflecting attention away from himself and onto the tremendous support system he has in place.
“It’s a team effort,” he emphasized. “The coaches really work together, and the kids are great listeners. That starts with the families.” The parents who support the coaches efforts to emphasize the team over and above the individual are a big part of the success their kids have enjoyed on these first two Saturday afternoons.
There’s still a long way to go, and now the coaches and parents will be working to ensure the kids keep listening and working. “We’re not done,” Porter said after the game. “We have to keep getting better.” Other teams in the league are going to keep improving, and with the success the 6th-Grade White team has had means that other kids will come with a little extra fire to knock them off their perch.
That continued work starts again with practice on Monday afternoon, where it all starts over. The sixth-graders have shown they can be successful, now they face the even more difficult challenge of showing they can handle it. However the remainder of this season plays out we know this—from the emphasis on fundamentals to the need for contributions from everyone, both on the team and in its immediate support system—it’s going to be a team effort that starts from the ground up.
AGGRESSIVE EIGHTH GRADERS PULL AWAY
The performance of 8th Grade White in the prime-time slot at Arrowhead Stadium was almost a carbon copy of the sixth-grade kids. There were notable stars—Chandler Pulvermacher and Jeff Holt—but a whole lot of blocking up front, and complete defensive control of the line of scrimmage. The final score was a similar result, at 42-0.
Any time a team wins a football game by this kind of margin, you can run through a laundry list of everything that was done well. But watching the game unfold, what stood out the most was the way the Chiefs’ defensive front, led by Carson Radtke, owned the point of attack, made big plays and allowed the team to control the general flow of play, out of which big plays on both sides of the ball eventually game.
“Hats off to Oconomowoc”, were the first words head coach Matt McQuestion had to say in the aftermath of a win that pushed his team to 2-0. “Those boys were bringing it.” The coach felt there were some tremendously talented kids on the Oconomowoc side of the ball, but that injuries had hurt their depth.
The Chiefs dodged a bullet on the first possession, when an Oconomowoc receiver got open behind the coverage on 3rd-and-11, but the ball was overthrown. Lake Country took over on downs, Holt threw a swing pass to Pulvermacher for a quick TD and the Chiefs were off and rolling.
Jake Julius came up with an interception deep in Oconomowoc territory, and though the Chiefs didn’t score, the ensuing chain of events gave Oconomowoc the ball back in the shadow of their own end zone. Max McQuestion then blew up a sweep for a safety that extended the lead to 8-0.
It stayed that way to late in the second quarter, when the Chiefs’ depth advantage started to take over. Pulvermacher scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the half and a close game became 20-zip in the blink of an eye.
Any hopes Oconomowoc had of a rally were quickly snuffed out. Pulvermacher took a swing pass and in the course of his winding 35-yard run to the end zone, eluded most every defender on the field. A subsequent interception by Aristotle Maxwell set up another touchdown and the Chiefs cruised home to the win.
When you control the point of attack you win football games and the 8th Grade White team most certainly did that on Saturday night.
FIFTH GRADERS WIN A GOOD ONE
The best game of the day from a competitive standpoint was the 5th Grade White kids victory. After a slow start, they got control of the game early in the second quarter, and were able to salt away an 18-6 win.
It took about a quarter for the Chiefs’ kids to get settled into the game, but they got an interception from Evan Bartleson to quell one Oconomowoc drive and then got the break they needed shortly after the second quarter commenced.
The score was still 0-0, and Oconomowoc drove into Lake Country territory and then dialed up a halfback option. The receiver was open, but the ball was overthrown. The Chiefs’ defense held on downs and then the offense got clicking. Michael Dorow faked right, ducked into the interior of the line and came all the way out on the left sideline and didn’t stop until he was on the Oconomowoc 14-yard line. Sam Puldvermacher, swept to the 2-yard line and Dorow finished the drive with a touchdown.
Lake Country’s defensive line was also getting more aggressive at the point in the game. Logan Vansistine and Owen Arnett were repeatedly penetrating the backfield and even if they didn’t make a tackle themselves, they were messing up Oconomowoc’s offensive rhythm. The Chiefs got another touchdown in the in the final seconds of the half and took a 12-0 lead into the break.
The defensive front was in complete control and it seemed hard to imagine that this would become a game. But the fifth-graders learned that sports can turn on a dime. With 2:13 left in the third quarter, Oconomowoc intercepted a pass and brought it all the way back. It was 12-6, and back to a game that could now be decided on a single play.
Lake Country’s 5th graders showed their mental toughness with the response. They kickoff was brought out close to midfield and two quick runs got a first down that re-settled the game. A nice run by Pulvermacher brought the ball to the Oconomowoc 19, as the clock turned into the fourth quarter.
Offensive tackles Jacob Johnson and Arnett were repeatedly sealing off Oconomowoc defenders and creating room on the edges for Pulvermacher and Dorow to operate. The latter carried it two more times to the shadow of the goal line and then punched it in for a touchdown that finally secured the win with six minutes to play.
“We kept the intensity going,” said head coach Brian Dorow, regarding how his kids had overcome the sluggish start to turn the tide in their favor. “We wanted to keep it going and rotate players, get everyone involved and share the wealth.”
SEVENTH-GRADERS GET SNAKEBIT
All of us have seen games where it seems like one team has a basic control of the flow of play, but it seems like every play of scoring significance swings against them. The 7th Grade White team had one of those nights in a 22-8 loss.
Three moments in this game stood out. On the opening possession, Oconomowoc returned an interception for a touchdown. Later in the first half, after Seth Bowie took a swing pass and rumbled 68 yards to the Oconomowoc 4-yard line, a fumble turned it back over. And late in the game, two consecutive passes by strong-armed quarterback Nick Wofiel into the end zone just missed being caught for a touchdown. By the narrowest of margins, three touchdowns had been swung Oconomowoc’s way and that’s just too big a gap for a football team to overcome.
The seventh-graders got deserved praise from coach Brenton Carr afterward for their persistence in the face of adversity and that persistence was shown right from the outset. After the pick-6 put them in a 6-0 hole, Wofiel finished a sustained drive, by hitting a beautiful 19-yard flag route to receiver Jonathan Winter and gave the Chiefs an 8-6 lead.
When Oconomowoc was driving, the Chiefs’ defense came through. Defensive tackle Jack Hazod broke the line on fourth down snuffed the play and turned it back over to the offense. And even after the deficit grew to 14 points, Lake Country just kept coming, with Wofiel’s strong arm making the Chiefs a constant threat to get it down the field. In the end, it just didn’t quite work out, but the kids can come back to practice knowing they played hard, played well and just focus on cleaning some of the small mistakes that turned out to be big on the scoreboard.