Lake Geneva Badger coach Matt Hensler couldn’t be prouder of his football team for persevering through an 0-4 start this season.
The Badgers rebounded and on Friday night secured a WIAA playoff berth for a 12th straight season.
The Badgers (4-5) are playoff-bound after holding off Union Grove 28-20 in a win-or-go-home battle in the Southern Lakes Conference.
Badger running backs Hunter Wrzesinski and Jordan Hodges each ran for a pair of touchdowns, while the Badger defense collected a pair of second-half interceptions to lead the way to victory on a chilly Homecoming night.
“This happened in 2010 where we started 0-4 and made the playoffs, and we even won a playoff game that year,” Hensler said. “But it’s not like we were happy to be 0-4, and in fact it stunk.
“I’m happy the way we handled it, but I don’t want it to happen anymore.”
The Badgers showed the same resolve in the second half against Union Grove as they had all season.
With Badger clinging to a 7-6 lead early in the third quarter, the Broncos drove to the Badgers’ 25-yard line before Richy Martinez nabbed a tipped pass and returned it 69 yards to the Broncos’ 6.
On the next play, Hodges plowed into the end zone to make it 14-6 Badger.
“I actually messed up when my guy went in motion; I was supposed to read the crossing tight end,” Martinez said. “I didn’t get him, but our corner made a good play and popped the ball up in the air and I caught it and start running.”
The Broncos answered on the ensuing drive with Luke Hansel’s 19-yard touchdown run to cut it to 14-12 in the third.
Union Grove, which outgained Badger 84-3 to start the second half, saw its season come to end with two second-half interceptions and a questionable fake-punt run that was derailed at the Broncos’ 29.
Five plays later, Wrzesinski dove into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown run to make it a two-possesion game, 21-12, with 10 minutes to play.
“We knew we were going to get everything from them because they were fighting for a playoff berth, plus they are good at those trick plays,” Hensler said. “We tried two or three trick plays of our own, but we fell flat on our face.”
Hodges later added a 2-yard touchdown run to break the game open, 28-12.
Union Grove responded with Hansel’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Luke Nelson a 2-point conversion to make it 28-20 with 1:18 left.
With the Broncos needing a defensive stop to get the ball back, Martinez ran around left end for 12 yards to move the chains and seal the Badger victory.
“This was a really big win for us,” Martinez said. “We aren’t always the brightest group, but we always battle, and it paid off tonight.”
The Badgers’ perseverance gave them at least one more week of football.
BADGER 28, UNION GROVE 20
Union Grove 6 0 6 8—20
Badger 0 7 7 14—28
Scoring: UG—Luke Hansel 5 run (Christian Lentz kick). Bad—Hunter Wrzesinski 3 run (Josh Taddeo kick). Bad—Jordan Hodges 6 run (Taddeo kick). UG—Hansel 19 run (pass failed). Bad—Wrzesinski 7 run (Taddeo kick). Bad—Hodges 2 run (Taddeo kick). UG—Luke Nelson 11 pass from Hansel (Hansel pass to Nelson).
Statistics: First downs—UG 16, Bad 17. Rushing—UG 33-174, Bad 54-238. Passing—UG 30-11-2, Bad 3-0-0. Yards passing—UG 101, Bad 0. Fumbles—UG 1-0, Bad 3-1. Penalties—UG 3-20, Bad 2-15.