Sendelbach delivers 'junior power' for Evansville
“He is a hard worker, who put in his time and worked hard in the off-season,” Evansville coach Ron Grovesteen said. “He had a chance to step forward, and he did.’’
Sendelbach’s 126-yard rushing performance Thursday helped lift the Blue Devils to a 45-0 Rock Valley North victory over East Troy and into a WIAA Division 3 playoff berth for the first time since 2008.
Evansville (5-4, 4-3) faces Southern Lakes champion and top-seeded Delavan-Darien (8-1, 6-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Delavan.
When Sendelbach was told he was Evansville’s featured back, he was thrilled.
“In practice, I’d run my hardest, and then when we got to the first scrimmage, (coach Grovesteen) said I was his back,” Sendelbach said. “I was a little bit nervous, but I was happy about it.’’
It was a reward for successfully coming back from having seven screws surgically placed in a broken leg he suffered in his season-opening, 160-pound wrestling bout last November.
“I just bent it back and I heard a pop,” Sendelbach said of the injury. “I just thought something was wrong with my shoe. I really didn’t know. I found out my leg was broken, and I had to have surgery.”
After two surgeries and rehabilitation, Sendelbach pole-vaulted for the Blue Devils. A third surgery after track season completed his broken-leg repair work, but he still carries a reminder of the bad break.
“I have just a chunk of one (screw) in my leg because one broke off,” Sendelbach said.
With healthy legs, Sendelbach opened the season with plenty of optimism, but the Blue Devils lost three of their first four games, including a 46-12 season-opening nonconference loss to Stillman Valley, an Illinois defending state champion, which is 9-0 this season and averaging 44.8 points a game.
Evansville bounced back with a nonconference win, 34-12 over Union Grove, but lost its first two Rock Valley games to McFarland and Brodhead/Juda, who have a combined record of 15-3.
“We had some injuries in the beginning with linemen,” Sendelbach said. “People had to switch positions, and then they got their stuff together working out in practice.’’
Sendelbach had to make some adjustments, too. He spent time watching film to clean up his errors.
“There were a lot mistakes that I had, like not junking or anything. Just running straight was my problem,” Sendelbach said. “Now I’ve been working on getting more cuts.’’
Against Edgerton, the fifth game of the season, Sendelbach had 30 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns to put Evansville back into playoff contention. The Blue Devils smashed the Crimson Tide, 42-19, behind a ground attack that posted 302 yards.
Sendelbach has been going full force ever since and wound up leading the conference in scoring with 98 points, including 16 touchdowns in Rock Valley play.
With his school’s 13th postseason berth in the last 15 years wrapped up, Sendelbach said Evansville has put on its playoff face.
“We’re in playoff mode,” Sendelbach said. “We’re focused and thinking ahead.’’
Sendelbach is a junior in school years, but his heart and competitive mentality are something Evansville’s seniors can’t help but admire.