Heading into their Sept. 6 matchup, both Badger and Wilmot were an undefeated 2-0 in out-of-conference games.
With the first step toward the Southern Lakes Conference title on the line in Wilmot, the home-team Panthers were able to top the Badgers 28-7.
Some weeks, what leads to a team’s defeat can be a complex series of events or a strange fluke play. According to Badger coach Matt Hensler, though, this week’s loss had a simple answer.
“Just in general, we played poorly,” Hensler said. “Wilmot, give them all the credit in the world, they play really hard all the time. And we did not match that level of intensity or that speed.”
Early in the game, it was the Badgers who started off on the right foot, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Grant DuMez to receiver Zach Lindbloom.
In the second quarter, the Panthers tied the score on a 20-yard rush by quarterback Zack Watson, and the two teams went into halftime even at seven apiece.
From that point on, though, the Panthers seized control.
Two more touchdown runs by Watson in the third quarter — one a 22-yarder and the other a three-yarder — put Wilmot ahead 21-7 heading into the fourth. In the final quarter, a 39-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Zach Liecht closed the scoring out at 28-7.
Hensler routinely hammers home the importance of winning the turnover battle, and with two Badger fumbles to no Wilmot giveaways, the Badgers were on the losing end of that crucial area of the game.
“Both of those were concentration errors, silly mistakes. It wasn’t like we were running and got tackled,” Hensler said. “Those things cost you in big games, no doubt about it.”
Wilmot’s Watson was the star of the game offensively, throwing for 169 yards and a score, as well as rushing for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
For the Badgers, their offense was unusually balanced, throwing for 71 yards and rushing for 82. While the total is usually far more slanted in favor of running, Hensler says it was not part of any concerted effort to pass more than they ran, and it was more just a coincidence with the game situations.
Despite the loss to a conference foe, there is no reason for the Badgers to panic, with six games left on the schedule, and the team’s record still a solid 2-1. However, there also needs to be a sense of urgency for the Badgers to learn from the mistakes made against Wilmot.
“We had better learn something from this, or it’s going to be a very long season,” Hensler said. “We can’t be a team that is good against teams that don’t play hard, and poor against teams that play hard. We have to be a team that plays hard all the time.”
Luckily for the Badger faithful, Hensler thinks the team knows where they went wrong.
“We have a lot of confidence that our guys will figure it out,” he said.
Badger’s next game on Sept. 13 will be the first time the team plays on its home turf in Lake Geneva this year, as the Elkhorn Elks come into town for a 7 p.m. kickoff.