Battle of first-year coaches goes to Eisenhower
Lions give Kern 21-14 victory over Whitnall
Two first-year coaches entered their Aug. 29 game between Whitnall and New Berlin Eisenhower looking to break into the win column with their respective programs.
Despite falling into an early 14-0 hole, host Eisenhower roared back with 21 unanswered points to defeat Whitnall, 21-14, and give coach Matt Kern his first varsity win.
Whitnall quarterback Kyle Radavich guided the visiting Falcons to touchdowns on two of their first three drives, including a beautifully- lofted 38-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Austin Brault that put them ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
"Our pass protection was very good early, and that opened things up for us," said Whitnall head coach Jared McGranahan.
But the momentum of the game appeared to change on the next Eisenhower possession when Lions running back Jordan Canady made a spectacular one-handed catch on 3rd and 12 and raced 61 yards down the left sideline to the Whitnall 18-yard-line. Eisenhower quarterback Sam Carey would punch it in three plays later to get the Lions on the board.
"Jordan (Canady) is definitely one of our big play guys, and you rely on your best players to make things happen," said Kern. "We were searching for something, and for him to pull out that play was hugely important."
Whitnall carried a 14-7 lead into the half, but Eisenhower tied the game on its first possession of the third quarter behind Canady, who took an inside handoff and sprinted 32 yards for a touchdown that knotted the game at 14.
Whitnall received two golden opportunities to pull back ahead behind turnovers that gave the Falcons possession deep in Eisenhower territory. But the Lions defense rose to the occasion, sacking Radavich twice following a mishandled punt and forcing a three-and-out after an Eisenhower interception.
While Kern downplayed the significance of his first win, he was pleased with how his defense helped turn the game around after a tough start.
"The biggest thing was that we started tackling," said Kern. "For whatever reason, we came out a little flat defensively. But as the game went on, we started rallying to the ball, finishing tackles, and got some pass rush on their quarterback."
Eisenhower's offense responded to the defensive stands with a backbreaking 99-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by Canady's second touchdown run of the game to make it 21-14. Canady finished with 94 yards on 10 carries for the Lions, who rushed for 258 yards on the night.
The Falcons had a pair of late chances to tie the game, but Radavich was intercepted on Whitnall's final two drives to seal the victory for Eisenhower.
McGranahan was frustrated by his team's inability to execute for four quarters, citing penalties and lapses on both sides of the ball, but also came away with the feeling that his team is heading in the right direction.
"Right now, we are learning how to win as a program, and how to finish," McGranahan said. "We need to put together four quarters of solid, physical football without the lapses and penalties in crucial situations. But I think it's obvious to anyone watching us that we are getting better. We are going to do things the right way, and we will learn from this."
Eisenhower will host New Berlin West at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, in their first Woodland West Division opener.
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