Friday evening’s football game between South Milwaukee and New Berlin Eisenhower was a critical game for both teams seeking a spot in the playoffs. South Milwaukee was able to walk away with a hard fought 21-16 victory at Ike, keeping the Lions short of playoff eligibility.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lions were leading the Rockets, 10-7, but the Rockets had possession of the ball deep in Lions territory, and South Milwaukee quarterback Justin Oliden completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Evan Marlowe for his second touchdown reception of the day and a 14-10 Rocket lead.
“I just was going to make a play,” Marlowe said. “The offense was stepping up and I was going to make a play. I feel great. Those touchdowns let us win.”
After a quick three and out on Ike’s next possession, the Rockets had wonderful field position after the punt only reached the Lions 40-yard line. A series of runs from Brandon Dutcher brought the Rockets to the Eisenhower 19-yard line and set up a touchdown run from Zach Simuncak.
With four minutes left and the Rockets leading 21-10, the Lions were in desperate need of a good offensive drive. An 18-yard pass from Lions quarterback Charlie Sirek to Nick Taylor followed by a 15-yard penalty against the Rockets put the ball on the South Milwaukee 47-yard line and gave the Lions some momentum. Four plays later, Sirek found Nick Holicek for a 19-yard touchdown pass and cut the Rockets lead to five.
The Lions attempted a two-point conversion, hoping to set up a tying field-goal attempt later, but Sirek was chased down and the two-point conversion failed.
“The field goal is always a possibility and they have a good kicker,” said South Milwaukee head coach John Galewski. “It was a good defensive stand, but I was glad that we still had the lead at that point whether it would have been three points or five.”
Despite the failed two-point conversion, the Lions were able to recover their own onside kick to give themselves a chance to win the game. The drive started well with a run by Anthony Stewart down to the Rockets 35-yard line, but a fumble on the next play pushed the Lions back to the 48. After two completed passes for short gains, Sirek was chased down and sacked by Bryan Honerlaw to force a turnover on downs and effectively end the Lions comeback attempt.
“That was a huge play,” said Galewski. “He had a number of big plays tonight defensively, and he hurt his shoulder a little bit in the first half and responded well and came back.”
Said Eisenhower coach Jeff Setz, “We still had to kick the onside kick and get down reasonably close for the field goal if we would’ve gotten the two points but we had a couple of sacks and a couple fumbles that didn’t allow us to get close enough even for a field goal so it really didn’t matter.”
Had Eisenhower won the game, both teams would have had a .500 record in the conference at 4-4, and while a playoff spot is not guaranteed for a .500 team, Setz felt good about his team’s chances had they won.
“Chances are that we could’ve gotten into the playoffs. It’s always kind of questionable whether .500 teams get in or not, but the way it looked on paper, we would’ve had a pretty good opportunity to be a part of the playoffs.”
Eisenhower had taken an early lead on a field goal from Nathan Erickson before Marlowe’s first touchdown gave the Rockets the lead. The Lions answered with a touchdown run from Stewart in the second quarter.
“We knew that it was going to be a physical game,” said Galewski. “Eisenhower’s a very good team, and we knew it would be a physical game, and I’ve been saying this to the guys as we’ve been going through the year here. They’ve come a long way.”
Coupled with losses from Whitnall and Brown Deer, the Rockets earned a share of the Woodland Conference East Division title.
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