Confident Falcons reverse trend against Ike
Sutton's aerial attack fuels Whitnall's comeback
Greenfield - The past decade of football contests between Whitnall and New Berlin Eisenhower have primarily gone in one direction, but on Friday night, the game between the two Woodland Conference rivals took more wild turns than Christopher Columbus did before discovering America.
A history lesson would tell you that Eisenhower had defeated the Falcons seven of the last eight times dating back to 2002. This time, history was not meant to repeat itself as the Falcons completed a thrilling 36-28 comeback win over the Lions in the season opener for both schools.
Whitnall took advantage of three Eisenhower lost fumbles that proved to be the difference in a game between contrasting offensive mindsets.
The Falcons and senior quarterback Zach Sutton spent the entire night peppering the air with an efficient passing attack, while the Lions opted for a running attack led by junior Nick Taylor, who collected 162 yards on 18 attempts.
"He did a little bit of everything," Whitnall head coach Jeff Wallack said of Sutton, who completed 30 of 48 passes for 261 yards and five touchdowns in his first start at quarterback. "He was able to find the open receivers. He even caught a pass from Sam Mentkowski on a reverse play. That shows his versatility.
"I was pleased with how he played. He showed savvy and took control."
Wallack had said before the season that he wanted the Falcons to run more, but he changed that plan once the game began.
"We definitely want to establish the run," he said, "but we saw on film, and again as the game unfolded, that Eisenhower had a tough time defending the pass. We took advantage of that with four and five-wideout sets."
'We had all the confidence'
Both offenses looked unstoppable at times and inept at others, but it was the passing game of Whitnall that dominated the fourth quarter.
The Falcons finally took the lead with less than six minutes left in the game on a 30-yard field goal by senior Nick Stemo and sealed the win a few minutes later on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Sutton to fellow senior Patrick Wyrowski with 20 seconds left in the game.
Wyrowski finished with nine catches for 105 yards.
"It was just the energy, everyone just brought the energy," Sutton said. "We knew we had the momentum going into the half and we knew we could beat them. We had all the confidence in the world that we could beat them.
"Our receivers are phenomenal both with speed and great hands. The linemen gave me so much time to get the ball to them and it was just incredible."
Falcons show no quit
In the first quarter, it seemed as though it would be another Eisenhower victory in the series, as the defense didn't allow Whitnall past midfield.
When the Lions' offense took the ball, they promptly ripped off huge running plays, including a 76-yard touchdown run by Taylor to open the scoring. When Taylor scored for the second time early in the second quarter, the Lions led 14-0.
Down 21-6 and punting the ball back to Eisenhower with less than two minutes to go, Whitnall recovered a muffed punt inside the Eisenhower 20-yard line. A minute later, Sutton found Mentkowski for a touchdown, bringing the score to 21-14 at the break.
Another Taylor touchdown gave Eisenhower a 28-20 late third-quarter lead and the defense once again forced Whitnall to punt. But the Lions muffed it again right back to the Falcons. Another quick score followed.
Big win for program
Wallack noted that the Falcons forced four turnovers, a main emphasis in training camp.
"We made a lot of mistakes," Lions coach Jeff Setz said. "I just think we had too many turnovers and gave up a lot of field position as a result of that. Those were situations where they got the momentum and played well to come back."
Wallack said beating a team with Eisenhower's tradition was big for his squad.
"I can't tell you how much doubt there was; people outside the program were saying we didn't belong on the same field with these guys," he said. "That motivated our kids. I told them that Eisenhower has the conference titles and state titles, but we weren't playing those teams; we were playing this year's team."
Whitnall next visits Wauwatosa West at 7 p.m. Friday. The Trojans routed St. Francis, 50-7, on Friday night behind 175 yards rushing and three touchdowns from speedster Mickey Morgan.
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