Badger marches to third-round matchup with Middleton
LAKE GENEVA—If anyone was still wondering if Lake Geneva Badger could hang with Big Eight Conference teams in the trenches, those questions can be shelved for good.
The Badgers' offensive front punished Verona on Friday night, keeping the Wildcats' defense on the field for 35 of the 48 minutes.
Badger's first four drives spanned 52 plays, and the team rushed a total of 71 times in a WIAA Division 1 second-round game. Quarterback Mason DuMez rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns and Patrick Watrous added 115 yards as the Badgers plowed their way to a 22-14 home victory.
Seeded second, Badger (11-0) will host fifth-seeded Middleton (9-2) in a state quarterfinal next week.
“For sure you can see them (the defense) wearing down, and we're kind of wearing down, too,” DuMez said. “But we have it in our heads that it's just the job.
“And you can't stop both of us,” Watrous chimed in.
Twice, though, even despite the heavy advantages in time of possession and plays from scrimmage (74-36), the Badgers were forced to hang tough.
A 13-play, 60-yard drive to open the game stalled out, and Verona answered. The Wildcats completed a touchdown pass on fourth-and-5 to go up 7-0.
Badger regrouped in the second quarter. It went 65 yards in 16 plays, a drive that ended with DuMez's first touchdown. Then the Badgers went 67 yards in 10 plays, and DuMez's touchdown dive and two-point pass made it 15-7 just before halftime.
“We talk about setting the tone with drives,” DuMez said. “Even when we don't score on those really long drives, we don't get the points but we get the mindset and know we can do stuff. We come back the next drive and just build off it.”
The Wildcats seized momentum again to start the second half when Nick Lawinger took the opening kickoff 89 yards to the house to make it 15-14 Badger.
The Badgers responded with a 13-play drive that put the Verona back on notice even though the Wildcats defense kept Badger off the scoreboard.
“Clearly we'd like to finish a little bit better; you don't just want to hang onto the ball and pound mud; you want to get somewhere and score,” Badger coach Matt Hensler said. “So we have work to do. But Mason and Watrous and the offensive line got it done. There were clearly some good things going on out there.”
The Badgers took advantage of the game's only turnover to pad their lead in the fourth quarter.
Junior Nathan Borst intercepted a bobbled screen pass over the middle to give Badger the ball in Verona territory.
The Badgers plowed their way once again, and DuMez capped his night with his third touchdown with 6:52 remaining.
After trading punts, Watrous later put the punctuation mark on the night. With Verona burning its timeouts in an attempt to get the ball back for one last comeback effort in the final three minutes, the senior picked up nine yards on third-and-8 to essentially put the game on ice.
Now undefeated Badger will host its third Big Eight foe in as many weeks.
“It's a little extra motivation,” DuMez said. “Coming in 9-0 and not getting the one seed, obviously it's kind of a slap in the face, and we want to prove ourselves.”
BADGER 22, VERONA 14
Verona 7 0 7 0—14
Badger 0 15 0 7—22
Scoing summary: V—Hunter Bourne 30 pass from Max Fink (Aaron Young kick). LGB—Mason DuMez 4 run (Joshua Ceddeo kick). LGB—DuMez 2 run (Austin Flower pass from Dumez). V—Nick Lawinger 89 kick return (Young kick). LGB—DuMez 4 run (Ceddeo kick).
Statistics: First downs—V 7, LGB 22. Rushes—V 20-90, LGB 71-305. Yards passing—V 76, LGB 0. Passes—V 16-7-1, LGB 3-0-0. Fumbles—V 1-0, LGB 0-0. Penalties—V 5-34, LGB 4-20.