Battle of unbeatens matches Kimberly vs. Homestead
Highlanders beat Sussex Hamilton to advance
It's the game everyone has been waiting for since the WIAA state football playoff brackets were announced, and it has all the edge of a state championship game.
Top-ranked Homestead (11-0) hosts second-ranked Kimberly (11-0) in a Division 2, Level 3 game at 7 p.m. Friday.
It's a game that recalls the terrific energy when another unbeaten Homestead team hosted and beat a previously undefeated Marquette squad in another Level 3 contest in 2003. That game had parking problems, a creative appropriation of seating by enthusiastic Marquette fans and a record-setting crowd of 4,049.
That attendance mark might be in danger, even with the 100-mile trip Papermaker fans have to make to Mequon during rush-hour traffic, because that's how much this game is anticipated.
"This is exactly the time of year you like to be playing against very good teams like this," Highlanders coach Dave Keel said. "...The kids are focused and we're very pleased with where we're at."
So are the Papermakers, who smashed their way to the Fox Valley Association Conference title behind a stunning offense that has averaged 50.6 points per game. In fact, they have had only one game under 40 all season and they have routed both Wauwatosa West and Cedarburg to get to this point.
Quarterback Scott Schreiber has 23 TD passes and just two interceptions on the season while backs J. P. Perenboom and Blair Mulholland have combined for 33 TDs on the ground with Mulholland's 798 yards coming on just 56 carries (a preposterous 14.2 yards per carry).
It's no wonder that Keel says without a trace of irony but with a wink in his eye that "We're watering our fields this week, making them nice and soft."
Kimberly's defense is also no slouch, having given up just 104 points in 11 games, 44 of those in the first two contests.
"They're very talented offensively and defensively, they have good players all over the field," Keel said.
Late rally seals win
So did Sussex Hamilton, which the Highlanders had to work to beat, 28-20, on Friday, rallying to score two fourth quarter TDs to get the job done.
The Highlanders trailed the fourth-seeded Chargers, 20-14, going into the final quarter, but then showed what championship teams are made of.
First, junior quarterback Nick Allen led the Highlanders on a 19-play, 75-yard drive, which ended when senior running back Eric Wade scored on a 3-yard run. Luke Neusen, who was four-for-four on extra points then converted to give Homestead a slim, 21-20 lead.
Then came the turning point: a critical drop of a wide-open pass that forced the Chargers to punt.
With first and 10 on their own 31, Allen led the Highlanders on a nine-play, 69-yard drive. The last 33 yards came on a beautiful run down the left sideline by Allen, who was uncontested after faking two hand-offs that had the Chargers defense going in the opposite direction.
"I had two fake handoffs and I turned around and our running backs just led me down the field," Allen said. "It was a good play call by coach Keel and it was a success."
Leusen's extra point was good, Homestead led, 28-20, with 5:07 left to play and the defense stopped Hamilton the rest of the way.
Homestead opened the scoring when Allen had tossed a 25-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Jack Popp with 9:07 left in the first quarter. Hamilton came back when Barnes took them on an eight-play, 72-yard drive, with senior running back Drew Patterson scoring on a 3-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:10 on the clock in the first.
Homestead went 80 yards on seven plays, with Allen going around left end for a 4-yard score with 5:31 left in the half for a 14-7 lead.
Chargers bounce back
The Chargers got back into the game with 2:03 left in the half.
Barnes uncorked a beautiful 25-yard pass over the middle to Alec McShane, who beat his defender in the end zone. The extra point was unsuccessful and Homestead led, 14-13, at intermission.
The Chargers started the second half and went 67 yards on 12 plays, scoring on a option pass when Dan Lunowa took a handoff from Barnes, rolled right and found Jacob Glendenning all alone in the end zone for a 20-14 lead.
"We knew it was going to go back and forth in the second half and I knew we were going to march down and we capitalized on one of our more interesting plays," Hamilton coach John Damato said. "I'm quite pleased. Homestead is such a good football team, well-coached, we just couldn't stop it there at the end."
"They started the second half with a great drive," Keel said of the Chargers. "They just really did a nice job. Our defense was just busting our chops and playing our hearts out, but Sussex just made a couple plays. That '34' is a beast. (Drew) Patterson is an awfully good football player. But I can't say enough because our defense really came through."
Keel then praised the Chargers.
"They are so well-coached, they don't have to use gimmicks," he said. "We got a break when that one kid dropped that screen pass."
Wade finished with 104 yards rushing while Allen had 87. Patterson led the Chargers with 76.
— With additional reporting by Steven L. Tietz
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