Hugs, tears and heads lowered toward the turf were everywhere in the New Berlin West postgame huddle on Friday night. If the scoreboard weren't still on, you would never guess they just finished dominating visiting Whitnall, 28-0.
The Vikings (4-5, 3-3 Woodland) are headed to the playoffs. But for the seniors, Friday night marked the last time they will play a home game.
"It doesn't hit you until you see everybody," said senior running back Bryan Watson as he dried his eyes and looked for words to summarize four years at West. The emotional ending stemmed from West's traditional "Senior Walk" at the conclusion of the game. All 23 of the Vikings' seniors walked across the field to their waiting teammates while all of their career highlights and future aspirations were read over the loudspeaker.
"It really is a brotherhood," Watson said. "I just can't explain how much I'm going to miss it. There's nothing like it. There's no feeling like it. The run's not over. I'm just happy I get more time to spend with these guys."
Defense shuts Falcons down
They certainly went out in style. The Falcons were shut down offensively from start to finish, managing just 16 rushing yards and 89 through the air. Watson towed the Vikings' load, rushing 20 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Vikings' senior running back Travis McKeon put his team on the board midway through the first quarter on a 13-yard run. On the first play of Whitnall's ensuing possession, West senior linebacker Ben Meleski scooped up a fumble and raced 48 yards to give West a 14-0 lead.
"I was pleased to see our defense get a touchdown," Vikings head coach Al Moroder said. "We were focused and did what we had to do tonight. I'm proud of the kids. It's their moment, and they've earned it."
Watson scored his first touchdown from one yard out in the second quarter to put the Vikings up, 21-0. Two plays earlier, Watson turned a dump-off pass from quarterback Dylan Wiese into a 65-yarder by breaking multiple tackles as he raced sideline-to-sideline.
"I was just trying to make something happen," Watson said. "Good blocking up front, and I found a seam and tried to stay patient with it."
Watson added his second score early in the third quarter on a 5-yard rush.
Lots of turnovers
Both teams' offenses lagged the rest of the night, with a combined four turnovers between them. Additionally, Moroder was displeased with six second-half personal fouls committed by his team, the bulk of which were unsportsmanlike conduct.
"Emotions are high, and sometimes things get a little out of hand with the kids," Moroder said. "We've got to get that cleaned up. In the playoffs, things like that can cost you big time. So we'll fix it. That's all it is."
Watson said it wasn't as bad as it may have looked.
"From my perspective, most of the game was well-played," he said. "Both teams were helping each other up most of the game, being respectful and saying good things to each other. I think toward the end it got a little worse, but I really didn't think it was that bad. I thought it was good competition most of the game."
The Falcons end the season 2-7. Although head coach Jeff Wallack wanted to build on last season's playoff berth, he praised his defense for coming up with big plays late in a one-sided game.
"Our kids don't quit and they play to the end," Wallack said. "We'll continue to grind and improve and be stronger for next season."
The Vikings were seeded seventh in their group and they will play Catholic Memorial, the second seed, at Carroll University at 7 p.m. Oct. 25.
"I told them it's 0-0 starting now; it's a new season," Moroder said. "We've gotten better as a team all year and this is what we work for. Every practice, every speed camp, the time in the weight room, it's for the playoffs. The sky is the limit for these guys."
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