Muskego is still alive.
The Warriors football team, facing a 16-6 deficit midway through the fourth quarter, rallied for two late scores and shocked Kettle Moraine at MHS on Friday, 22-16. David Kucharski plunged in from a yard away with 18 seconds on the clock, and the Warriors remained alive to clinch a playoff berth by moving to 3-3 in Classic 8 Conference games.
The Lasers, who also came into the battle with a 2-3 record, were eliminated from postseason contention.
"This has got the makings of one of my favorite seasons," Muskego coach Ken Krause said. "(We have) 22 new starters, we've had three come-from-behind wins this year. One thing about our kids is they believe, they're hard workers. We worked very hard in the offseason and really pride ourselves on being a second-half team."
Kettle Moraine elected to go for it on 4th and 4 just across midfield, but Muskego's Tyler Thomka jumped a route and knocked away a pass by Lasers quarterback Nick Cieslak, giving the Warriors the ball with 3:45 on the clock. The Warriors rattled off 12 plays, including a pass from quarterback Peter Roy to Thomka on 3rd and 5 down to the goal line. Kucharski took it in from there, then added the 2-point conversion.
"That's what I play football for," Kucharski said. "When I was a sophomore, I'm thinking I can't wait until senior year, until it's me out there. It's exactly what I wanted. It breaks my heart that we're over (with home games in my career), but that's the best way to go out. It was awesome."
Each of the other 10 positive plays on the final drive were rushes, with Kucharski picking up 19 total yards.
"Our team this year is a lot different from our other teams in the past," Kucharski said. "Our game is second half football, 2-minute (offense). I haven't been playing offense recently, they wanted to save me for defense, and I just said to coach, 'Thank you for trusting me,' because it's my senior year and my last home game. I'm very proud of these guys, our O-line stepped up very well today. I trust every one of these guys."
Kucharski also scored with 7:34 to go to make it 16-12, and Muskego elected to go for the 2-point conversion, which worked when Roy snuck in. Roy also connected on a 44-ard pass play to Robbie Sindic to jumpstart that drive, and the Warriors defense got the stop it needed thereafter.
"Because there was 3:45 left, we knew we could run the ball, and that's kind of our strength," Krause said. "We were in the same situation a couple years ago, we had to beat Oak Creek, (with our record 2-3), down 21-7 and came back and won, 42-30. Twice in the last three years we had to do it with two games left. We had a ton of former players here tonight, and they were great support."
The Homecoming victory gave Muskego (4-3) a very rosy postseason outlook, with a battle against Waukesha South (1-6) left to go. A win in that battle clinches a spot for the Warriors.
Kettle Moraine (2-5) was facing an uphill battle to reach the playoffs with wins needed against Muskego and Catholic Memorial (5-2), but the official elimination still stung.
"This is tough," KM coach Darnell Wiltz said. "That was a great game. Muskego's a good team. We came to play, they came to play, and they came out on top. We didn't execute, but our kids played with a lot of heart and a lot of effort. I can second guess (the call to go for it on fourth down), but ultimately I have to live with the decision and we have to move on."
Cieslak ran for a 42-yard touchdown within the first three minutes of the game, and though Muskego answered on its first drive, a missed extra-point left the Lasers with a 7-6 lead. Jordan Berg's 28-yard touchdown gave the Lasers a 13-6 lead early in the second quarter, and Austin Wolf's 32-yard field goal made it 16-6 with 3:18 to go in the half.
Muskego advanced to as close as the 1-yard line just before half, but the Lasers held their ground and went into the break ahead by 10. Muskego's first two drives of the second half ended near midfield, and when a Warriors fumble on the KM 24 gave the Lasers the ball back with 3:30 to play in the third, it didn't appear Muskego would have the opportunities to battle back.
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