After winning its first conference game since 2008 last weekend, the Wauwatosa East football team couldn’t keep up with Greater Metro Conference co-leader Brookfield East on Friday night at Hart Park. The Spartans improved to 4-0 and 3-0 in the GMC with a 42-7 win.
The one-sided outcome line didn’t look so certain until the fourth quarter, however.
The Raiders held the Spartans to a 14-0 lead at halftime, then made a game of it early in the second half with a touchdown that made it 21-7.
The Spartans scored two touchdowns in the first quarter on a 51-yard pass from Zach Damico to Brian Smith and a short touchdown run from Damico on the Spartans’ next possession. After their first two possessions, the Spartans offense stalled. Damico was sacked on East's third possession and fumbled the ball away on its fourth, and the Raiders defense kept the deficit at just 14 points going into halftime.
“I told the kids at halftime that we were only down 14-0,” said Red Raiders head coach Mike Richards, “and I just thought that offensively we played a really lousy first half. Defensively they had one blown coverage. Our defense played very, very well in the first half. To be down 14-0 to a team like Brookfield East was a step in the right direction.”
After halftime, the Spartans came out and scored a touchdown on the first play of the drive when Damico ran 49 yards into the end zone. Despite the potentially insurmountable 21-0 deficit, the Raiders fought back and finally pieced together a scoring drive which culminated in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Christian Tolbert to Kyle Vnuk.
“They came out and scored right away but we answered right back, which is what we’ve done in our two wins earlier in the season, but then they just kept it at us and I think we wore down," Richards said.
Damico had two more touchdown passes in the second half, and a pass from Tolbert was intercepted by Brookfield East’s Kyle Wirtz and ran back for the final touchdown of the evening.
“I thought we got off to a good start, but then in the second quarter we just didn’t play that well,” Damico said. “In the third quarter, we came out and were ourselves again. We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on as a team. I personally have to work on the fumbles.”
Tolbert was able to pass for 193 yards, but the Raiders running game was a different story, gaining a total of just seven yards in the game.
“We couldn’t run the ball at all,” said Richards. “I think DJ had one long run. They stuffed everything we tried. Could we have done some things differently? Yeah, we could have scored some more points and gotten some more first downs, but against a good team like Brookfield East, you have to come at them with a balanced attack and we were so one sided on the ball, we just didn’t do a whole lot of offense.”
Spartans coach Tom Swittel, formerly the head man at Wauwatosa East, also wants to see improvement in his team before moving on to what he sees as the tougher half of his team’s season.
“We have a lot to improve as evidenced by the first half,” he said. “We know that the four toughest teams on our schedule are the teams we have yet to play. Defensively, we’re trying to find some guys. We’ve had some injuries and you could kind of see it tonight, so we want to do some things there and shore that up. Offensively we’ve just got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. We stopped ourselves way too much tonight.”
With Brookfield Central, West Allis Hale, Marquette and Sussex Hamilton yet to play the Spartans, Swittel knows qualifying for the playoffs is still not a given. The Spartans need just one win to qualify for the postseason.
“We’re not there yet," he said. "I told the team that last year we were in the same situation, undefeated going into the Brookfield Central game and then we lost three out of our last four, so we certainly don’t want to repeat that.”
Damico added, “We know our next four games are going to be very tough teams. We know that we’re going to be in a dogfight and we’re going to have to play like we did in the second half and not like the first half today.”
The Raiders will try to reclaim a winning record against a rebuilding Marquette team next Friday at Hart Park.
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