State playoff football games have an intensity and an attraction and a lore all their own.
Take the great Jay Schneider-inspired rally by the eventual WIAA State Division 2 champion Homestead team of a year ago over host Green Bay Southwest in the third round. Schneider's impossible sideline dance and dash for score in the final minutes just grows more dramatic with every passing day.
But regular season games have their own allure. They are usually with teams you know, schools you have rivalries with and grudges against for all manner of reasons, and they create all manner of delights and horrors depending on whose side you're on.
They can propel you to the highest of heights or throw your heretofore excellent season into disarray.
And no one knows what long-term impact Homestead's gravity-defying upset of No. 1-ranked Arrowhead on Friday will have on the teams' respective seasons.
We'll have to wait a couple of months to find that out, but it would pay to take a look at a few key regular season moments in recent Highlanders memory against arch-rival Germantown as studies in how important regular season games are and how they can effect the eventual outcome of the campaign.
2012 — Homestead 28, Germantown 7 This score is highly deceptive. The Highlanders were coming off an epic loss to Whitefish Bay and needed this regular season closer to pull into a tie with the Blue Dukes for the North Shore title. They dodged a few huge bullets in the first half as the Warhawks themselves were trying to grab a share of the league crown with a win.
It was scoreless going into the second half, but on the first play of the third quarter, Schneider exploded for 81 yards and the game's first touchdown. The Highlanders scored twice more in quick succession in the period and cruised to victory and a share of the league crown.
We all know what happened after that event as the Highlanders regained their mojo and eventually seized their fourth WIAA state title with a 14-0 win over Waunakee.
2003 — Homestead 23, Germantown 20 The greatest game this storied rivalry ever saw, as in the final game of the regular season, the Highlanders and Warhawks both came in unbeaten in league play with hopes of a North Shore Conference title.
In a noisy and impassioned Datka Stadium in Germantown, it went back and forth. There were great plays such as Highlanders quarterback Derek Watson coolly hitting tight end Blair Grover for 13 yards on a fourth-and-eight play to keep the final drive going and there were controversial ones, too. Homestead coach Dave Keel still insists that Warhawks linebacker Jack Wallace was before the goal line before he fumbled the ball out of the end zone on his strip and score. The officials said he crossed.
In the end, Watson made the greatest pass of his career on a 30-yard, thread-the-needle job to end David Harkensee with just 1:17 to go to pull out the win and earn Homestead another league crown.
The game was important to both teams. The Highlanders went on to earn their third straight WIAA state semifinal berth before losing to eventual champion D.C. Everest and the storied Germantown group used the loss as incentive to go on and claim the WIAA State Division 2 championship.
2006 — Homestead 18, Germantown 17 People can argue whether the 2006 or the 2008 Homestead defense was better, but this particular group, led by a brilliant pair of defensive backs in Mike Feierstein and Ryan Lunde became inspired after being pushed to the limit by the Warhawks terrific pass-and-catch combination of Cody Griebling and Greg Rogers (eight catches for 121 yards in the game).
Rogers made a pair of spectacular TD grabs, including one on a halfback option from Austin Stadler, as Germantown went up on their unbeaten visitors, 17-3, but Homestead rallied. The Highlanders closed to within one score but then Germantown threatened to make it a two-score game again late after another deep downfield snag by Rogers.
But in a play that defined the defense's season, they stuffed the Warhawks on a fourth-and-inches run after Germantown coach Phil Datka decided to roll the dice and not go for the field goal.
Homestead then got a dramatic late TD and two-point conversion to go ahead and pull out the victory. After that escape, there would be no more close calls for the Highlanders the rest of the way as the defense would give up only 24 total points in the final seven games combined. The Highlanders then claimed their second state title with a 35-0 rout of Arrowhead in the state final.
So, in light of all that, what is there to read into Friday's epic regular season upset of Arrowhead?
If you're Keel, you'll try and tell everybody not much because it's simply too early.
"It's an early season nonconference game," he said, "and that's all that it is. I don't rank it as any more important than any other win....In fact, I'm not sure that they'll let us count this game in the conference standings (chuckles) and I know Port (Washington) and Grafton (upcoming opponents) are not going to give us anything because of this either."
We'll just wait and see on that.
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