A man of his word
Diehl, Generals host playoffs Saturday
September 21, 2011 | 07:15 AMWILLIAMS BAY — A punishing, relentless defense along with an explosive offense have helped the Lake Geneva Generals earn a No. 2 seed in the Mid-States Western Conference playoffs, which will kick off Saturday night at Williams Bay High School.
The Generals, the area's first semi-professional football franchise, improved to 7-1 with a convincing 47-0 win Sept. 10 over the Kankakee Plowmen.
But the Mustangs, the No. 3 seed with a 4-4 record, will be far from a walk in the park. Coming off a Western Conference championship appearance last year, Chicago allows a mere 10.5 points per game.
However, Generals coach Derek Diehl is banking on the element of surprise in his expansion team's first-ever playoff game.
"They will come in overconfident," he said. "They loaded up on talent in the offseason. But they'll be very surprised by our defense. We have executed as well as the other top teams in the league. We deserve to be where we're at."
Diehl said his squad has had one of the easier schedules in the league while Chicago's schedule has been harder. Most noticeably, the Leyden Lions, who handed Lake Geneva its only defeat, 10-0 back in Week 5, lost to Chicago, 16-3. Diehl said Chicago has a solid defense.
"They are very aggressive," he said. "They blitz on just about every play, and they disguise it well."
The Mustangs are led by running back Ricky Emery, who has amassed 544 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground this season. Also, Bryant Pascascio is a lethal weapon in the return game. Diehl said the Generals will not even kick to him on Saturday.
Diehl is realistic about his team's chances this Saturday. The Generals defense, which led the league with only 7.8 points allowed per game, will be key.
"Our defense will keep us in the game," he said. "We need to play smart football and keep our turnovers down. On offense, it will take patience. Three-and-outs will happen. We will use a lot of straight-ahead running. I'm confident our quarterback will make the necessary audibles to combat their blitzes."
The new guy
Mikey Bernal, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound quarterback, has made a splash with the Generals.
He has thrown for 351 yards and five touchdowns in two games since becoming the starter, including a 232-yard, four-touchdown performance in a Week 7 win.
A semi-pro veteran, the 27-year-old used to play under Diehl with the Washington County Patriots. This year, he was playing in the Ironman Football League as a backup.
After weeks of the Generals trying to convince Bernal to join the club, he finally came aboard before the Week 5 free-agent deadline. He has posted a 3-0 record as the starter.
"He is experienced and has a strong arm," Diehl said. "And he has what it takes upstairs to read a defense. We've had the mutual trust from the get-go since our days with Washington County. He has also served as a mentor to David Byerley."
With Bernal and an improved passing game in tow, the running game has continued to shine with the three-headed monster of 2011 Badger graduate Trevor York, Requize Rhodman and Phillip Towne.
In the blowout win over Kankakee, York racked up 127 yards and a score while Towne added 105 yards and a touchdown. With Rhodman nursing a leg injury, Diehl enjoys the depth.
"York has emerged as our top back, but we are blessed with three backs who can run," he said. "We're lucky to have them."
York leads the team with 457 yards and six touchdowns on the season, and Towne and Rhodman are both over the 300-yard mark.
The receiving corps is paced by Demetrius Butler, who has 18 catches for 401 yards and five touchdowns. Ricardo Williams has 19 catches for 313 yards.
Also, Jake Schlegel provides a threat with nine catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
But it's the defense which makes the Generals tick, and nobody has had a bigger impact than 6-foot-4, 325-pound Justin Ankley, a former standout defensive lineman at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Ankley has been in beast mode all season, leading the team in tackles (51), tackles for loss (25), sacks (13) and forced fumbles (three). Former Williams Bay standout Daniel Kant-Hull, a linebacker, paces the team with three fumble recoveries.
And the Generals are loaded with athleticism in the secondary. Five players have at least two interceptions, led by Jauckee Moton's three. Ben Quiles has totaled four pass deflections to pace the club.
Good first year
When Diehl proposed the idea of a semi-pro team last year, he promised a playoff appearance in the team's first year.
Financially, he has enjoyed the outpouring of community support.
Winning has made that much easier.
"It's been exactly what I expected," Diehl said. "We made the playoffs, and there has been A+ support from the community. We have spent a lot, and we will need a good offseason. But it's easier when you win. We're not a household name yet."