There were a lot of good things happening in the world of Lake Country Chiefs football on a foggy, rainy Saturday. The four games played at Pewaukee High by the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Grade Red teams were all not only close, but dramatic in the way they all ended. There was a lot of persistence, stick-to-it-ive-ness and competitive heart at all levels of play. And perhaps nowhere was more heartening to watch unfold, than what took place with the 6th Grade Red team, who fought their way to a well-earned 14-8 win over the Pewaukee Pirates.
The sixth graders lived through some tough losses in September, a couple by one score and another by a single point. All of them could have been changed by a single play. In the first quarter on Saturday, it looked like more of the same would happen.
The Chiefs seemed to have a goal-line stand made, when Pewaukee quarterback Travis Bentley made a nice fourth-down pass to Ryan Szewczyk, who went down and caught the ball just above the turf. Then it looked like the Chiefs had tied the game, when Jordan Bell got free down the left sideline, kept his balance and had broken into the clear. But it was ruled Bell had stepped out of bounds, though we should note that in the press box–the side of the field on which the run had taken place–even Pewaukee’s P.A. announcers thought Bell stayed inbounds.
Lake Country was trailing 8-0 in a game they could easily have led by the same score, or at least been tied. If anyone associated with the team thought “here we go again,” they could be forgiven.
But the sixth grade kids just kept coming after it.
The team’s first drive of the second half was a well-executed methodical march down the field marked by some great play from the offensive line. When Bell swept around the left side for a touchdown, there was no taking it away from him.
The PAT attempt came up short, so the Chiefs still trailed 8-6 and had work to do. Pewaukee launched a drive to try and put the game away, but Bell made an interception deep in Lake Country territory to keep the game alive.
Then, on his 11-yard line, Noah James broke loose, got to the second level of the defense, and with his excellent acceleration, just took off. Eighty-nine yards later he was in the end zone and with the conversion of the two-point PAT, the Chiefs now had a 14-8 lead with just 4:11 to play.
Pewaukee still had a chance, and they had the ball near midfield. Sam Wells came up with a big defensive play on first down, a five-yard tackle for loss that gave the Chiefs control of the series. On fourth down, Will Lauterbach, who once again seemed to be involved on almost every tackle, made an interception that secured a hard-fought win.
“They never quit,” said head coach Ethan Lenz of his players in the aftermath of the game, as the thunder began to rumble and the afternoon storm prepared to dump out over the field. “This has been a great group of kids to work with all year, and once the offense got on track, that was it.”
We often talk about how football teaches kids life lessons beyond the game. The persistence they’ve shown for Coach Lenz and his staff all year would be praise-worthy and value-affirming even if it never led to a victory. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to see this group have its efforts rewarded with a win over a good opponent on Saturday.
SEVENTH GRADERS WIN IT IN THE TRENCHES
The seventh-graders had their own back-and-forth affair and traded blows back and forth against what was a good, physical Pewaukee team, and finally prevailed 14-12.
Lake Country got a drive started when Joey Biwer swung a short pass to Ryan Burchett, who first cut inside, then darted back out and turned it into a thirty-yard play that put the ball in Pewaukee territory. Jacoby Boray took an out pass for a first down, and Caden Bence picked up five more an inside handoff.
It still looked the drive would stall when the Chiefs faced 4th-and-17 from the 21-yard-line, but Boray got open on the sideline and Biwer hit him in stride for an improbable touchdown that made it 6-0 late in the first quarter.
Pewaukee was able to tie the game, on a well-executed pass play to the corner of the end zone. The throw was on target and the catch was a tough one over good coverage from the Chiefs secondary, and the touchdown sent the game to the locker room tied 6-6.
The third quarter, and much of the fourth quarter didn’t see a lot of highlight plays, but what was becoming evident is that the Lake Country line was getting control of the game. With the clock nearing the three-minute mark, quarterback Davis Zeuztis started up the middle on a keeper deep in his own end. Zeuztis got to the outside and took off, making it all the way to the two-yard line before being tripped up.
It looked like the drive might stall, when the Chiefs faced fourth down on the five-yard line. Zeuztis threw a quick pass to Boray, who slipped a tackle, ducked inside and found the end zone. A converted kick for two points (in youth football, you kick for two and run for one) was huge and the lead was 14-6.
The converted kick looked even bigger when Pewaukee completed a long touchdown pass down the left sideline with a 1:20 left. But the Pirates couldn’t get the tying points through the uprights, and the Chiefs covered the onside kick to secure the win.
Head coach Mark Zeuztis had high praise for his line for the way they got control of the game and eventually allowed the team to win it with the big plays at the end. The nine names of the starting lineman on both sides of the ball–Luke Ramlow, Jay Graf, Alex Peglow, Ray Ripplinger, Will Paulson, Garret Anderson, Tanner Horkan, Jarrett Gross and Jake Kellerman–aren’t the ones that show up in a box score scoring touchdowns. But they’re the ones who hunkered down and made winning possible.
LIGHTNING STRIKES LATE FOR 5th GRADE
The fifth-grade game began with Pewaukee going on a touchdown march to begin the game, and the storm coming and the flashes of lightning creating a one-hour delay that gave it kind of a strange feel. But kids are resilient and unaffected by such breaks in rhythm and after getting loosened up again, the fifth-graders slowly gained steam.
Max Bredeson led a second-quarter drive, picking up twelve yards on an inside run to the 15-yard-line. But a fourth-and-three run from the 10-yard line came up just short of the first down and the score remained 7-0. Pewaukee made a drive of their own just before the half and had a chance to put the game away, but Ethan Berger made a big play with an interception in the end zone to keep it a 7-0 game.
It was in the second half that the shifty Bredeson was able to really get loose, using his speed and good body control as everyone started to wear down. He scored one touchdown, but the PAT was stopped and the Chiefs still trailed by a point. Lake Country got another drive going, reaching the 26-yard line as the fourth quarter began.
Bredeson ran right and found a well-blocked seam that got the offense to the 8-yard line. On third and goal, Bredeson then took an inside handoff and scored. The Chiefs had a 13-7 lead with 6:06 to go, and the defense closed out the win.
EIGHTH GRADE HEARTBREAK
The 8th Grade Red game was no less dramatic than any of the other three, and marked by some great performances. It was also marked with some tough heartbreak for the kids, as a wild fourth quarter ended up Pewaukee escaping with a 22-20 win.
It was a 6-6 game after three quarters and no sign that the game was about to turn into a passing war. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jake Eskhoff threw a nice slant pass to L.J .McMullen in the end zone, who beautifully shielded the defender with his body and made the catch.
Then Pewaukee countered with a 73-yard post pattern to David Young, a player who seemed to be a threat to go the distance any time he was in sniffing distance of the football. Even though the PAT conversion put them in a 14-12 hole, the Chiefs’ kids were undeterred. On 3rd-and-18, they came up with their own deep passing game, as Eskhoff found Carter Bell on a 70-yard scoring strike to make it 20-14 with 2:46 left. Unfortunately, the Pirates had one more launch left in them and the third long-range bomb of the fourth quarter gave them a 22-20 win.