Generals corral Cowboys in slugfest
Defense comes up big again in physical tilt
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July 20, 2011 | 08:56 AMKenosha — Saturday night was a knock-em-down, drag-em-out dogfight for the Lake Geneva Generals semi-pro football team.
Unlike the season opener when the Generals rolled to a 45-0 blowout, nothing came easy in the team's first road game at Ameche Field against the Northern Illinois Cowboys. Several Generals were on the Cowboys last year, and emotions ran high in a hard-hitting, personal battle.
In a defensive struggle, the Generals opened up a slim second-half lead with a late fourth-quarter touchdown and corralled the Cowboys, 19-6.
Lake Geneva, in its inaugural season, made it two straight wins to open the season, improving to 2-0 in the Mid-States Football League. The Cowboys dropped to 0-2.
"It was a crazy game," said head coach Derek Diehl. "The Cowboys played with nine in the box the entire game and brought a lot of safety blitzes. They shot every gap on just about every play and it was ridiculous. But we played really well. Our defense was lights out."
The Generals run game was stymied most of the game, and no Generals rusher gained more than 40 yards. Also, quarterback Anthony Scott suffered a broken foot after being tackled awkwardly, and he may be lost for the season according to Diehl.
But the Generals offense enjoyed a breakthrough with around four minutes left in the game. Clinging to a 12-6 lead, quarterback David Byerley hooked up with Demetrius Butler for a 30-yard touchdown, providing the decisive dagger in the contest. Byerley was the game's offensive star, completing 13 of 22 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown.
"We were working the clock and put together a nice drive," Diehl said. "We had a nice mix of passing and running, and we set up their cornerback. We saw he was playing bump-and-run on Butler, and we called the perfect fly route at the right time."
The Generals gave up their first points of the season early on to fall into a 6-0 hole. At the 12-minute mark in the first quarter, the Cowboys connected on a 30-yard touchdown pass. According to Diehl, it was a blown coverage by the defense because his players stopped after the play began thinking it was a false start. The Cowboys couldn't convert the two-point play and held an early 6-0 lead.
With around four minutes left in the first quarter, the Generals took a 7-6 lead on a four-yard Requize Rhodman touchdown run. The extra-point kick came from new kicker Chad Yutka, a former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse star who may have solved the Lake Geneva kicking problems. The Generals missed three extra points in their first game.
The first half was dominated by defense. The Generals lost two fumbles and couldn't get much going offensively.
"It was a defensive stalemate in the first half," Diehl said. "It was an emotional game. Two fumbles killed us in the first half and didn't allow us to sustain drives."
Midway through the third quarter, Yutka was at it again, kicking a 22-yard field goal to put the Generals up, 10-6. Later in the period, the Generals came up big. With the Cowboys fighting out of their own end zone, defensive lineman Jasen Wright's pressure forced Northern Illinois' quarterback out of the pocket. Jamaul Jones finished off the play with a safety to give Lake Geneva a 12-6 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Butler's late touchdown catch allowed the Generals to play prevent defense and cruise the rest of the way. Diehl said his team had to throw the ball more than run to combat the Cowboys' relentless pressure. The Generals spread things out on offense and eventually found success. Diehl was proud of his team's play.
"We grew," he said. "We matured a bit as a team. Great teams win when they're not executing. I knew it would be a matter of time before we got opportunities. We had to be patient."
The Generals shut down the Cowboys rushing attack. Also, Lake Geneva benefited from 20 Northern Illinois penalties. And after committing 18 penalties in their season-opening win, the Generals cut their mistakes in half.
On Saturday, July 23, the Generals will return home and look to make it three straight against the Racine Threat (3-0), a Mid-States power for more than 10 years. The Threat are coming off a bye week, and many players watched the Generals game Saturday. So there will be no secrets this weekend.
"It will be a fight," Diehl said. "They are scrappy. Their first win came on a double reverse pass. They have one of the best quarterbacks and running backs in the league. We need to win the turnover battle. I am confident we will run. We will match up better against their defense than we did against Northern Illinois. If we do everything right, it should be a win."