It may have been a frigid Friday night, but the Muskego football team didn’t seem to mind.
The Warriors, who played before a bundled up home crowd, cruised to a 59-6 victory over visiting Milwaukee Washington in the WIAA Division 1 playoff opener. Muskego found the fire despite a matchup that grossly favored the Southeast Conference runnerup
“We knew coming into the game that we had a better record and that we still had to be fired up,” senior running back Brady Simkowski said.
Muskego earns a spot in the second round of the WIAA playoffs against conference rival Kenosha Bradford, who is the only team to beat the Warriors this season.
“We watched film, and we had a lot of mistakes, little mistakes that really cost us that game,” Simkowski said. “We only lost by three, but we can get them next time.”
Muskego extended its record to 9-1 with the help of its pack of running backs.
Simkowski led the team with 84 rushing yards, with David Kucharski adding 79 yards and a score.
Roland Dunlap and Jordan Gruettner each had 67 yards on the ground to go along with a touchdown. The game immediately swung in Muskego’s favor when Dunlap ran 24 yards for the night’s first score.
Senior quarterback Eric Pachowitz threw only three passes, but one ended up a touchdown pass to a wide open Robert Sindic for 31 yards.
The captain had a rushing touchdown as well.
“It’s nice just that we completed a couple of passes,” Muskego coach Ken Krause said. “Eric Pachowitz has really improved the last couple weeks with the throw game.”
One issue the Warriors seemed to have was their lack of successful extra-point attempts. Muskego missed a season-high four PATs.
“We've got to get better at that,” Krause said. “We've got to get more consistent at that. We’ve been working hard at it.”
With a team like Bradford, who topped the Warriors in Southeast play, 21-18, all points are crucial.
Washington’s lone score came when Derek Williams returned a kick and evaded would-be Muskego tacklers on his way to a 93-yard touchdown run.
“Defensively, we had a shutout,” Krause said.
The defense was highlighted by a Peter Chaniotakis interception that was returned to the Washington 1-yard line.
Senior Tommy Stark would also set the Warriors up with prime field position with a punt block at the beginning of the second quarter. Dunlap and Dane Stair both had key sacks.
Despite a 53 point victory, Krause thinks there’s still room for improvement.
“We need to be more intense,” Krause said. “It’s probably one of our least intense games as far as the sidelines and stuff. That’s going to be a main focus next week (to get) our guys more fired up.”
The game went to a running clock in the third quarter when junior Alec Johnson scored on a 8-yard run to make the score 46-6.
The win marks the first time since 1996 that the Warriors won consecutive opening round playoff games in back-to-back seasons.
Bradford, who beat Milwaukee Pulaski on Friday, 45-14, is a perfect 10-0 and the reigning Southeast champions.
Krause knows his team has to execute without questioning their past mistakes.
“There can’t be one practice or one rep at practice that we have any regrets,” Krause said. “That’s our theme this year: no regrets. I think the first time around it was a tough loss. We just have to practice. Everything we’ve been practicing starts Sunday with no regrets.”