East makes final stand to win first Greater Metro Conference football title
Will open playoffs against Milwaukee Bradley Tech on Friday
An outright Greater Metro Conference championship came down to Brookfield East's defense having to stop Sussex Hamilton's junior star running back Drew Patterson one last time.
The Chargers came out and lined up for a two-point conversion following Patterson's six-yard touchdown run that cut the score to 14-13 in overtime.
But before the play, East called a timeout to talk things over and the Chargers ended up changing the play.
"We had a play called," Chargers coach John Damato said. "We were going to go off the edge. Then we decided to go up the middle."
East coach Tom Swittel and his staff had noticed that Patterson was right behind quarterback Mark Gryszkiewicz.
"When they put Patterson up, they didn't have him at tailback," Swittel said. "So they moved him up and put him right behind the quarterback. It's a 'tell.' We expected that."
Patterson got the ball and drove into the middle of the Spartan defense where he was met by Jack Podewils, Alex Lessila, Eric Weller, Alec James and the rest of the defense.
"I saw the ref walking in and he did this (signal no touchdown) and I was just happy," James said. "So I started smiling - at the bottom of the pile."
The win gave East a perfect 7-0 record in the GMC and an 8-0 overall mark, while Sussex Hamilton fell to 5-2. Menomonee Falls, who beat Brookfield Central, was second with a 6-1 record.
It was just East's second conference title in school history and the first since 1984 when it was in the now-disbanded Braveland Conference.
Damato didn't second guess himself on the final play.
"I wouldn't take it back," he said. "They were giving that to us a little bit. We just came up six inches short. It was a good push. It just wasn't enough."
It was not surprising that the game came down to one play as two outstanding teams squared off and came up with big plays when they needed them.
Penalties hurt both teams, as East was called for six in the first half, including three delay of game penalties and Hamilton had two crucial holding penalties.
Swittel was asked about his halftime comments to his team.
"I told them it was a heavyweight fight," he said. "Anybody who has ever been in a fight knows the guy that loses is the guy that flinches. And I said we were not going to flinch."
In the third quarter, the Spartans recovered a Charger fumble and the Spartans' senior quarterback Zach Damico tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Griffin Lynch and Connor Allen's point after made it 7-0 with 10:05 on the clock.
But then the Chargers got into the act and went 60 yards in six plays keyed by a 40-yard run by Patterson, who scored from two yards out to tie the game at 8:13.
"I think it woke us up a little bit," Damato said. "I think we both woke each other up."
After Smith returned the kick-off 40 yards to the 50-yard line, the Spartans went on an 11-play drive. But an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the ball back and Allen's 45-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar and bounced back.
The Chargers then went on a 16-play drive which ended when Kenny Lo's 26-yard field goal was wide left.
Each team had a chance to win it in the final minutes of regulation, but Lo was short on a 42-yard field goal attempt.
On the 14-play drive, an illegal block in the back, a holding penalty and a fumble kept the Chargers from getting closer.
East got the ball back on its own 20 and a 43-yard run by Damico eventually set up a 35-yard field goal attempt with 1 second left when Damico, who was out of timeouts, spiked the ball.
But a fumbled snap prevented a chance at win in regulation.
Hamilton won the toss in overtime and selected to take the ball last.
It only took East four plays to go 25 yards, as Damico scored when he raced 19 yards for the score after bouncing off a would-be tackler.
"It was a speed option to the outside," Damico said. "I had to read (running back Zach Schober) on the pitch so I just cut up. I ran right into him (the defender) but he didn't wrap up and I went in for the score. It was a great feeling."
Both coaches complemented their opponents.
"It was a great football game," Damato said. "I'm proud of our kids. Our kids fought hard. So did Brookfield East. It was a great high school football game."
Swittel then addressed the two-point conversion try again.
"You know you play to win," he said. "And John Damato and Sussex Hamilton they're winners."
WIAA LEVEL 1 PLAYOFF
WHO: Milwaukee Bradley Tech at Brookfield East
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
COMMENTS: The Spartans are 8-0 overall and face Milwaukee Bradley Tech, 3-4 overall. The Spartans beat Tech, 31-14, in the first round of the playoffs two years ago.
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