Sun Prairie skips past Badger
Then imagine doing it again the very next week.
Such is the bitter pill the Lake Geneva Badger High football team must be tasting after its season came to an end with a gut-wrenching, 22-21 loss to Sun Prairie in a WIAA Division 1 first-round playoff game on a sun-splashed field here Saturday.
Badger’s Peter Karr had a game-winning 30-yard field-goal attempt blocked by Dane Lindholm with five seconds left, and the Badgers had an apparent 80-yard touchdown run by Chris Walker earlier in the fourth quarter called back by a holding penalty.
A week ago, Badger had three touchdowns called back by penalty and missed a field goal in a brutal double-overtime loss to Waterford that cost the Badgers the outright Southern Lakes Conference title.
This time, they saw a successful season end.
“Too many mistakes,” Badger coach Matt Hensler said. “Too many mental errors, too many mistakes.”
As a result, Sun Prairie (8-2) advanced to a Level 2 game against defending state champion Waukesha West (10-0) on Friday or Saturday.
Down by a point against the Cardinals, Badger took over on its 43-yard line with 3:40 left after a booming 52-yard punt by Philip Ghiloni.
The Badgers (7-3) moved to the Sun Prairie 28, where quarterback Peter Krien used a play-fake and hit tight end Eric Winger up the seam down to the 5, though it appeared like it would’ve been a touchdown had Krien not underthrown the ball a little.
Still, the Badgers were in good shape, but a false-start penalty and two unproductive runs pushed the ball back to the 12, forcing Badger to use its final timeout with nine seconds left.
At that point, Hensler didn’t think there was enough time to run another play and sent out Karr to kick for the win.
“The debate was if there was enough time to throw a fade or something like that, or throw a slant,” Hensler said. “Our kid’s kicking 40-, 45-yarders in pregame, so why even chance it? Just let the kid kick it.”
And that’s where Lindholm came in.
Usually playing back to guard against a fake in field-goal situations, Lindholm told his coaches he wanted to try for the block, and his coaches agreed. From his position on the right end, Lindholm came tearing around the corner and stuffed Karr’s kick.
“I told Coach beforehand that I was gonna go (for the block), because I wanted to,” Lindholm said. “I knew I was gonna get it. I knew right away.”
Hensler said he couldn’t be sure of what happened on the block until he watched the film.
“I know it was somebody off the edge,” he said. “I don’t know what our guys did out there, and I don’t know how fast he was off the ball.”
It might not have come to that had an untimely holding penalty not wiped out an electrifying run by Walker.
With the Badgers leading 21-16, Walker took a pitch to the right from own 20, cut back to the left and somehow weaved his way through a maze of tacklers all the way to the end zone.
The whole time, though, a flag was on the ground, as if to taunt the Badgers. The hold, which Hensler couldn’t comment on because it happened across the field from the Badger sideline, wiped out what could’ve been a game-clinching touchdown.
The Cardinals (8-2) got the ball on the Badger 44 after a punt. Three plays later, they had their first lead and the game’s final points when Ryan Curran hit a wide-open Michael Hommerding on a well-designed pass from 14 yards out for a 22-21 lead.
Led by defensive linemen Tom Cychner, Romualdo Barriga and Winger, Badger chased Curran all day, sacking him eight times and forcing an early interception in the Badger end zone by Trenton Bobula to kill a drive.
But Curran did a tremendous job keeping plays alive and finished 16-of-23 for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Badger, meanwhile, used its triple-option rushing attack to rack up 285 yards on the ground, 127 and three scores from Krien and another 119 by fullback Rory Klean. Despite the numbers, Sun Prairie did a nice job defending the edges, forcing the Badgers to run 52 times for their yards, a 5.5-yard average.
Krien’s 16-yard second-quarter run gave Badger a 7-0 lead, which swelled to 14-0 when Sun Prairie mishandled the ensuing kickoff. The Badgers recovered, and Krien scored from nine yards out.
Curran found his tight end, Ryan Yentz, behind the defense for an 82-yard score to make it 14-6, but Krien scored his third touchdown of the quarter on a 54-yard scamper for a 21-6 lead.
That would be the Badgers’ final score, though. Curran connected with Michael Marchese from 16 yards out with 31 seconds left in the half to make it 21-13. Lukas Otto drilled a 40-yard field goal to draw the Cardinals within 21-16 with 5:34 to go in the third quarter and set up the fourth-quarter dramatics that ended Badger’s season.
“We’re very proud of the kids,” Hensler said. “(They) battled all year long and did a tremendous amount of great things this year. I’m very proud of those guys. They did a great job.”
SUN PRAIRIE 22, BADGER 21
Sun Prairie 0 13 3 6—22
Lake Geneva Badger 0 21 0 0—21
Scoring summary: LGB—Peter Krien, 16 run (Peter Karr kick). LGB—Krien, 9 run (Karr kick). SP—Ryan Yentz, 82 pass from Ryan Curran (kick failed). LGB—Krien, 54 run (Karr kick). SP—Michael Marchese, 16 pass from Curran (Lukas Otto kick). SP—FG, Otto, 40. SP—Michael Hommerding, 24 pass from Curran.
Statistics: First downs—SP 15, LGB 15. Rushing—SP 30-36, LGB 52-285. Yards passing—SP 287, LGB 47. Passes—SP 16-23-1, LGB 4-5-1. Fumbles—SP 2-1, LGB 2-1. Penalties—SP 4-40, LGB 6-50.