Patrolling warmups before the game, Lake Geneva Badger coach Matt Hensler described his team’s energy as eerie.
Coming off an emotional 17-7 upset victory over Waterford last week, Hensler’s team struggled to find the intensity needed for playoff football.
The Badgers committed five turnovers and surrendered 26 second-half points on their way to a painful 33-7 loss to Burlington in a WIAA Division 2 first-round playoff game.
Burlington running back Zach Wallace rolled up 223 rushing yards in the second half, including three of his four touchdown runs of 71, 62 and 79 yards to propel Burlington into a second-round battle with rival Waterford next Friday.
Badger, meanwhile, was simply left standing in the middle of the field a beaten team.
“We were mentally and emotionally drained from last week’s game,” Hensler said. “We had nothing in the tank, and in our pregame warmups something was kind of eerie and we knew it was going to be a struggle to get up again emotionally.”
Badger’s struggles started on its second play of the game, when a botched handoff at its own 26-yard line gave Burlington the ball.
Six plays later, Wallace took the toss right for a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Demons ahead 6-0.
The Badgers later had a chance to answer after recovering a muffed punt at the Demons’ 38. Running back Cole Gabor-Pullen pounded the defense with multiple downhill runs to move inside the 20, but that was as far as the Badgers could get. On fourth down, quarterback Grant DuMez bobbled the snap and was tackled at the line of scrimmage.
Badger later had a drive inside the Demons’ 40 that ended on a DuMez interception in the end zone.
“You can’t have a turnover on the second play, and then it took us a long time to recover from that,” Hensler said. “Offensively, we were the exact opposite of last week.”
The deflated Badgers, who only trailed 6-0 at halftime, seemingly had nothing left emotionally in the second half.
Wallace ran through large holes in the Badger defensive line and racked up those three long touchdowns to break the game open.
Badger managed a 6-yard Gabor-Pullen run late in the third, but the Demons wouldn’t be denied, racking up 331 total yards in the second half.
“Our team put it all together tonight,” Burlington coach Steve Tenhagen said. “I don’t think there was any one thing different than the first game with them where we gave up 37 points. We just played physical and made tackles, which is something we haven’t always done great this year.”
While everything came together for Burlington, the Badgers saw everything fall apart at the worst time.
“I just feel terrible for our kids as a group,” said Hensler, whose team lost to Burlington 40-37 in a regular-season shootout. “We just couldn’t find that life again.”
BURLINGTON 33, BADGER 7
Lake Geneva Badger 0 0 7 0—7
Burlington 6 0 14 13—33
Scoring: B—Zach Wallace 1 run (kick failed). B—-Dalton Damon 1 run (Runkel pass from Damon). B—Wallace, 71 run (kick failed). L—Cole Gabor-Pullen 6 run (Grant DuMez kick). B—Wallace 62 run (pass failed). B—Wallace 79 run (Cora Anderson kick).
Statistics: First downs—L 15, BT 13. Yards rushing—L 54-226, B 26—305. Passes—L 11-2-4, B 10-4-1. Yards passing—L 40, B 78. Fumbles—L 3-1, B 1-1. Penalties—L 6-40, B 5-55