After the homecoming barnburner played between the Greendale and New Berlin Eisenhower football teams, the postgame bonfire hardly seemed necessary.
But who could blame the Panthers and their fans for wanting to keep the party going after Greendale held off its Woodland West Division foe, 41-34, in a classic seesaw affair Friday night.
A muffed punt recovered by freshman Tristian Pipp set up Greendale’s final scoring drive, which was capped by sophomore quarterback Josh Ringelberg’s 9-yard touchdown run.
The Lions had less than four minutes to mount one last comeback, but any hope of forcing overtime ended when quarterback Vince Gabrielsen was intercepted at midfield by Jack Ringelberg.
“You love these games when you win them, and our kids showed a lot of resiliency because they got smacked in the face last week (by conference leader Pewaukee), they got smacked again tonight, and they kept coming back so hats off to them,” Greendale head coach Rob Stoltz said.
Greendale opened the game with a 67-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run by junior Frankie Rutkowski. Jake Zywicki rushed four times for 34 yards on the drive, and Josh Ringelberg hooked up with Mitchell Brees for a 15-yard completion to set up the score.
The Lions wasted little time before countering. Shortly after a 30-yard kickoff return by senior Nick Holicek, Gabrielsen found Holicek for a 31-yard bomb on a well-executed double move. The pair connected again on a 16-yard completion, leading to a 2-yard touchdown run by junior Steve Harrell that tied the game at 7-7.
The Panthers also struck first in the second quarter. Working on a short field, Ringelberg used a series of quarterback sweeps to eventually punch it in from five yards out. However, Rutkowski’s extra point attempt was blocked.
This time, Eisenhower answered even more quickly, as Holicek returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and a 14-13 Lions lead.
The Panthers next possession was encumbered by penalties, so they employed a third down quarterback punt to get out from deep in their own territory. Despite the 36-yard net gain, it took the Lions only two plays to score again. Harrell followed up a 16-yard screen pass from Gabrielsen to Holicek by busting straight up the gut for a 29-yard touchdown run.
Now it was Greendale’s turn to respond, and they did so by grinding out 80 yards in 16 plays. In addition to completing a 21-yard pass to fellow sophomore Cody Kmetz, Ringelberg rushed 7 times for 30 yards on the drive, including a 2-yard touchdown run. He then scored the two-point conversion on a rollout option run, knotting the halftime score at 21-21.
“We have a very talented run game and very talented blocking receivers,” Stoltz said, referring to his team’s repeated success running wide. “With that said, (Ringelberg) is a special athlete.”
Somehow, the second quarter scoring pace paled in comparison to the third, which saw two touchdowns scored by each team.
The Lions took all of one minute to go up 28-21, as junior running back Nick Taylor broke free for a 52-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage. Not to be outdone, Ringelberg launched a 47-yard touchdown bomb to Brees on the fourth play of Greendale’s next possession.
Eisenhower retook the lead, 34-28, on a 1-yard touchdown run by Harrell, who combined with Taylor to rush for 80 total yards on the drive. Nathan Erickson’s extra point kick was blocked.
Greendale came right back with a 75-yard drive of their own. Ringelberg overcame two offensive penalties by completing two passes for 31 yards and darting his way through traffic for a 15-yard touchdown run. After the Panthers were whistled for illegal motion, Rutkowski’s retry of the extra point was blocked.
The Lions normally stout defense finally came to life in the fourth quarter as Holicek made a brililiant interception of Ringelberg in the corner of the end zone. But a few minutes later, Holicek, who had been a thorn in Panthers’ sides all game, muffed the punt that set up Greendale’s game-winning score.
“He made a lot of good plays – the kickoff return, an interception, a number of catches, and he defended very well – and the one play that’s going to stick out is the one that unfortunately didn’t go his way,” Setz said.
Ringelberg did it all for the Panthers, completing 11 of 20 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown and adding 152 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Zywicki led the team with 171 rushing yards on 29 attempts.
“Our line got a good push every time,” said Ringelberg. “Zywicki and I thought we saw the holes well; there were good cutback lanes.”
Harrell and Taylor paced Eisenhower with 111 and 96 rushing yards, respectively. Holicek had four catches for 68 yards.
“Our offense put enough points on the board to win; I was disappointed our defense just didn’t show up tonight,” Setz said. “We couldn’t stop the pass, we couldn’t stop the run.”
Greendale improved to 4-1 on the season. Eisenhower fell to 2-3.
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