The New Berlin Eisenhower football team has relied on the recipe of stingy defense and an opportunistic offense all season.
They followed it to a T again on Saturday afternoon.
Behind its typically stout defense and two long play-action passes from quarterback John Crowley to tight end Dylan Petre, host Eisenhower prevailed over Cudahy, 27-7, in a WIAA Division 3 opening round playoff game.
Cudahy (4-6) was able to pressure Crowley early, sacking and forcing him into an interception on Eisenhower’s opening drive. But the Packers were unable to take advantage of the field position, going three-and-out on their first two possessions near midfield.
“They have good team speed and their linebackers pursue hard,” said Cudahy head coach Ryan Serfort. “We tried to get out on the edge with our quarterback, but they have some great athletes. That is a good defense.”
The Lions (8-2) were able to sustain their third drive and took a 7-0 lead when Crowley found Petre for a diving 20-yard touchdown grab zone on a perfect play-action pass with 1:07 remaining in the first quarter. The pass followed 12 consecutive running plays.
“Our mentality is to just pound the rock and establish our ground game to set up the pass,” said Petre. “John threw me a ball that only I had a chance to catch, and I was able to come down with it.”
Petre finished with three grabs for 68 yards.
Cudahy would get its chances to cash in early, however.
On the ensuing drive, Cudahy quarterback Angel Ramirez was able to find receiver Teontae Morgan for a 38-yard completion, but a penalty stalled the drive inside the Eisenhower 30. The Packers would start their following drive in Eisenhower territory, but the Lions defense held to force another punt, staving off another scoring threat before the Eisenhower offense got going. Morgan would finish with 121 yards receiving.
“We put our defense in some tough spots early. But overall, I thought we did a great job containing them with our ends and outside linebackers,” said New Berlin Eisenhower head coach Jeff Setz. “Outside of a few passes and a trick play, our defense really held its own.”
After the stop, Crowley found Petre again for 40 yards on a play-action pass, and running back Nick Taylor scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to put the Lions up 14-0 with 3:02 left in the half.
Eisenhower would take a commanding 21-0 lead on its first possession of the third quarter, with Crowley rushing for a nine-yard score. Crowley finished with a game-high 106 rushing yards on 19 carries.
However, the Packers would not quit. Facing a third-and-25, Cudahy executed a hook-and–lateral play from Morgan to running back Joe Rogers that went for 38 yards to the Eisenhower 7.
Moments later Garrett Falkowski hauled in a three-yard touchdown pass to pull within 21-7, and the Packers would recover an Eisenhower fumble to take possession near midfield early in the fourth quarter.
But Ramirez was intercepted on fourth-and-two from the Eisenhower 42, and the Lions would run the clock out from there.
The second-half effort and playoff berth was an encouraging sign for coach Serfort as Cudahy looks to use its playoff appearance as a stepping stone for a solid 2012 campaign.
“We fought hard in the second half and forced a few turnovers at the end there. This is a good building block for us as a program. Getting into the playoffs was a good building block for us as a program moving forward,” said Serfort. “I think our biggest area to improve on is in the weight room. The teams that we lost to this year were just a lot stronger and more physical than us.
And while pleased with the victory, Eisenhower coach Jeff Setz knows that his team will have to be more consistent offensively next week.
“We have to be much more consistent in our running game. For our gameplan to be effective we need to get into short-yardage situations, and we had some penalties and turnovers there today,” said Setz.
New Berlin Eisenhower will play at Wisconsin Lutheran (8-2) next Friday or Saturday.
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