The Badger Football team now shares the Southern Lakes Conference title with Waterford and Wilmot.
The Badgers defeated Union Grove 39-23, Friday night, getting off to a fast start with a 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Nick Hall during the opening kick off of the game.
Badger fullback Andrew Allen ran for 125 yards. Andrew Cychner ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Matt Reynolds had two touchdowns despite only gaining two total yards – he had a pair of goal-line touchdown runs.
Union Grove scored most of its points in fourth-quarter garbage time when the game was already out of reach. The Badger defense capped off the night with a safety as time expired.
Last week, Badger head coach Matt Hensler said his team started off slow against Elkhorn. This week, he said, was a different story.
“Frankly, we were a little concerned,” Hensler said. “(Union Grove) has been improving all year long. We were concerned about getting off to a fast start, and I think we did that.”
After Badger’s kickoff return for a touchdown in the opening seconds of the game, the offense scored on four of its next five drives.
In the meantime, Badger’s defense allowed nothing. Union Grove couldn’t score in the first half. Reynolds and cornerback Christian Sontag each snagged an interception. Though the Badgers gained 368 offensive yards and allowed a higher-than-average 331, the game was never that close. All of Union Grove’s offensive production came in the second half, and most of it came mid way through the fourth quarter when Badger already had a huge lead.
Badger finished in a three-way tie for first place in the conference and now enter the playoffs as a No. 3 seeded team, which guarantees them one home game on Friday night.
The Badgers will play Racine Horlick (4-5, 4-3 Southeast Conference). Though Horlick has a losing record overall, and had a mediocre conference performance, the Southeast Conference is one of the toughest in the state.
Perennial powerhouse teams Franklin and Kenosha Indian Trail took first and second place.
Hensler said Horlick is a tough and talented team with an “elite” quarterback.
“They’re big, strong and fast,” he said.
Horlick quarterback Rickey Neal, Jr. has only played six games this season, but has thrown for 354 yards and a touchdown. As a runner, Neal has been more impressive. So far he has gained 451 yards and scored 12 touchdowns by foot. He averages 75 yards and two touchdowns per game. Horlick runs an option-style offense that is similar to Badger’s – high quarterback running production with limited passing attempts.
But Horlick’s running backs have not been as productive as Allen, Cychner or Reynolds this season.
Hensler is counting on his seniors to lead the way during the playoffs. He said this year, the Badger team has been defined by the high number of senior players. He said they have a ton, more than they’ve had in the last seven years.
Racine Horlick will travel to Badger High School on Friday night for the first round of the Division I playoffs. The game starts at 7 p.m.