It felt like summer was back in session on Saturday afternoon as the weather heated up. The play of the Lake Country Chiefs coincided, as the 8th & 6th Grade White teams kept undefeated seasons going, and the 7th Grade White team won a wild game to extend their record 3-1.
The seventh graders took on Franklin, and it didn’t take long for the big plays to start. Nolan Henderson for Franklin and Nic Wohlfiel for the Chiefs seemed to be staging a game of one-on-one in the early going. Mason Hoffsteter made a nice leaping interception near the goal line to stop one drive. Franklin came back and Henderson swept in for a score to give Franklin the early 6-0 lead.
Lake Country began driving into Franklin territory, when Wohlfiel struck. He sprinted towards his left and throwing across his body, hit Cameron Carr on the dead run, and Carr took the ball inside the 5-yard line. Wohlfiel scored on a QB keeper and Seth Fohey hit the kick (PATs count for two points in youth football, with one point awarded for a run/pass conversion).
On the Chiefs’ next possession, Wohlfiel again threw a long pass to get Lake Country into Franklin territory. Then he took off on a keeper up the middle, slipped a couple of tacklers and once Wohlfiel got into the secondary, he was gone. The 35-yard-touchdown run was capped off by another Fohey kick and now it was 14-6.
Henderson had an immediate answer though, and he returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, and Franklin converted its own PAT. It was 14-14 and we were only through the first quarter.
It was over the next two and a half quarters that the game really settled down. The beginning and the finish might have been dramatic, but in any sandwich, the real beef is in the middle and that was the case in this game. There were no points scored in the second quarter, and by the third quarter the Lake Country lineman were getting control of the game. The Chiefs converted four third-down plays to get inside the five-yard line. The biggest conversion came on 4th-and-3, when Jacob Schleicher took an inside handoff and scored. Fohey’s kick made it 22-14.
The control of the line of scrimmage extended to the defensive side, where Franklin’s offense had ceased to function. As exciting as the exploits of Wohlfiel and Henderson had been in the first quarter, that can’t sustain forever and it was the Chiefs who were the first to find the answer. They got a big special teams play when Nate Hemmer forced a fumble on a punt, and the lead extended to 30-14 with less than four minutes to go in the game.
Head coach Brenton Carr said the coaching staff made a few tweaks from a strategy standpoint when it came to the line play, but the biggest change was an attitude adjustment. “We could see in warmups the kids were flat,” the coach said. “We told them, ‘if you play like this, you’re going to get beat.'”
It might have taken a quarter or so for the kids to see that their coaches were right, but they were able to step up their game and get control. And in the process learned a valuable lesson about how important intensity and focus are to their success.
“The blocking was excellent, and the defense was good,” Coach Carr added. The one exception was some missed tackles, which the team will work on in practice and that nearly derailed an otherwise very sound defensive game.
Franklin scored a late touchdown when a swing pass turned into a long touchdown run and when the onside kick was covered with less than a minute to go, it was batten-down-the-hatches time in a 30-22 ballgame. Fortunately, the Chiefs defense held on.
One thing that can’t be overlooked in the 7th Grade White team’s current two-game win streak is the kicking of Fohey. He was 3-for-4 on Saturday and connected on 4-of-4 the previous week. To be adding two points to your touchdowns on a consistent basis, while most other teams are struggling to convert amounts to giving your team at least a one score edge, and in close games that adds up.
EIGHTH GRADERS UNLEASH MORE WEAPONS
Earlier this week, we featured Chandler Pulvermacher, one of the best players on the 8th Grade White team. Pulvermacher was again brilliant in his team’s 32-8 dismantling of Franklin, but the 8th Graders also showcased the depth and breadth of their talent in the systematic dismantling.
On the Chiefs’ first offensive possession, quarterback Jeff Holt first hit a nice slant pattern to convert a 3rd-and-10. Then he took the ball left on a keeper, leapt over a couple defenders, made it down the 3-yard-line and eventually scored the game’s first points at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter.
Carson Radtke would have a big game on both sides of the ball, and it stated on the defensive side. He blew up a first-down sweep and sent Franklin’s possession spiraling downwards into a 3rd-and-40 near their own goal line. It set up a short punt that Pulvermacher grabbed about the 25-yard line and took in for a touchdown.
Franklin had some opportunities, getting receivers open deep into the secondary and their quarterback, Alex Catarozole, had a nice arm. But his receivers weren’t quite at the same level, and the passes just missed converting.
In the second quarter, Holt found Radtke on a long pass to the corner, where Radtke made an excellent adjustment to complete the catch and again put the Chiefs’ in scoring position. John Doleschy then carried it to the 15-yard line and nearly broke it for the end zone. On the half’s final play, Pulvermacher swept right, kept his balance along the sideline and leaned forward for a backbreaking touchdown that made it 24-0 at halftime.
The offense kept moving consistently in the third quarter, with Holt finding both Radtke and Doleschy on swing passes. The latter caught one pass on the right side, cut back left, and ducked all the way through the middle to come out on the other side and make a big play. The drive eventually reached 4th-and-goal on the four-yard line and Pulvermacher delivered the touchdown. Franklin would get a token touchdown with 1:14 to go for their lone score.
“We wanted to try and spread the ball around and some guys just stepped up,” head coach Matt McQuestion said regarding his team’s offensive balance. It’s surely a scary thought for opponents, who know that not only can Lake Country ride a premier horse in Pulvermacher, they have a stable of thoroughbreds in reserve who are ready to saddle up and ride.
This ultimately points to a bigger challenge for the 8th Grade White kids, and it’s maintaining both intensity and improvement. When any team wins four games as decisively as they’ve done, it would be easy to start taking it for granted.
“It’s tough,” McQuestion acknowledged, regarding the admittedly pleasant problem of how to teach 8th graders to handle prosperity well. “The big thing is we hold the kids accountable for their playing time. They earn it on the practice field.” It’s by consistent effort–both physical and mental–that the Chiefs’ kids earn their way, and when you show consistent effort in practice it naturally carries over on to the field.
If nothing else, the team can surely find motivation in the fact that a special season is within their grasp as the calendar flips to October and it’s up to them to keep the foot on the gas.
SIXTH GRADERS SCORE WELL IN THE NIELSEN RATINGS
The 6th Grade White team also won their fourth game in as many tries and the 14-0 win completed a three-game sweep of Lake Country over Franklin on this Saturday afternoon. The Nielsen twins got it started. A swing pass to Josh for a touchdown got the scoring started with 2:19 to go in the first period, and then brother Jacob got loose around the end for a touchdown that made it 14-0 at half.
Lake Country’s sixth grade team is exceptionally well-drilled in all phases of the game and where that really comes across is on their defense. Even on a couple of pass play that Franklin executed, the Chiefs’ kids wrapped up quickly with swift and sure tackling.
In an age where one can turn on the TV set on Saturday and Sunday and see missed tackles and poor fundamentals at the highest levels of play, the 6th graders are being coached to play the right way and for an opposing offense, it has to feel like a trip to the dentist. The Nielsen boys were the ones that planted their feet in the end zone, but the systematic team effort is what really stands out with this group of kids and it’s why they are enjoying an excellent year.
The afternoon wrapped up with the 5th Grade White team playing Germantown. It was a close game the entire way, but Germantown fought out a 6-0 win. The Chiefs got standout defensive play from Logan Van Sistine, Jake Parsons and Owen Arnett.
Van Sistine in particular, shows fantastic tackling form and repeatedly made plays on the outside and in the open field that could have gone for big yardage, if not for his fundamentally sound play. Arnett repeatedly broke the line up the middle and created havoc, while Parsons provided pressure off the edge. The kids weren’t able to make that one big offensive play that would have created a different result, but they played a tough, physical game against a good team and should be proud of themselves.