Under head coach Scott Otto, Greenfield's football program has come a long way in a short period of time.
In the first round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs Friday night, the Hustlin' Hawks were shown how far they still have to go in a 42-7 loss at Waterford High School.
The experienced and battle-tested Wolverines took advantage of several first half mistakes by Greenfield, then sealed the win behind a smothering defense that held Greenfield's vaunted rushing attack to 63 yards over the first three quarters.
"We knew we had our work cut out for us," Otto said. "It's tough enough to play Waterford; you can't make the mistakes that we made. But a lot of that is predicated on we haven't been (to the playoffs) in nine years. It's a different atmosphere, and Waterford has been here three of the last four years. So it's something to get used to, and the only way you get used to it is getting back here year after year after year."
The Hawks got off to a solid start, forcing a quick punt and then using a perfectly placed punt by senior Alex Bosl to pin Waterford (9-1) inside its own 10-yard line. But a 43-yard play-action pass from quarterback Zach Fisher to Dustin Schindler sparked a 93-yard drive for the Wolverines, who broke the scoreless tie with a 6-yard touchdown run by Greg Steffens on 4th and 3.
"To me, that (conversion) was a huge play because they did run the football -- they powered it right down -- and run defense is our strength," Otto said. "So that was pretty impressive because not a lot of teams have been able to do that to us this year."
Things fell apart for Greenfield (5-5) in a disastrous second quarter, which started with Fisher throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Schindler and ended with Fisher finding Steffens for a 17-yard touchdown reception shortly after Greenfield turned it over on a muffed punt. In between those two scores, Waterford's Matt Briggs picked off Greenfield senior quarterback Tyler Laverdure and returned it 34 yards to paydirt.
When the dust settled, the shell-shocked Hawks trailed 28-0 at halftime.
"They made some nice plays," Otto said. "It wasn't that we weren't prepared or that our kids didn't play hard, it's just a big credit to Waterford. They are a very good football team."
The Wolverines tacked on two short touchdown runs by Jordan Underly in the second half and only lost their bid for a shutout when Laverdure capped a 50-yard drive in the closing minutes with an 8-yard touchdown run.
Despite the lopsided playoff defeat, the Hawks had some great moments this season, including a win over eventual conference champion Pewaukee and near-upsets of perennial Woodland powerhouses Brown Deer and New Berlin Eisenhower. They made the playoffs for only the third time in the 50-year history of the program and the first time in nearly a decade. And they accomplished all this only two years removed from a winless season.
"When I got the job two years ago, nobody in their right mind thought we'd be here," said Otto. "For our kids to be in the playoffs and to experience this, it is a lot of fun, and we're going to be back."
Otto credited his 19 seniors with turning the program around so quickly, and just as importantly, paving the way for future success.
"Our senior group did a fantastic job this year, getting our program back to playoffs," he said. "They led us up to this point by working their butts off; without their leadership, we wouldn't be here.
"We are headed in the right direction, and I believe we're going to be a better football team next year. For the Hustlin' Hawks, this is only the beginning of what's going to happen in the future."
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