New Berlin — For much of the 2009 season New Berlin West has used the arm of standout junior quarterback Dominique Bledsoe to set up its running game.
Junior running back Steve Vogl and the Vikings offensive line had other ideas Friday in their convincing, 28-0, win over St. Francis.
The wet, muddy conditions limited the Vikings passing attack and allowed Vogl to carry the ball 30 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
"(Vogl) continues to amaze me," New Berlin West coach Jeff Grabo said. "He ran like a man (Friday)."
Vogl admitted that he was a little sore from the unexpected rush volume, but was satisfied as it meant a homecoming victory.
"It feels nice to get a win for our seniors," he said.
Miscues cost Mariners
St. Francis kept it close in the early going, trailing by only seven after the first quarter, but drive-stopping penalties and errors in the red zone stymied a Mariners upset bid.
"It was by far our best effort of the year," St. Francis coach Doug Sarver said, "but we made too many mistakes."
This was no more evident than on a St. Francis scoring drive late in the third quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Robert Kowalczyk completed an improbable jump pass to extend the drive on third-and-15, but three plays later the Mariners' final stand came to a halt on a drive-killing holding penalty.
A slew of errors, coupled with the efforts of Vogl and the Vikings offense, were likely too much for St. Francis anyway.
"They are just a solid team all around," Sarver said.
Grabo said there is an inherent challenge when facing an opponent that you "should beat."
"I have tried to figure out for 27 years how to get guys up for a game like this," he said. "Every now and then one of these teams will just sneak up on you."
Naturally, West's relatively slow start against the Mariners (1-6) was cause for concern.
A 26-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Jesse Riehle up the seam with less than two minutes left in the first quarter helped alleviate Grabo's concerns.
Bledsoe finished the night 8-for-13 for 104 yards and two touchdown passes.
"The word that comes to mind with Dom is 'poise,' " Grabo said. "He's not flashy back there, but he always seems to find someone open."
Team grinds it out
The "lunch-pail" mentality that Grabo said the 2009 Vikings exhibit was evident in a demoralizing, 8:04 drive to open the second half that was punctuated by a 1-yard Vogl touchdown run.
"We decided at halftime we were going to come right at them," he said.
With the sloppy field conditions, Grabo said it was easier for linemen to run block than to try and have them set up and pass block.
With the win, West not only beat St. Francis for the first time since the Mariners joined the Woodland in 2007, but they improved to 4-2 in the Woodland and 4-3 overall all but assuring them a spot in the WIAA playoffs.
Vogl, who has been on West's varsity since his freshman year, is excited about his first potential trip to the playoffs, but concedes there is room to improve during the final two weeks of the regular season.
"We need to continue our good practice habits and work on not hurting ourselves in games," he said. "We can't let up."
Grabo said he understands what the Vikings accomplished Friday night, but the two remaining regular season games, including next week's match up against Brown Deer (6-1), will keep his team from looking too far into the future.
"They know who they have coming up," he said. "We have our work cut out for us."
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