New Berlin Eisenhower’s 28-14 victory Friday night over Whitnall was an important victory for a couple reasons.
First of all, the Lions hadn’t had a homecoming win the last two years.
Second of all, it improved their record to 3-2 in the Woodland Conference Black Division, tied for second with Whitnall and Greenfield behind first-place Greendale (5-0).
Third of all, it showcased power running back Tony Stewart, who scored all four of his team’s touchdowns.
“This is big,” a happy Lions coach Jeff Setz said afterwards, while watching the homecoming events on the field. “We’ve lost our homecoming game the last two years. That takes a lot of pizzazz out of the whole night, the whole weekend. I know the kids are excited about it – both the football players and the whole school atmosphere.”
Setz was also happy about getting back in the race, although Greendale has a two game lead.
“I’m trying to get to the point where we want to contend for the title,” he said. “We just have to win out and hope for the best on the other side with the teams that are ahead of us.
“I think we’re making strides. We got a few weaknesses yet that we have to shore up. With the tough games coming up, I think we can compete.”
And then there was Stewart, a junior running back, who is also an excellent defensive lineman for the Lions.
Setz decided to use Stewart – at 5-foot-11 inch, 224 pounds – his biggest running back more and he was rewarded with touchdowns of 8, 12, 1 and 37 yards.
“We decided to go with a little Power-I type look, put some of our bigger kids in, and our bigger backs and, of course, he’s one of them,” he said. “We had struggled all year with third and short and fourth and short. I see this guy standing on the sideline; like he can just run somebody over if we got him going with a little bit of steam.
“I think we saw that here tonight. We try to work with our Winged-T - its a little misdirection – but we established the fact that we can get that short-yardage situation with our Power-I team. Tony Stewart certainly makes that power-I go from the tailback position.”
The modest Stewart got right to the point afterwards.
“Being a fullback, that’s what I do,” he said. “That’s my job. They give me the ball and I punch it in.”
After a high-scoring first half – Eisenhower led 21-14 – the defenses took over and Ike scored the only touchdown at 9:18 of the third period.
Whitnall’s high-flying offense behind quarterback Luke Mentkowski and wide receivers Sam Mentkowski, Nick Cimler, Stephen Pelkofer and Michael Bonin put on quite the performance.
Whitnall scored on plays of 82 and 61 yards and moved the ball between the 20’s. But once the Falcons got within the red zone, their wide-open offense bogged down.
“It’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Whitnall coach Robert Le Bouef said. “We get inside the compete zone, we bog down. We get the ball down here three times – we left 21 points on the field. We don’t finish.”
Then Le Bouef explained the problem.
“With a passing attack, you get closer to the goal line, the field gets smaller,” he said. “The windows to put the ball into get smaller, so its more difficult for us to throw the ball. We got to run it.
“Right now we got a young O-line, inexperienced; we are undersized, so it makes it difficult for us to run the ball in those types of situations.”
Ike scored first, going 60 yards in 11 plays, capped off by Stewart’s 8-yard run at 6:17. Mitch Teipner had a 15-yard run and Darren Lehsten had a 14-yard run to spark the drive. Sandro Pesquiera kicked the first of his four extra points for the Lions.
However, Whitnall got on the scoreboard in two plays at 10:55 of the second quarter.
Luke Mentkowski tossed a 9-yard pass to Michael Bonin and then connected with brother Sam, who went 82 yards for the score cutting the lead to 7-6. The PAT was missed.
Ike quarterback John Crowley led the way again with a 7-play, 69-yard drive, the big play being a 46-yard pass down the right sideline to Dylan Petre, setting up Stewart’s 12-yard run.
But Mentkowski brought the Falcons back immediately with a 4-play 68-yard drive, capped off by a 61-yard touchdown to Cimler on a ball that was almost intercepted by Vince Gabrielsen. Mentkowski then hit Bonin with a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14 with 5:50 left in the half.
But then the Lions went 53 yards in 6-plays, capped off by Stewart’s 1-yard run at 3:02 of the second quarter for a 21-14 half-time lead.
Ike then came out in the second half and put the game away when it went 61-yards in 7 plays, with Stewart’s 37-yard run down the sideline putting the last touchdown on the board.
The Lions defense then took over, bending but not breaking, constantly stopping the Falcons offense in the red zone. Crowley, Gabrielsen and Stewart made some key plays for the Lions.
Ike had the game’s top four rushers - Crowley (70), Stewart (64), Lehsten (62) and Nick Taylor (61). Taylor Karweik led Whitnall with 46 yards, but Luke Mentkowski was 18-for-36 for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Whitnall’s Sam Mentkowski (2-for-90), Cimler (2-for-70) and Pelkofer (6-for-70) led the game’s receivers.
The Lions (4-2 overall) travel to South Milwaukee on Friday, while the Falcons (3-3) are at first place Greendale (5-1 overall).
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