Delavan-Darien one win from state football berth
In a battle of standout quarterbacks, Fowlkes stole the spotlight. The senior threw for one touchdown and returned a punt for another as Southern Lakes champ Delavan-Darien High ran off 27 straight points to rally for a 27-14 victory over Rock Valley North co-champ McFarland to advance to the semifinals of the WIAA Division 3 state football playoffs.
The Comets (11-1) face Waukesha Catholic Memorial (10-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Kettle Moraine for a berth in the state championship game.
“It feels great,” said Fowlkes, who ran for 163 yards on 31 carries and completed nine of 12 passes for 112 yards. “Just like all year, it’s going to take hard work and dedication to keep going.”
After rebounding from an early 7-0 deficit with two second-quarter touchdowns, Fowlkes put the game out of reach in the third quarter. After the Comets forced a three-and-out to start the second half, Wedel punted on fourth-and-one and pinned Fowlkes along the sideline at his 15. But, Fowlkes found a lane and weaved his way through the McFarland defense for the 85-yard return to push the Delavan-Darien lead to 21-7.
“What a way to start out the half,” Fowlkes said. “That really sparked us, I think. Once, they kicked it deep, I saw some room, so I was able to take off and we had some great blocking downfield.”
It was only the second time all season Fowlkes has been able to return a direct punt or kickoff. The first came in the first game of the season, when Fowlkes returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.
“I was surprised when that ball came off to see that they were kicking to him,” Delavan-Darien coach Steve Tenhagen said. “He’s a special player and as many opportunities as we can get the ball in his hands puts our team in a better situation. We came out of the halftime with a motto of ‘stop and a score.’ Getting a three-and-out and a punt return was a little quicker than I anticipated, but that was a huge momentum shift.”
Wedel tried to answer, taking a reverse handoff on the ensuing kickoff, but he was hauled down for a 10-yard loss and was left kicking the 15-yard line in disgust.
Wedel ran for 85 yards and threw for 138, completing eight of 18 passes, but could not keep up with the Comets’ two-quarterback system of Fowlkes and Austin Fritzinger.
“Our defense just pressured (Wedel) a lot, so we could make him get rid of the ball early,” said Delavan-Darien defensive back Marcus Hudson, who intercepted Wedel on the final McFarland drive.
Wedel opened the game with an interception of Fowlkes on the opening series of the game, which set up Nicolas Perkl’s six-yard touchdown run.
Fowlkes was intercepted again on the next drive, this time in the end zone. But he re-grouped later in the first half, with a 20-yard pass to Jordan Hesebeck on a crossing route to even the score with 4:27 left in the first half. The score started a four-touchdown blitz for the Comets on consecutive possessions.
Wedel tried to answer, but his 38-yard field goal attempt into the wind hit the crossbar with 1:55 left in the half. That was just enough time for the Comets to mount another drive.
Fritzinger started the drive with a 22-yard run, followed by a nine-yard completion and a 14-yard run by Fowlkes, before Fritzinger broke off another 19-yard run.
After reaching the McFarland four-yard line three plays later, Fritzinger took a pitch from Fowlkes around the left end untouched for the go-ahead score with 30 seconds left in the half.
“When you are trying to guess on whose going to get it and who’s not going to get it, it is a difficult thing,” McFarland coach Paul Ackley said of trying to defend Fowlkes and Fritzinger.
Waukesha Catholic Memorial will have to worry about that next Saturday.
DELAVAN-DARIEN 27, McFARLAND 14
Delavan-Darien 0 14 7 6—27
McFarland 7 0 0 7—14
Scoring summary: DD—Nick Perkl, 6 run (Tyler Wedel kick). DD—Jordan Heseback, 20 pass from Justin Fowlkes (Fowlkes kick). DD—Austin Fritzinger, 4 run (Fowlkes kick). DD—Fowlkes, 85 punt return (Fowlkes kick). DD—Fritzinger, 1 run (kick failed). M—Wedel, 1 run (Wedel kick).
Statistics: First downs—DD 22, M 17. Rushing—DD 50-288, M 31-144. Yards passing—DD 125, M 154. Passes—DD 15-10-2, M 19-9-3. Fumbles—DD 1-1, M 0-0. Penalties—DD 13-131, M 5-30.