Falcons’ Niko Lemke, shown here against, rushed for a game-high 166 yards in Friday’s homecoming defeat of visiting Delavan-Darien (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Falcons face Wilmot for playoff berth

By Jason Arndt

With a robust offensive line, and an arsenal of running backs, Westosha Central High School coasted in its contest with visiting Delavan-Darien Friday.

The Falcons, who compiled 272 rushing yards, had 376 total offensive yards in the 38-28 Southern Lakes Conference verdict against the Comets to secure their first winning season since 2010 when they finished 6-4.

Entering play, Westosha Central coach Tyson Mengel knew his team had to immediately use its rushing attack, which featured four running backs on Friday.

“Our game plan was to try to run the ball on them,” said Mengel. “We needed to get out and needed to run that ball.”

Niko Lemke, who amassed 166 yards rushing on 31 carries, said the credit goes to his offensive line for breaking up the Comets’ defensive front.

“It was all the offensive line, anyone could run with that line,” said Lemke, who had three of the Falcons’ six touchdowns.

Defensive back Tyler Huffhines, in his second game playing running back, added seven carries for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Huffhines, who also had two interceptions Friday, stepped in to offer support for a banged up backfield.

“Niko’s ankle was bothering him for most of the season, (Adam) Simmons’ shoulder was hurting, those were our two backs,” Mengel said. “When we couldn’t run the ball with them, we were looking for the answer, and Huffhines said he was ready.”

Along with creating openings, the offensive line kept the Comets’ pass rush to a minimum, which gave quarterbacks Jaden Jackson and Simmons plenty of time in the pocket.

Collectively, the quarterback duo completed six of 11 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

“Our offensive line has played well this year, Jaden has had a lot of time,” Mengel said. “Today, in particular, they got those seams for the running backs.”

Turbulent opening quarter
By Mengel’s admission, he had some anxiety in the first quarter, where the Comets outscored the Falcons’ 14-6.

Delavan-Darien, which had possession to start the game, offered the Falcons a steady diet of run plays courtesy of leading rusher Dakota Williams.

Williams, who finished with 14 carries for 132 yards, compiled 52 of them in the opening drive, including a 36-yard touchdown run with 8:32 left in the first.

The Falcons, however, responded on the ensuing possession with a Jackson 10-yard touchdown pass to Nic Frederick to deadlock the contest 6-6 at 5:23.

About five minutes later, with 23.2 seconds left, the Comets regained the lead at 14-6 after Eric Gonzalez scored on a 1-yard run.

“Watching that first quarter, I got a little nervous, but offensively, we were doing fine,” Mengel said. “Defensively, we were giving up too much, but that second quarter, we kept scoring.”

Lemke sparks Falcons
The Falcons, who had possession to open the second quarter, received help from Lemke, a stronger defense and special teams to take an 18-14 lead into halftime.

In the opening drive, with the Falcons at their own 37-yard line, Lemke, who had 30 of the team’s 63 yards, made it a two-point contest with 12-yard score with 9:07 left in the first half.

Faced with a 14-12 deficit, the Falcons clamped down on special teams, where they blocked a punt. Additionally, on defense, the Falcons received a quarterback sack from Jared Gehrke.

Then, with 1:04 left in the second quarter, Lemke finished the Falcons 41-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown to pull Westosha Central ahead 18-14.

Lemke contributed 31 of the Falcons’ 41 yards.

According Huffhines, Lemke’s production did not come as a surprise.

“He has been a big part of the team, he is a big guy and doesn’t go down easily,” Huffhines said.

Huffhines extends Falcons’ lead
Westosha Central, which had possession at its own 21-yard line to open the second half, moved 20 yards downfield with runs by Lemke and Samy Greco to set Huffhines up with a 57-yard dash to the Comets’ 2-yard line.

From there, Huffhines scored to extend the Westosha Central edge to 24-14 with 10:41 left in the third quarter. Simmons converted the 2-point conversion.

Meanwhile, on defense, with the Comets in the red zone, Huffhines put an end to Delavan-Darien scoring threat with his first of two interceptions.

The Falcons capitalized on the ensuing possession, where they bolstered the lead to 32-14, courtesy of a Simmons to Frederick 3-yard touchdown pass.

Lemke closed out the third quarter with his third touchdown on a 1-yard run to enter the final frame ahead 38-14.

Although the Comets scored twice in the fourth quarter, one on a Jaime Flores 8-yard touchdown reception and the other on a Gonzalez 1-yard run, it was not enough.

Wilmot clash
After Friday’s victory, the Falcons improved to 3-3 in the SLC, and snapped a three-game conference skid including a brutal loss at Waterford last week.

Unlike previous years, however, the Falcons were able to bounce back.

“It is refreshing, in the past, we have gone on a downward spiral and we haven’t been able to bounce back,” said Mengel, whose team plays at Wilmot next week.

The Falcons clash at Wilmot, Mengel said, brings a new wrinkle this season.

“They have the same record in conference as us, and we both need to win to make the playoffs,” Mengel said.

Frederick, who had four catches, led the Falcons in receiving with 61 yards.


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