During the course of Friday night’s game against Greendale, the Brookfield East football team gave away three interceptions, including one deep in its own territory, as well as a fumble near the Panthers’ goal line, and a blocked punt.
The Spartans made six trips inside the Greendale 35, scoring on only one of those possessions. They also ventured inside the 5-yard line and came away with no points on two different occasions.
Considering all that, it seems likely that they would have lost – yet in reality, they came out with a 14-7 victory in a WIAA Division 2 first-round game at Stephen J. Gavinski Field in Greendale.
They survived partially because of Greendale’s own mistakes, including three lost fumbles and an interception, and because of their own stout defense, which stopped the Panthers on downs in East territory twice during the second half.
“We have a habit of (making it tough on ourselves); that’s for sure,” East coach Tom Swittel said. “Our goal always is to play 48 minutes of football, and we had to do that tonight.”
The Spartans’ reward is a second-round matchup against Whitefish Bay next weekend, with date, time and site to be determined.
Greendale, meanwhile, saw an eight-game winning streak end and finished the season at 8-2 with yet another frustrating playoff defeat.
“It wasn’t to be,” said coach Rob Stoltz.
The Panthers were hit with two major injuries late in the season, losing their top two running backs, Mike Scheidt and Sebastian Garcia-Bankowski, to knee problems. On top of that, running back/linebacker Drake Barczak left the game with an injury in the first half on Friday.
“We were a very resilient team, as we’ve been all year,” Stoltz said. “We lost some guys, but we have a team. They prepared as a team, and they worked hard. There’s no quit in them.”
The tone for the evening was set on the first drive of the game, as Greendale marched to the East 33 but was thwarted by a snap that escaped quarterback Sam Brick for a 14-yard loss, followed by a pair of penalties and Brick’s fumble.
The Spartans recovered and proceeded to drive to the Greendale 32, but Kennedy Ringelberg came up with an interception, literally taking the ball away from the East receiver.
Later in the half, East reached the Greendale 25 but turned the ball over on downs, then traveled to the Panthers’ 4-yard line before Ringelberg made his second interception.
Greendale took over at its own 8 but fumbled three plays later, with East recovering at the 31. On the next play, running back Zach Schober bolted through the right side for a touchdown. Schober also kicked the extra point and the Spartans led 7-0 with 2 minutes, 7 seconds left in the half.
“We scored first, and in my mind, that was the key to the game,” said Schober, who went on to rack up 231 yards on 24 carries. “We struck first and we got the lead.”
The Panthers had to punt, giving East the ball at its own 27. Quarterback Bryce Pompos swung the ball to wide receiver Kyle Wirtz, who rounded the corner, weaved through some traffic and broke into the clear for a stunning 73-yard score.
Schober’s extra point made it 14-0 with 1:15 left in the first half, and an interception by East’s Jacob Wiesmueller ensured that the score would stay that way at halftime.
With Schober carrying five times for 51 yards, the Spartans opened the second half with a drive that carried to the Greendale 15, but a 32-yard field goal attempt went wide.
The Panthers finally got their offense going as Brick completed three passes, but he was stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the East 19.
The momentum created by the Spartan defense didn’t last long, however, as Mitchell Brees picked off Pompos and returned the ball to the East 3-yard line. Brick plowed in on the second play, and Brett Nethery’s kick made it 14-7 late in the third quarter.
East went back to Schober, who broke loose for a 47-yard scamper to the Greendale 1. On the next play, Pompos tried to bull into the end zone but fumbled, with Greendale’s Ben White recovering.
“You have just seen the last quarterback sneak Brookfield East will ever run,” Swittel said with a smile after the game. “We get down there near the goal line, we’re giving the ball to Schober.”
Brick tried to will the Panthers to a late rally, running nine times for 50 yards to the East 38. On fourth-and-1, though, he was stopped cold by the interior line.
Schober then ran down the clock and a Spartans’ punt went out at the 5, leaving Greendale only a slight chance of a comeback. Brick was eventually stopped on fourth-and-8 from the 7.
Brick passed for 49 yards and ran for 65, while Jake Zywicki finished with 72 yards on the ground for Greendale. Pompos collected 143 yards through the air, with Wirtz and Michael Amato each catching three balls.
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