Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Badger scores late, hangs on for playoff victory

by Mike Ramczyk

October 18, 2012

After the battle for the Southern Lakes crown ended in stunning defeat the week prior, the Badger football team was due for a dramatic victory of its own Saturday in a WIAA Division 1 playoff game against visiting Muskego.

Thanks in part to a late, back-breaking touchdown drive and an emphatic tackle, the local boys will live to play another day.

Junior Matt Reynolds' 1-yard touchdown run gave Badger a 28-21 lead with 1:25 remaining. However, Muskego answered with an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown to cut the lead to 28-27. The Warriors made the gutsy decision to go for two, but the Badgers weren't having it. Muskego quarterback Peter Roy rolled right and looked to pass, a play that had worked for two touchdowns earlier in the game, but Reynolds read it and forced Roy to cut it back to the middle. Badger junior linebacker Andrew Allen met Roy at the 1-yard line like a freight train, and Badger preserved the lead.

Then, Muskego attempted an onside kick, but Badger quarterback Peter Krien recovered, and the Badgers ran out the clock for a 28-27 victory.

Badger improved to 7-2 on the season. The Badgers will advance to a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game at Franklin Friday night at 7 p.m.

Muskego's season ended at 5-4.

It was Badger's second Division 1 playoff victory in three seasons. For Krien, who scored touchdowns through the air, on the ground and on a kickoff return, the win was big.

"It feels incredible to win a playoff game in my senior year," he said. "In this manner, it's pretty cool. We've worked really hard for the last four years. We're all best friends, and we earned this one tonight."

Badger coach Matt Hensler was very proud of his players after the game.

"It was a dramatic win, and I'm very happy our kids hung in there," he said. "We always talk about playing a full game, and we sure had to today."

Hensler said his guys came up big on Muskego's two-point attempt.

"I am just so happy I didn't have to make that call," he said. "I don't know what I would have done. It was super courageous. Three of our kids made tremendous plays. They tried to run a flood pass, and coach Krien made a heck of a call by bringing pressure off the edge. Their kid made a tremendous, athletic play. Andrew Allen came out of nowhere, and what a stick."

With the game tied at 21-21 with around 10 minutes to play, a Badger fumbled snap gave the ball to Muskego in Badger territory at the 37. But on the next play, Allen darted through the line for a sack, and the Warriors punted.

Badger retained possession with seven minutes left to play and embarked on a methodical, six-minute drive.

On third-and-inches near midfield, Reynolds took a toss left 20 yards down to the Muskego 24. Three plays later, senior fullback Robert Johnson bulldozed his way up the middle for nine yards, and another tough Johnson run set Badger up with a first-and-goal at the 1.

Reynolds punched it in off left tackle, and victory seemed imminent.

"Hensler came in before the play and got us all pumped up," Reynolds said.

Hensler said the team made some changes on the game-winning drive.

"I didn't want to give them the ball back," he said. "We changed formations a little bit. We took our tight end out and put in an extra receiver to spread them out. The kids played magnificent down the stretch. And we ran a lot of stuff for Peter Krien. He has played about a million games at Badger High School, and he had a great game."

Badger totaled 336 total yards compared to Muskego's 343. Badger racked up 277 rushing yards, led by Krien's 137.

The first half was highlighted by big plays. And every time one team scored, the opposition was able to answer back.

Muskego started the scoring with a 30-yard touchdown pass with 4:35 left in the first to take a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing Badger possession on the first play, Krien ran to his left, broke a tackle and was gone down the sideline for a 74-yard scoring scamper, tying things up at 7-7.

The Warriors then advanced into Badger territory, only to turn the ball over on downs. With 23 seconds left in the opening frame, Krien found Andrew Cychner on a quick pass, and the junior linebacker known for his defense broke several tackles en route to a 59-yard touchdown. It was Cychner's first touchdown reception of the season and second overall. He paced the squad with 13 tackles.

But Muskego kept the big-play theme going on its next drive. Luke Thomka, who ran for a game-high 172 yards, scored on a 35-yard jaunt to tie the game at 14-14.

Then, Hensler pulled out a surprise on the ensuing kickoff, sending Krien back to return. Making his first kickoff return of the season, the quarterback looked like a natural, sprinting 80 yards to the house to give Badger a 21-14 lead with 8:10 left in the first half.

However, Thomka fired off a 79-yard run on the next possession, and Roy found David Kucharski for a five-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with six minutes remaining in the half.

In the second half, the Badger defense clamped down, forcing two punts, a turnover on downs deep in Badger territory and a Trent Bobula interception in the end zone, which thwarted a promising Muskego drive. On that drive, Badger's Josh Doyle came up with a sack, and Bobula's pick came on a fourth-and-25 from the Badger 29.

"I was so scared at the end of the game when they went for two," Bobula said. "But we stopped them. We've matured so much throughout the season. We play hard, and we're not stopping. I'm so excited. I've never won a playoff game."

Hensler credited his defense in the second half.

"What worked very well in the first half didn't work in the second half for us," he said. "Ed Krien and the defensive staff did an awesome job and shut them out in the second half."

Badger, the third seed, hits the road to face second-seeded Franklin (7-2) Friday night. In a Level 3 Division 2 playoff game in 2009, the Badgers fell to Franklin, 27-26. That year, the Sabers were the Division 2 state runners-up.

This is Franklin's 12th straight playoff appearance, and it won the state title in Division 2 in 2006. Badger is making its seventh straight playoff appearance and has advanced to Level 2 four of the seven years.

Badger will have to stop Franklin's potent passing attack. Junior quarterback Sean McGuire has thrown for 1,222 yards this season with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Two rushers have gained more than 300 yards, led by Ben Smith's 532. But Franklin's bread and butter is its passing game.

Four receivers have more than 200 receiving yards, Joe Falzon (459), Bryan Oates (429), Nick Plath (297) and Shaun Quirk (225).

Hensler said he's ready for the challenge.

"It's playoff football," he said. "Let's go."