The season was on the line for the Muskego football team, and the Warriors chose their most reliable play.
The situation was this: David Kucharski had just returned a Lake Geneva Badger kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to bring his team within 28-27 with 1 minute, 13 seconds left in a WIAA Division 1 playoff game on Saturday evening.
Muskego head coach Ken Krause and his staff had decided to go for the victory on a two-point conversion and called timeout to discuss the play.
They went with quarterback Peter Roy on a rollout, giving him the option to run or pass, a play that had worked on a number of occasions this season. This time, Roy rolled to his left, saw nothing in the end zone, evaded a tackler and took off with the ball – only to be stopped short of the goal line.
As a result, the Warriors were saddled with a one-point defeat, ending their season at 5-4.
“That was a play that’s worked all season,” Krause said. “Give them credit; they stopped it. It’s been our best play in that situation the whole year. I wouldn’t change a thing. Peter Roy is a great football player, and he does a great job with that play. They (the Badgers) just snuck a guy through there on us.”
Krause said there was no question that the Warriors would go for two.
“That was unanimous as a coaching staff,” he said. “We did it to beat Port Washington in the first game of the year. We have a rule – we always go for two on the road.”
The Kucharski kickoff return and the two-point conversion attempt capped a thrilling game which featured a little bit of everything – big offensive plays, defensive stands, two kickoff returns for scores and one crucial sustained drive by the Badgers.
“It was two very evenly-matched teams, that’s for sure,” Krause said. “It came down to one point.”
There were other factors in the loss, such as three missed opportunities by the Warriors in the second half.
With the score even at 21-21, Muskego had the ball on the Badger 14, 16 and 38 on consecutive series and could not score.
On the first possession, a holding penalty, fumble and sack pushed the Warriors back to the 29 and a desperation pass was intercepted in the end zone.
On the second, Muskego had 4th and inches at the 16 but Roy was stopped cold on a sneak.
The third possession ended on the Badger 36 with a punt on 4th and 8. The punt sailed into the end zone and the Badgers took over at their 20 with about seven minutes left in the game.
They proceeded to march methodically downfield 80 yards in 13 plays, converting three third downs. Fullback Robert Johnson ran six times for 27 yards, quarterback Peter Krien four times for 18 yards and running back Matt Reynolds two for 26. Reynolds had the two biggest plays, a 25-yard gain on a pitch to the Muskego 24 and the touchdown from the 1-yard line. The extra point by Thomas Ritzman was good, giving the Badgers a 28-21 advantage with just 1:25 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kucharski fielded a bouncing grounder, headed up the right side, found some blocks and was off for his 85-yard return, stunning the Badger crowd. That led to the missed two-point conversion attempt.
“Our kids have never quit all season,” Krause said. “We’ve had three come-from behind wins, and this was almost the fourth one. I’m really proud of our team for never giving up.”
While there were only two scores in the second half, the first half was a wild battle of big plays on both sides, with abrupt and massive changes in emotion. Muskego struck first when Roy hit Adam Regini with a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. The kick by Michael Chitko was good, putting the Warriors up 7-0.
On Badger’s first play after that, Krien exploded up the middle for 74 yards and a score, with Ritzman’s point after tying it at 7-7.
Later in the first period, Krien found Andrew Cychner open in the middle with a pass, and Cychner broke a tackle and ran 59 yards for another touchdown.
The Warriors answered with a 71-yard drive which ended on a 35-yard scoring run through traffic by Tyler Thomka. Chitko’s kick tied it at 14-14. The tie lasted all of 14 seconds, as Krien took the kickoff and broke through for an 82-yard touchdown, making it 21-14.
Muskego came right back when Thomka rambled 79 yards to the Badger 10 and Roy rolled to his right and hit Kucharski with a five-yard scoring pass on fourth down. Chitko’s kick sent the game into halftime at 21-21, setting up the wild second-half finish.
Thomka finished with 171 yards rushing.
“He had a great season,” Krause said of Thomka. “I would say, pound for pound, he might be the best football player in the state. He gets more out of his size than anyone I’ve ever coached.”
Xavier Jansen and Roy each added 54 yards on the ground, while Roy also passed for 65 yards and two scores.
For Badger (7-2), Krien ran for 132 yards and passed for 59. The loss ended a season which began for Muskego with 22 new starters and ended with a playoff berth.
“When the season started, we were picked not to be in the playoffs,” Krause said. “We were seeded sixth (in the playoffs) and we were not expected to win this game. We expected to win this game; that’s what hurts. The coaches (in the seeding meeting) picked us to lose, and we were one play away from a win.”
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