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Johnson (click for larger version)
Cychner (click for larger version)
October 26, 2012 | 10:49 PMFRANKLIN - For only the second time in school history, the Badger football team will play in a third-round playoff game.
And the local boys will enjoy some home cooking in the process.
Thanks to a little help from host Franklin and 14 unanswered third-quarter points in six minutes Friday night, the visiting Badgers pulled away in the second half of a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game for an impressive 28-21 victory.
After the game, Badger coach Matt Hensler informed his team along with the mob of Badger students who rushed the field that the team earned a home game thanks to an upset. Fourth-seeded Kenosha Bradford (7-3) knocked off top-seeded Oak Creek (9-1), 21-14, Friday night, so the third-seeded Badgers (8-2) will host the Red Devils, the defending Division 1 state champion, either next Friday or Saturday.
The Badgers earned some revenge on second-seeded Franklin (7-3) Friday. In 2009, the first time Badger advanced to Level 3 of the playoffs, the Sabers edged Badger by one point. Badger junior Andy Cychner, who scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown Friday but later left the game with an ankle injury, said the victory was sweet revenge.
"It feels so great," Cychner said after the game. "Beating Franklin and getting revenge on them from my brother's senior year (Joe) is amazing. Watching film and everything coming in, I knew we could definitely do it. The offensive line was awesome throughout the game."
Cychner's score, a 30-yard touchdown catch from Peter Krien on a play where Cychner was wide open down the sideline on a fourth-and-9, gave Badger a commanding 28-14 lead with 6:05 left in the third quarter. It was the exclamation point on a six-minute stretch to open the second half which saw Badger manage two touchdowns off two Franklin special teams blunders.
After a 14-14 halftime deadlock, the Badgers executed a squib quick. Franklin was thrown off guard and fumbled, and Badger was right there to recover. The play was the catalyst for a big second half where Badger didn't allow a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.
"It wasn't really an onside kick," Hensler said. "We kind of kicked it over there, but we got the ball. The defensive staff did a great job at halftime. We played much more aggressive defensively in the second half. You could tell from the first snap that we were a different team today. Our kids played like we were supposed to win. It was fun to watch our guys."
After the "onside" kick recovery, Badger wasted little time making Franklin pay. On a third-and-4 from the Franklin 11, Krien muscled his way to the end zone with a Franklin defender on his back to make it 21-14 with 8:40 left in the third.
Krien scored on touchdown runs of 36 and 11 yards and fired touchdown strikes of 30 and 15 yards. He finished with 118 rushing yards and 62 through the air.
On the ensuing kickoff, Franklin fumbled again, and Badger was in business at the Franklin 31. On fourth down, after a timeout, Krien took to air and found a streaking, uncovered Cychner down the sideline for the 30-yard score.
"The touchdown catch was amazing," Cychner said. "It was a well-thought play, and the defense didn't read it."
Then, the Badger defense took over. It forced Franklin to punt on its next three possessions, and the Badger offense was able to eat up chunks of clock with its running game. But with 1:21 left in the game, after Badger had stuffed the Sabers on three runs from the 2-yard line, Franklin quarterback Sean McGuire finally broke through for a 1-yard score to cut the lead to 28-21. Hensler credited the defensive line for almost pulling off a goal-line stand.
"It was absolutely huge," he said. "It changed everything they had to do. It made them do an onside kick."
Franklin attempted an onside kick, but the sure-handed Badgers recovered. After first-down scampers from Krien and Andrew Allen, Krien took a knee to run out the clock. When it was over, Badger players raised their helmets in celebration and embraced their classmates, who had sprinted on the field in a frenzy from the stands.
Badger didn't score again in the half, but key first-down runs by Krien and Robert Johnson, who led the attack with 124 yards, kept the chains moving and the clock running. The local boys finished with 316 yards on the ground and held Franklin to only 241 total yards, 173 through the air.
"I thought we got a lot of first downs," Hensler said. "With their potent passing attack, the best thing you can do is keep them off the field. It's the same play, but they have to defend three different plays in one. It worked pretty well tonight. I'd put the ball in Krien's hands any day."
"It feels great to get revenge from three years ago," offensive lineman Carlos Garcia said. "We weren't tentative out there. We wanted to punch them in the mouth first. In the second half, they (Franklin) were done playing from the looks on their faces. We got to them mentally."
The Badger pass defense kept the explosive Franklin aerial attack at bay. And the Badgers benefited from dropped passes, including several on Franklin's final drive.
"They're a very good passing team," Hensler said of Franklin. "Our whole point was to try to keep them in front of us. We did for the most part, and we rallied to the ball really well. They dropped a few for us, and you can't minimize that."
Badger opened the game with an 84-yard scoring drive that ate up 5:16. On a third-and-6 from the Franklin 36, Krien ran the option to the left but lost the ball. However, he picked it up, broke a tackle, cut it back and darted to the end zone for a touchdown run and a 6-0 Badger lead. Johnson kept the drive alive on a fourth-and-1 from Badger's 26 with a 16-yard run on a fake punt.
After a Franklin three-and-out, Badger fumbled on its next possession near midfield, and the Sabers recovered. McGuire completed three long pass plays on the ensuing drive, culminating with a 13-yard scoring strike to Joe Falzon to give Franklin a 7-6 lead after one quarter.
After a Badger punt, Franklin kept up the aerial assault. McGuire lobbed a 44-yard pass to set up Franklin in the Badger red zone. A couple plays later, McGuire punched it in with an eight-yard run, giving Franklin a 14-6 lead with 4:59 left in the first half.
Badger answered with another long drive. Rob Slagle caught a 17-yard pass on a third-and-8, and Matt Reynolds converted a third-and-3 with a tough run. On a first-and-10 from the Franklin 15, after a Badger timeout, Krien zinged a quick-hitter over the middle to Reynolds, who found the end zone. Johnson's two-point conversion made it 14-14 at halftime.
Badger's rushing game flourished Friday despite even more injuries on the offensive line. Last week, they lost Mike Habrel, and the team's center went down with a dislocated shoulder during the game. Nearly the entire starting line has gone down with some sort of injury this season. But these guys just keep on playing ball.
"They are very resilient," Hensler said. "It's amazing how these guys continue to step up and believe in themselves. It's fun to be around these guys when they're playing like that. If we got 11 left, we'll play them."
Hensler is looking forward to next week.
"We can always get better," he said. "I'm very proud of them, but I don't want this to be the end of it."
Other area scores
Division 4 playoff football
(1) Big Foot 49, (4) Brodhead/Juda 7