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Beavers Sports

Conference Champs Again

Varsity - 2008 Season
Posted Saturday, October 25, 2008 by Waunakee Tribune
10/22/2008 3:00:00 PM  Email this articlePrint this article 
Quarterback Keaton Smith cannot escape the Beaver defense, but Waunakee got away victorious, 28-21.
Conference champs again
It wasn't easy, but Waunakee clinched at least a share of the Badger North conference with an exciting, back-and-forth 28-21 victory over visiting Reedsburg last Friday.

It was finally the Waunakee defense that sealed the win for the Warriors in the seesaw tilt.

After going ahead 28-21 on a 38-yard catch and carry by tight end Austin Goetsch, the defense forced the Beavers to punt.

It looked the Warriors would salt the game away on the legs of tailback Kanha Mann, but he was submarined by a Beaver defender and the ball shot out downfield to be recovered by the Beavers at their own 32-yard line.

Reedsburg had new life and 5:32 to cover 68 yards and tie the game.

The Beavers used all facets of their dynamic option attack to move the ball into Warrior territory. After a crucial drop that would have given Reedsburg a first down around the Warrior 30-yard line, senior defensive end Chris Severson burst into the backfield and sacked Reedsburg's Tyler Mazur to bring about fourth-and-13.

The Waunakee defense rose to the challenge again, as junior linebacker Darren Anderson came through the line untouched to sack Mazur and practically end the Beavers' hopes with just 3:14 left on the clock.

"There were a lot of ups and downs, but our kids were able to hang in there and win a very tough game," Warrior coach Pat Rice said.

The Beavers provided a tough challenge, but in the end Waunakee was able to secure at least a part of their sixth straigtht conference title and 10th in the last 11 years.

"If it doesn't kill you, it makes you better," Rice said. "I've said that a number of times, and it didn't kill us (Friday). We think we can get better because of the experience."

The first quarter was like a smaller picture of the game as a whole. Waunakee was the bruising ball-control offensive team, and Reedsburg was the home run hitter.

Neither team scored on their first drive, although Waunakee had a potential touchdown pass sail high and a field goal blocked. But the second drives were a different story, for both teams.

Waunakee marched 52 yards on 11 plays in 6:03 on the backs of fullback Jordan Bezemek and tailback Kyle Acker. Acker capped the drive with a 7-yard draw up the middle to put the game's first points on the board. Andrew Weber tacked on the extra point, and it was 7-0 Waunakee with just 11 seconds left in the first quarter.

The lead wouldn't last for long, as Reedsburg tied it up on the next play from scrimmage when Mazur found Matt Lennon sneaking down the seam, and 73 yards later it was all tied up as the first quarter came to an end.

Waunakee set out on the march again until Reedsburg defensive lineman Seth Brandt tipped Keaton Smith's pass, snared it and headed downfield. Luckily for Waunakee, Acker was able to track him down and make a touchdown saving tackle at the Warrior 43.

But it only saved the Warriors in the short run, as the Beavers converted a fourth down play and capped the drive with a 26-yard TD pass to take the lead with just over four minutes remaining in the half.

After a touchback, Waunakee took the ball on the 20 and began a drive of their own. Smith rolled right and found Goetsch for 26. Then Mann turned a nothing play into an 8-yard gain by bouncing outside. Bezemek followed with an 8-yard carry of his own to bring Waunakee to the Beaver 38.

Another Bezemek run and a defensive holding penalty on Goetsch gave Waunakee a first down on the 26. On second down, Smith found Eric Helt down the left sideline with a beautiful ball near the goal line, and Helt got in for six. Weber's PAT tied the game at 14 with 1:45 left in the half.

The tying drive was a critical point in the game.

"That drive was huge," Rice said. "That was big for us to score. It kind of staved off the momentum. We thought if we could get the ball back at the beginning of the second half, we could kind of stay one step ahead of them."

Waunakee couldn't get going on their first drive of the second half, but neither could Reedsburg.

After a Reedsburg punt, the Warriors set out to score again. Runs from Jared Woock and Mann, along with a Seppi Reda reception, set up Smith's 14-yard TD pass to Goetsch. Weber's extra point put Waunakee ahead 21-14.

The Warriors were on their way to stopping the Beavers' next drive until a costly pass inference penalty keep the drive alive. Reedsburg capitalized on the next play as Mazur and Lennon hooked up again, this time for a 55-yard TD strike to knot the game at 21-21.

Waunakee next drive ended with a busted play on third down, forcing the Warriors to punt when facing a fourth-and-three at their own 27. But instead they pulled a fake out of their bag of tricks. Tyler Fix took the handoff around the right end from his upback position to nab a first down and keep the drive rolling.

Three plays later, the Warriors again faced a fourth-down decision. This time Bezemek took the ball and rumbled seven yards to the Beaver 41, easily gaining a first down.

Two Acker carries set up a third-down situation for Waunakee, and Smith found his favorite target again. Smith hit a crossing Goetsch who broke a tackle and outraced another defender to the pilon, diving in for the go-ahead score. Weber's PAT put the Warriors on top 28-21 with 10:35 to go.

And it was Goetsch and Smith who put the dagger to the Beavers, hooking up on fourth-and-five for a 13-yard gain to give Waunakee a chance to run out the clock. In all, Goetsch caught four balls for 94 of Smith's 172 yards and two scores.

Acker led Waunakee's ground attack with 107 yards behind an offensive line that helped keep the quick-strike Beaver offense off the field for vast stretches of the game.

Rice said it's good to be tested, even though it's never enjoyable at the time. He said to be able to go out and win the conference title this year, with so many new faces on both sides of the ball, is pretty special.

"To win it, with a bunch of new kids like this, it's pretty cool," he said.

But the team still has unfinished business with one game remaining at Sauk Prairie and a shot at an undefeated regular season and sole possession of the title on the line.

"We didn't celebrate too much because we still want to get the whole thing. But certainly it's a huge step," the coach said.

Waunakee traveled to Sauk Prairie on Wednesday, after press time. The Warriors begin their playoff run Tuesday.

Playoff pairings should be released around noon Friday. Pairings will appear on the Tribune's Web site as soon as they are available.

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