By Dan Truttschel

Sports Correspondent

Designing a game plan to slow down the triple-option offense run successfully by the Badger football team is one thing.

Executing that plan is quite another.

For three quarters Friday night, Wilmot did an admirable job, but in the last 12 minutes, the Badgers showed their strength and pulled away in a hard-fought 55-27 Southern Lakes Conference win.

The loss dropped the Panthers to 3-1 in the SLC and 5-1 overall, while Badger clinched a WIAA playoff berth and improved to 4-0 in conference play and 5-1 overall.

“Three out of four years we’ve played them, we’ve had real problems with that offense,” Wilmot coach Mike Greinke said. “It requires you to be extremely disciplined with what you do defensively.

“Our kids are more read and react and play loose kind of kids. If you make any little mistake, they exploit it, and that’s what kept happening over and over again.”

Greinke left the field knowing he and his coaching staff have to alter how they attack Badger in the future.

“Next year, we’re going to have to come with a different mindset for that team,” he said. “Three out of four years, they’ve racked up that kind of yardage on us. We have to have a different game plan for that next year.”

Wilmot trailed by just one touchdown at 34-27 heading into the fourth quarter before the Badgers scored three times to put the game away.

Quarterback Peter Krien started the run with a 4-yard run, followed by a 2-yard run by Robert Johnson and a 27-yard dash to the end zone by Christopher Walker.

The early part of the game resembled a heavyweight boxing match, as both teams exchanged punches.

After Badger got on the scoreboard on a 58-yard touchdown run by Ed Ruzga, the Panthers countered on a 5-yard scoring pass from quarterback Chris Nelson to Ryan Gartner.

The teams traded again traded touchdowns, as Badger’s Rory Klean scored on a 1-yard run, but Nelson and Gartner hooked up again, this time on a 17-yard scoring play.

Badger began to pull away with two more touchdowns, one by Ruzga and another by Walker, before Nelson scored on a 1-yard run to close the half.

Badger held a 27-19 lead at the intermission, an advantage they extended on a 19-yard run by Krien with 1:58 left in the third quarter.

Gartner, who caught 13 passes for 164 yards, scored his third touchdown of the night on a 24-yard run late in the period.

With receiver Kenny Eterno out for the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament, Gartner is one player the Panthers need to elevate their game, Greinke said.

“We needed someone to step up, and obviously, it was Ryan,” he said. “He has terrific hands. He’s not the fastest guy on the team, but he has a quickness you don’t see too often. He was able to break free and pull off a big catch when we needed it.”

For the game, Wilmot finished with 21 first downs, 63 yards rushing on 22 carries and 245 yards through the air. Badger had 22 first downs, 587 yards rushing on 64 carries and 16 yards passing.

Even with the loss, however, the final score doesn’t indicate how hard his team battled, Greinke said – and the setback also gives him a teaching tool to use.

“It really was more of a competitive game than the scoreboard would indicate,” he said.

“Our kids hadn’t faced that kind of adversity this year. We’ve never been down by more than four points for a few minutes in a game. It’s something we have to teach from now, and they have to understand that may happen.”

The Panthers look to get back on track Friday night when they travel to Burlington for a 7 p.m. contest with the Demons.

Burlington fell to 1-3 in the SLC and 2-4 overall with a 26-22 loss last week at Delavan-Darien.

It’s no secret what the Demons and head coach Hans Block want to accomplish offensively, Greinke said – but like against Badger, the key is finding a way to stop them.

“They run an old style Wing-T offense,” he said. “It’s three yards and a cloud of dust and throw the ball when you need to.

“Burlington poses a different challenge, and I think our kids and coaching staff are up to the challenge. Sometimes a loss can help you regroup.”

 
 

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