Third-seeded Brookfield Central hosted sixth-seeded South Milwaukee in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs Friday night and came out with a 33-8 victory to advance to the second round against Whitefish Bay, but it didn't always look so lopsided.
Both teams scored on their first possession. The Lancers started their first drive on their own 19 yard line, but big runs from Demario Harris and quarterback Riley Richarz led to a touchdown in just six plays. South Milwaukee responded with a touchdown of their own after a pass from Justin Oliden to Zach Simuncak set up a first and goal from the Brookfield 1-yard line, and Oliden was able to punch it in.
On the extra point attempt, the Rockets lined up as if to kick the extra point. When the ball was snapped, however, the holder took off for the end zone and made it, giving South Milwaukee an 8-7 lead.
“I can’t take credit for that,” said Rockets coach John Galewski. “It was a bad snap and the holder felt that he couldn’t get the ball down and so it was just a fire call.”
On the Lancers’ next possession, the Rockets forced the Lancers into a fourth down situation near midfield. The Lancers initially appeared lined up as if to go for a conversion, but just before the snap, Richarz took an extra couple of steps backwards, preparing to punt.
The punt was blocked, and although Richarz was able to pick it up, he was tackled on the Lancers’ 47 yard line, giving South Milwaukee excellent field position.
The Rockets made it all the way to the 2-yard line, but after Simuncak was tackled for a loss on two consecutive plays followed by an incomplete pass, the Rockets had to settle for a field goal attempt. Joe Saskowski’s kick was low and was blocked by the Lancer defense. That goal-line stand set up the Lancers’ next drive, which ended in a field goal from Steven Knopp, and the Lancers regained the lead, 10-8.
“Looking back,” said Galewski, “that was a big turning point in the game because if we’re able to score there, then who knows what happens or changes the momentum of the game. Then they get the ball and march 80 yards and score. That’s high school football.”
Brookfield Central Head Coach Jamie Meulemans said, “Our defense stepped up a couple times more than once on that goal-line stand and that was a huge momentum changer.”
The most significant event of the second half occurred after a play had ended. The third quarter was interrupted midway through due to a severe injury to South Milwaukee’s Simuncak.
After a defensive play near the Rockets’ end zone, Simuncak remained on the ground for an extended period of time before being taken off of the field by stretcher to a responding ambulance. Both teams met in the middle of the field in a show of sportsmanship and common concern for their fellow competitor.
After the restart, the second half belonged entirely to Brookfield Central, with Marcus Crum finding his stride. He ran for 148 yards and ran in three touchdowns in the second half.
“My line just came out and did a great job and our receivers had a great game,” he said. “Offensively we had a great game. I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement. We can have a great week of practice next week, and I feel like we can come out and have another great game. Offensively and defensively I think we did very well. We came out pretty slow with not a lot of intensity but we picked it up as the game went on.”
South Milwaukee could find no ways through the Lancer defense, and the final score of the game came on a punt attempt from the Rockets. The snap sailed over the head of the punter and out the back of the end zone for a safety.
“I think that the offensive line really gelled well tonight,” said Meulemans. “Marcus
Crum’s running tonight was fantastic. I thought Riley Richarz ran the triple action really well. To gel offensively really helps, and when we get off to a good start and take the first possession down and score really helped them tonight.”
“I take personal responsibility for the special teams,” said Galewski. “They did not play very well today. We struggled with the snaps and I don’t really know why, but we did. Offensively and defensively, coming into the game, we thought we had a good game plan, but they’re and awfully good team. They exposed us in two of our weaknesses on the inside with their offense, and offensively for us to move the ball against them was very tough. We put together a pretty good drive, but they made a couple of adjustments and it was hard for us to rebound from that.”