Wilmot’s Zack Watson, shown here against Union Grove, scored four total touchdowns in Wilmot’s 41-26 loss on Friday against Waukesha West.

By Jason Arndt
Editor

For the Panthers, their offense started and ended with junior quarterback Zack Watson scoring touchdowns in Friday’s WIAA Division 2 regional showdown with visiting Waukesha West at Frank Bucci Field.

The sixth-seeded Wolverines, however, did nearly everything else in between as Waukesha West ended the Panthers season with a 41-26 first round victory.

While Waukesha West won by double digits, the Panthers kept the contest close in the first half, where both teams went into halftime with a 7-7 stalemate.

Waukesha West (6-4) coach Steve Rux, whose team faced the Panthers in postseason play three years ago, acknowledged Friday’s contest would be a battle.

“It was a really close football game and we knew that they were going to battle,” Rux said. “We played them a couple of years ago and they have a really fine program.”

Wilmot, the third-seeded team, then saw its promising start unravel in the third quarter where the Wolverines outscored the Panthers 21-7.

Wilmot, which concluded its season 7-3, allowed 10.8 points per game in its seven wins entering the regional opener. However, on Friday, the Panthers could not withstand the Wolverines well-balanced offensive attack.

Offensively, the Wolverines amassed 497 total yards, with senior rusher Sam Mikulak accounting for 257 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns.

“That is what they do, they are a power-I team and they want to run the football,” said Panthers coach Keiya Square. “(Sam) is a good back, we did expect them to come out and try to establish the run.”

In the air, Waukesha West junior quarterback Brooks Blount completed 12 of 22 passes for 229 yards.

The balanced attack, according to Rux, is what allowed his team to pull away in the second half.

“The second half, we came out and we were really efficient on the offensive side,” he said. “We were able to get some play action passes to be able to continue moving the sticks and we had a couple of big passes to put them away.”

Watson strikes first
In the opening drive, Watson engineered a 2:15 scoring drive, beginning at the Wilmot 42-yard line.

Watson, who completed 19 of 31 passes for a game-high 240 yards, capped off the drive with a 22-yard strike to senior Kade Carlson with 9:45 left in the first quarter.

Overall, Watson scored four touchdowns, including two on the ground.

Square said Watson, starting in place of injured senior Zach Lamberson, has shown steady progress as the team’s lead signal caller.

“We have been working with him over the last four weeks, it is just getting him comfortable and finding out what he wanted to do and where he wanted to throw,” he said. “That kind of all came together in the passing game.”

In the closing seconds of the first quarter, the Wolverines deadlocked the contest 7-7, courtesy of a Mikulak 49-yard run.

The Wolverines, Rux said, were challenged by the Wilmot defense in the first half.

“I know they are really good up front and they give you so many different looks, blitzes, so we were working on that all week,” Rux said.

Game unravels
The Wolverines took control in the third quarter, where they posted two touchdowns within four minutes of each other, starting with the opening drive.

At 10:33, after just three plays, Blount found sophomore Devon Townsend for a 12-yard touchdown reception to give the Wolverines a 13-7 edge following a failed kicked.

Mikulak followed up with a 21-yard touchdown run with 7:01 left to extend the Wolverines lead to 19-7 after they failed another conversion.

The Panthers answered on the next possession, courtesy of a Watson 50-yard touchdown pass to Carlson at 5:44.

With the Carlson touchdown, and a failed conversion, Wilmot trimmed its deficit to 19-13.

Carlson had a game-high 147 yards on eight receptions.

“Kade creates mismatches with people with his speed and athleticism, so I think Watson has got his rhythm and can throw to him,” Square said.

Waukesha West responded, however, with Mikulak’s third and final touchdown on a 17-yard run and extended the lead to 27-13 following a 2-point conversion.

Panthers senior linebacker Kevin Brenner, one the team’s defensive leaders, said Mikulak was an elusive runner.

“He was quick, he was hard to tackle, he got the best of our defense tonight and made plays,” he said.

Senior Trae Tetzlaff, who had six catches for 136 yards, caught his first of two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard reception at 9:03.

Watson then answered with a 3-yard run on the next possession.

Tetzlaff countered less than four minutes later when he hauled in a 42-yard pass from Blount at 8:09, hauling in a 42-yard pass from Blount at 8:09.

Watson, in a one minute drill, scored the contests final touchdown on a 1-yard run.

Past history
In 2015, the Panthers played at Waukesha West in the second round of the WIAA Division 2 regional, but were shutout 28-0.

Entering this year, although the Wolverines presented a 6-5 record, Square said Waukesha West plays in a tougher Classic Eight conference consisting of three state-ranked teams.

“They play in an extremely tough conference, and highly competitive, game in and game out.”

“They are extremely well coached and they are not going to beat themselves,” he said. “They are just a good physical football team.”

 
 

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