New Berlin - New Berlin Eisenhower (3-4) avoided being eliminated from the WIAA playoffs Friday, thanks in large part to the career night of Nick Taylor.
The junior running back finished with 243 yards and three rushing touchdowns, with 112 yards and two of those touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter as the Lions won a scoring battle, 43-26, at home.
Taylor's first rushing touchdown, a 72-yard run at the 6:50 mark of the second quarter, set the tone offensively for the Lions for the remainder of the game.
"My linemen set that block perfectly, and I just waited for it to set up and just hit it and was gone," Taylor said.
The running game wasn't just Taylor. Eisenhower came into the game determined to get back to running the football, and the Lions finished with 469 yards on the ground.
Senior fullback Anthony Stewart, who returned from injury, had 59 yards and a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Lions put away the game late. Overall, Eisenhower head coach Jeff Setz said his team accomplished what it wanted offensively.
"We have established ourselves as a running team through the years but unfortunately we haven't been really successful with it this year," Setz said. "But we got our fullback back tonight, and that made a big difference for us."
For Pius XI, the story of this game was blown opportunities and dropped passes - 10 all told, of which, several would have been touchdowns. The biggest blown opportunity came late in the third quarter.
After senior quarterback Conner Senger found junior wide receiver Christian Garcia for a 37-yard touchdown pass to give the Popes a 20-14 lead, Pius kicked off with a low line drive that barely crossed the 20.
One problem: the entire Eisenhower return team forgot that kickoffs are live balls, and Pius recovered at the 14-yard line. After defensive pass interference moved the ball to the seven yard line, Senger threw a costly interception in the back of the end zone that halted any momentum the Popes had.
"That would have put us up by two scores," Pius coach George Machado said. "You know, we were pretty tough offensively, and they made a big blunder there. I don't know why we didn't pick it up and just run it in. But we got on it and our quarterback thought he saw something and made a bad throw."
Then Taylor's fourth-quarter seven-yard touchdown run gave Ike a 21-20 lead, but Senger countered with an 80-yard TD run to put the Popes up for the last time, 26-21.
Then in the final 7:48 of the game, the Lions scored rushing touchdowns of three yards by Stewart (Taylor 2-point run), Jared Hageny's 29-yard run and Taylor with his 85-yard score.
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