When Brookfield East crushed Marquette, 31-7, on Friday at Hart Park, the Spartans accomplished a couple things they haven’t done in a long time.
First of all, it was the first time they had beaten the Hilltoppers since Oct. 18, 2002, when they walked away with a 14-10 victory at Hart Park.
Secondly, by beating Marquette, East improved to 7-0 and clinched at least a tie for the Greater Metro Conference championship, their first taste of a conference crown since 1984 when they captured their only league title.
The only thing standing between an undisputed championship for East is Sussex Hamilton (6-1), and the Chargers are coming to town for the season finale on Friday.
“We knew this year we could be a special team,” said junior quarterback Zach Damico, who scored once and tossed two touchdown passes. “All the hard work we put in and the talent we have all around. ... We felt we could have a very good team this year and obviously that’s a very good feeling. We want to get it for ourselves, especially next week against Sussex.”
After the game, huddled on the south side of the field, East coach Tom Swittel told his team how special it was and how his players would be remembered as having at least won a share of the conference title.
But the Spartans had something for their coach also, as senior Alec James, who will be wearing a University of Wisconsin jersey next fall, presented the coach with a game ball.
“We wanted to give him a ball to thank him for all the hard work he did for us,” James said. “All this work has come together now. It was an amazing feeling and we wanted to give him something small that meant a lot.”
Swittel smiled when asked about being presented with a game ball.
“It was special,” he said. “I don’t need a game ball to remember this. But I appreicate it.”
The Spartans were focused and came out quickly, going 89 yards in five plays to score on a 1-yard run by Damico with 8 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first quarter.
The score was set up by a 64-yard run by senior running back Zach Schober, who raced through the Hilltoppers secondary before he was tackled on the 1-yard line.
After forcing Marquette with another 3-and-out, the Spartans went 69 yards in five plays, scoring on a 41-yard pass from Damico to Kyle Wirtz.
“Our motto all week has been to start fast and finish and we did both,” Swittel said.
In the second period, the Spartans put two more touchdowns on the board.
The first came with 7:47 left in the second quarter on a 6-yard run by Schober, who finished with 184 yards rushing on 25 carries.
The second came on a 13-play, 60-yard drive, as the Spartans ate up the final 5:13 of the half. This time Damico whipped a 7-yard score to wide receiver Brian Smith for a 28-0 lead at halftime.
Connor Allen, who was 4-for-4 on his extra point work on the night, drilled a 26-yard field goal in the third quarter for a 31-0 lead.
“This what we’ve been working for since freshman year,” Schober said. “We’ve all come together and worked so hard over the summer and this whole season. Now all the hard work is paying off.”
Added Swittel, “It was one of our goals (to win conference). When I got hired, it was almost unthinkable. Could you do something like this? Here we are three years later. We’ve done it.
“It’s great to see that hard work and caring for one another, loving one another as a team. It shows that all that hard work pays off.”
Marquette had qualified for the playoffs every year since the WIAA and WISAA merged prior to the 2000 season, and the Hilltoppers had won at least one game in the playoffs each time before last season. But now with four conference losses, the 2012 postseason will not include Marquette.
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