Zach Lamberson, shown here against Westosha Central, started his first career playoff game Friday when the Panthers lost 42-12 (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Monona Grove shuts down Wilmot’s weapons

By Jason Arndt

For the Wilmot Union High School football squad, the 2017 season brought a series of challenging non conference opponents, including WIAA Division 1 state runner-up Franklin in the second game of the season.

Adding to the Panthers’ challenging season were injuries to leading players, like senior quarterback A.J. Frisby, junior receiver Cullen Ketterhagen and for a handful of games, senior running back Robert Brent.

The challenges, however, hit the breaking point in Friday’s WIAA Division 2 regional at No. 1 seed Monona Grove, last year’s Division 2 state runner-up.

Using an arsenal of weapons, the Silver Eagles mounted a 21-0 lead entering the second quarter, and continued to push ahead to drub Wilmot 42-12.

Panthers’ coach Keiya Square acknowledged the undefeated Monona Grove would offer his team a challenge.

“We knew that they were going to play offense, they can put points on the board in a hurry,” Square said. “Defensively, they played a lot of man and they are physical up front.”

Monona Grove quarterback Alec Ogden, who entered play with more than 2,000 yards passing and just three interceptions, accounted for five of the Silver Eagles touchdowns Friday when he converted 17 of 24 passes for 196 yards.

On the ground, Ogden accumulated 79 yards rushing on seven carries.

Defensively, the Silver Eagles’ main objective was to shut down the Wilmot rushing game, according to Monona Grove coach Brandon Beckwith.

“They have some very good talented running backs that we knew we had to keep in check,” said Beckwith, whose defense held the Panthers’ leading rusher Robert Brent to 32 yards on the ground.

Quick deficit
Wilmot, which had possession to start the game, fumbled on the first play to give the Silver Eagles possession on the Panthers’ 13-yard line.

Ogden, who completed a pass to Colton Moran, then ran in for a 4-yard score to put the Panthers in a 7-0 deficit within the first minute.

On the ensuing possession, the Silver Eagles forced Wilmot to punt, and responded with an 89-yard drive capped off by a Jackson Thomsen 1-yard touchdown run with 6:49 left in the first quarter.

Thomsen, who had 20 carries for 146 yards, was difficult to defend.

“He is smaller guy, but he is really quick,” Square said. “He was breaking tackles and for a smaller guy, that is pretty impressive.”

More than three minutes later, Monona Grove extended its lead to 21-0 on a 26-yard haul by Lucas Gerlach, who had four catches for 65 yards and three receiving touchdowns.

The Ogden-Gerlach duo bolstered the Silver Eagles’ lead to 28-0 with a 19-yard strike at 6:55 in the second quarter before the Panthers posted their first points.

Panthers dent Ogden
Ogden, with three interceptions entering Friday’s game, saw the turnover grow to five.

Jarrett Ketterhagen, who snagged the first at the Panthers’ 25-yard line, returned the football 48 yards.

The Panthers then posted their first score, courtesy of Austin Norton, who ran for a 27-yard touchdown to diminish the Silver Eagles lead to 28-6 with 3:48 left in the first half.

“That kind set us up, and we got some scoring opportunities out of it,” Square said.

Senior Anthony Poco intercepted the second pass.

Monona Grove answered, however, with the Ogden-Gerlach duo connecting for the third time on an 11-yard pass with 28 seconds left.

In the second half, the Panthers defense held Monona Grove to one touchdown, which came from Ogden on a 10-yard run.

Wilmot added its last touchdown as time expired when backup Zack Watson threw a 31-yard pass to Joe Tanski.

Watson’s touchdown, according to Beckwith, came as no surprise considering the Panthers did not quit.

“They are going to play every play until the whistle blows, no matter what happens,” said Beckwith, whose team stayed unbeaten at 10-0.

Junior quarterback Zach Lamberson, starting in place of an injured Frisby, completed five of 16 passes for 36 yards.

End of an era
For Frisby and Brent, Friday’s loss was not quite how they wanted to end their Wilmot careers, but the Panthers backfield duo plan to cherish the memories they had together.

“Sharing this experience with him, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Brent, who finished his three-year varsity career with 295 carries for 2,045 yards and 19 touchdowns.

As Frisby’s target, Brent caught 23 passes for 311 yards.

Meanwhile, for Frisby, who spent Friday’s game on the sidelines, he said their careers extend beyond the Frank Bucci playing field.

“Robert and I have been playing together since we started playing football,” Frisby said. “We are best friends and soon to be neighbors, so it was awesome being with him every Friday.”

Frisby, a dual-purpose threat, completed 168 of 379 passes for 3,008 yards and 26 touchdowns in three years. On the ground, he had 406 carries for 1,859 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Along with the backfield duo, 13 other seniors concluded their careers, including, but not limited to, defensive leaders Gunner Peterson, Jacob Gerzel, Zach Christopherson, Hunter Valach and Jordan Jesse along with Anthony Poco.

“Our group was extremely talented, with this being my first year, I couldn’t ask for a better group,” said Square. “There were times when they carried us as a team.”

“A lot of those guys were three-year starters, or two-year starters, so it is going to be tough, they gave us a lot,” he added.

Wilmot finished its season 4-6.


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