Wilmot’s Zack Watson drags a Wolverines defender as he pushes for the end zone to score the Panthers final touchdown in a Sept. 7 Southern Lakes Conference contest (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Wilmot falls to Waterford

By Jason Arndt

In a contest closer than what the score indicates, one team struggled to finish drives, and the other made key stops and plays when it mattered the most Friday at Wilmot Union High School’s Frank Bucci Field.

While the Panthers accounted for 304 total offensive yards on 66 plays, visiting Waterford accumulated 51 plays for 295 yards.

The Wolverines (3-1, 2-0 SLC), however, came out ahead as they defeated Wilmot (2-2, 1-1) 24-14 in the Southern Lakes Conference contest.

For the Wolverines, who defeated conference opponent Lake Geneva Badger a week earlier, coach Andy Bakken acknowledged Friday’s contest was a critical clash between the two teams.

“We were both 1-0 in conference and 2-1 overall, it was a big game for both of us,” Bakken said. “It is never easy to play here and this is my eighth year at Waterford, and every game is highly contested and well played physical games.”

Wilmot, which reached the red zone twice in the first half, saw each opportunity fade with the first resulting in an interception followed by a turnover on downs.

“We were in the red zone two or three times in the first half and we just couldn’t put any points on the board,” Wilmot coach Keiya Square said.

After a scoreless opening frame, the Panthers produced their first promising drive to open the second quarter, where they started on the Waterford 26-yard line following a short punt.

Senior quarterback Zach Lamberson, who completed 28 of 43 passes for a game-high 238 yards, threw an 8-yard strike to junior wide receiver Aaron Gardner to place the ball at the 12-yard line.

On the next play, the Wolverines pushed Wilmot back to the 22, after Zack Watson took a 4-yard loss.

Lamberson responded by throwing a 9-yard pass to Gardner to place the Panthers back in the red zone put the Panthers back into the red zone.

The promising drive came to an abrupt end two plays later, when Josh Szeklinski intercepting Lamberson’s pass in the end zone with 9:14 left in the first half.

It was Szeklinski’s third interception in two games.

Waterford, at its own 20-yard line, produced an 80-yard scoring drive, offering a mix of run and pass plays.

Four plays into the drive, junior running back Dominic Miller caught a 42-yard pass from quarterback Joe Schauer to put the Wolverines at the Wilmot 18-yard line.

Tanner Keller, the conference’s leading rusher who had 20 carries for a game-high 121 rushing yards, capped off the Waterford drive on a 1-yard touchdown run.

Miller led all Wolverines receivers with three catches for 73 yards.

Square, whose defense held Delavan-Darien to six points last week, said Keller and Miller were a challenge, but the Panthers were resilient.

“They just run extremely hard, you can’t arm tackle them, you can’t bring them down with one guy,” he said. “It takes a team effort and for the most part, I think our guys did a good job.”

On the kickoff, Wilmot’s Jaret Ketterhagen returned the football to the Wolverines’ 16-yard line.

An Austin Norton 6-yard run followed by a Gardner 8-yard catch moved the Panthers to the Waterford 2-yard line.

Two plays later, faced with a 4th and goal at the 4-yard line, Lamberson attempted a keeper, but couldn’t get in the end zone.

“They had some chances in the first half. We made some big plays defensively when we had to in the first half,” Bakken said.

Second half blow
Entering the second half, ahead by one score, the Wolverines delivered an immediate blow on an 89-yard Miller kickoff return to the Panthers 8-yard line.

On the next play, Schauer found Keller for an 8-yard strike, extending the Wolverines lead to 14-0.

The Panthers, meanwhile, squandered a red zone opportunity midway through the third quarter, bringing the football 50 yards downfield to the Waterford 3-yard line.

However, on a 4th-and-3, the Panthers pushed themselves back to the 8-yard line on a delay of game and later turned the ball over on downs when Lamberson threw an incomplete pass to Jimmy Weber in the end zone.

“It has kind of been like that all year, we get things rolling, and then we have a penalty or have something happen that pushes us back a bit,” Square said.

In possession with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, Wilmot produced its first scoring of the drive of the contest.

After a Cullen Ketterhagen 7-yard catch and a 4-yard haul from Kade Carlson, Norton found a hole in the Waterford defensive line, carrying the football 36 yards downfield to the Waterford 6-yard line as time expired.

Ketterhagen led Panther receivers with eight catches for 73 yards.

Lamberson, who opened the fourth quarter with an incomplete pass, threw a 6-yard touchdown pass on a slant to Carlson with 11:52 left in regulation.

Waterford, however, found a way maintain ball control on the next possession, eating up more than eight minutes of game clock and finishing with a Michael Durand 22-yard field goal with 3:37 left of regulation.

Down 17-7 with 3:39 remaining and the Panthers at their own 28-yard line, a Waterford blitz resulted in a sack, which led to a loss of 11 yards.

At their own 17-yard line, an incomplete pass followed by a Norton 3-yard run put the Panthers at 4th and 18.

Lamberson then threw a pass, which was intercepted by Jake Kempken, who returned the ball 35 yards for a touchdown.

Wilmot scored the final touchdown with nine seconds left, where Lamberson threw a 6-yard strike to Zack Watson.

Norton led the Panthers in rushing with 14 carries for 92 yards.


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