The Lake Country Chiefs 7th Grade Red team was near the bitter end of a hard-fought battle with Brookfield Central. A well-played game was scoreless with just a minute and a half left. The Chiefs had the ball inside the Brookfield ten-yard line, but faced a 4th-and-5 from the seven-yard line.
Thunder was rumbling in the backdrop, as a storm that would produce lightning bolts and send everyone involved under the stands at Arrowhead Stadium for cover was less than a half-hour away. The Chiefs dialed up the number of Jacob Boray on an end-around play. It was blocked with precision, but as had been the case all afternoon, Brookfield’s well-coached defenders contested every step of the way. Boray raced for the edge, a phalanx of Central jerseys in pursuit.
Boray was racing to win a football game that was a positive delight to watch. When a seventh-grade game is scoreless in the closing minutes, a casual observer might think there was little action. But the opposite was true in this game. Both offenses repeatedly pushed the ball to the edge, seemingly on the verge of a big play.
For the Chiefs, that meant several well-executed swing passes down the line, as quarterbacks Joey Biwer and Davis Zeutis took turns hitting receivers in the flat. For Brookfield, it was their sweeps and option constantly looking to break the edge. But Lake Country’s kids stayed disciplined, and their tackling was sure. Each offense threatened, but neither defense cracked. And that brought us to Boray’s final mad dash for the pylon.
If this were Hollywood, the filmmakers would have slowed everything down and played dramatic music, honing in on the determined look of Boray, his blockers and the defenders furiously chasing him. We would have seen Boray reach for the end zone and make it with room to spare. The seventh-grade Red Chiefs had the winning margin to start their season 1-0.
Head coach Mark Zeutis was enthusiastic in his praise of his entire team’s effort. “Everybody blocked,” was his response to Boray’s touchdown run. The coach was pleased with the way his kids blocked down the field, and the way they played defense. It took every ounce of solid fundamental play the seventh-graders had in them to beat what is clearly a very good Brookfield Central team, and they did it, with a 6-0 win.
LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE: FIFTH-GRADERS WIN IN FINAL MINUTE
The Lake Country Chiefs 5th-grade Red team had their own dramatic story to tell, getting a late fourth-quarter touchdown run to pull out a 14-13 win. It was especially satisfying for the kids, and for Coach Tim Steidl and his entire staff, because the fifth-graders had to rally from behind, not once, but twice.
Brookfield Central’s fifth-grade team opened the game with an impressive drive that chewed up nearly six minutes of clock time and put them in front 6-0. Lake Country responded with a drive that took precisely 38 seconds. Quarterback Max Bredeson took the ball to his left. Then he darted back to the right and found a crease just beyond the linebackers. Bredeson was gone, and he then ran in the PAT conversion (runs/passes are worth one point, kicks are two points, in the inverse of the college/NFL rules). The lead that Central had so painstakingly built was wiped out in a heartbeat.
Central got their own lightning in the second half, with a long touchdown run that put them up 13-7. As the clock wound toward two minutes, and the Chiefs with the ball near midfield, it wasn’t over, but one had the feeling this Central lead might stand up.
But Lake Country had been better offensively in the second half, even though they hadn’t yet found the end zone. A strategy adjustment led them to attack the edge more aggressively. “We saw how their linebackers were crashing,” Seidl said afterward. “We couldn’t get inside, but thought we could get the ball outside. Throughout the second half, it seemed that any one of Bredeson, the shifty little running back Joe Perri, or Aiden Jensen, who also takes snaps at quarterback, might pop a big play.
It was Jensen who finally broke down the defensive wall. He ran left, and when he broke a tackle, the sideline was open. Some nifty footwork kept him inbounds, and with his equilibrium regained, Jensen had a wide-open field. He scored with 2:28 left in the game, and the Chiefs again converted the PAT. They held off one last Central charge and celebrated their first win.
“All the lineman did a wonderful job moving kids around,” was Seidl’s explanation for the excellence of Jensen, Perri and Bredeson. Indeed, the kids in the trenches repeatedly created the space for their teammates to keep testing the good Central defense until the big play finally happened.
“As a team they kept focus and never let their heads down,” a justifiably proud Seidl said about a group of kids who showed this determination in the first official tackle football game they’ve ever played.
When the fifth graders were asked by their coaches in the aftermath of the game, how it felt to have such a hard-fought win, one word was shouted—“Awesome!” Indeed, it was.
SIXTH GRADERS FIGHT HARD
The Red sixth-grade team of the Lake Country Chiefs might have had, relative to their grade level, one of the toughest challenges of an afternoon in which there were four different matchups of Lake Country and Brookfield Central teams (5th thru 8th grade). Central had three extremely talented skill position players, in quarterback Max Hawkins, running back Rashad Lampkins and wide receiver Caleb Rainey.
If you had told me on Saturday morning that when reporting on a sixth-grade football game, I’d have been talking about the vertical passing game, I’d have considered it unlikely. But Hawkins and Rainey hooked up three different teams on long passes that made it clear the sixth-grade Chiefs would have little, if any, margin for error.
But what they didn’t have in margin for error, they made up for with their own stick-to-it-ness. In spite of Central driving into scoring range, the Chiefs’ defensive kids repeatedly came up with big plays that stopped the drives when it counted. No one made more big plays than Will Lauterbach, who seemed to be everywhere on the field making big tackles.
For good measure, Lauterbach also boomed out a punt that traveled at least 40 yards in the air. He also nearly saved the Chiefs on their one crucial miscue—a bad snap on a punt. Lauterbach picked the ball up in his own end zone, no fewer than three Brookfield Central players having him in their crosshairs. He amazingly escaped, and even though the ball was turned over on downs, Lauterbach had given his team a chance at a stop. This was the one time though, that Central punched in a touchdown for a 6-0 lead.
The Chiefs’ quarterback/running back trio of Jordan Bell, Cade Hanley and a little bit of Noah James pushed the ball past midfield in the fourth quarter, before their last-ditch effort came up short.
“All the boys played hard and with desire,” Coach Ethan Lenz said after the game. “The run defense was very good. “(There is) a lot of positives they can take away from this.” As the coach noted, when all was said and done, the turnover on the punt in the end zone was the only difference in the game and with a little improvement, the result can turn into victories. The coaches emphasized that the improvement starts Monday afternoon at practice.
EIGHTH GRADERS LEARN LESSONS
9 AM was when the morning of Lake Country Chiefs-Brookfield Central football started. Some of us were still drinking our coffee, looking for a morning jolt. The eighth-grade kids got their own jolt from a physical Central team, and a talented and athletic quarterback in Max Meves. Central put together two good drives before anyone was settled in and built up a 13-0 lead.
The Chiefs’ defensive line settled down though, and as the game wore on they began to win battles at the point of attack. It allowed the talents of running back T.J. Steward to turn the momentum back. Steward first returned the kickoff after their second Central touchdown for a score of his own. Then he took a swing pass, eluded two tackles and made a long run deep into Central territory. After a nice inside slant pattern executed by quarterback Jake Eskoff and wide receiver Mark Ferree put the ball closer to the goal line, Steward closed it out with the touchdown run. The Chiefs went to halftime trailing just 13-12.
When Lake Country’s L.J. McMullen made a strong physical return of the second-half kickoff and then a facemask penalty was tacked on, the Chiefs had the ball at the Brookfield 30 and looked ready to swing the game decisively in their direction. Instead, the drive stalled and Central got the ball at their own ten. The defense made two good plays to force third down, but then a lapse allowed Meves to get outside. He inflicted a heavy price, going 85 yards for a touchdown and Brookfield would take a 21-12 lead.
The Chiefs’ defense continued to battle gamely against a quarterback, who even when you wrapped him up immediately, seemed to have the ability to fall forward for a couple yards. Tall, lanky and still strong, Meves was tough to spot. But stop him the Chiefs did, when Joey Meier and Hayden Hoppe combined on a big 4th-and-1 stuff with 4:33 still left in the game.
On 4th-and-6, and option to Steward kept the drive and the Chiefs’ hopes alive. Zach Hastings picked up 18 more yards on a swing pass that took it inside the Brookfield 20. On 4th-and-3, the Chiefs tosses a swing pass to Steward, but a nice open field tackle by…who else…Meves, all but ended the game.
The message to the eighth-grade kids was about learning that simply being the Chiefs isn’t going to earn success on a football field. It’s a message the kids will have the next seven games of the season to implement, and as life lessons go, it wasn’t a bad one to learn.