The Franklin football team is one win away from returning to the state championship game.
The Sabers, the 2006 WIAA Division 2 champions, advanced to the state semifinals for the second consecutive year with a 45-27 win over host South Milwaukee in a Level 3 contest Saturday.
Franklin (12-0) will play defending state champion Waunakee (12-0) next weekend in a rematch of last year's semifinal.
"They were physical and fast last year," Franklin coach Jeff Klemp said of Waunakee. "Athletically, I think we'll be able to stick with them this year. This year we haven't seen a team that we haven't been as physical as or as fast as."
The Rockets (8-4) did their best from keeping the rematch from taking place. South Milwaukee took a 14-7 lead with 57 seconds left in the second quarter on quarterback Sam Oliden's 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Ivry Lashley.
But then the wheels fell off for the hosts. Franklin's quick-strike offense needed just 35 seconds to cover 65 yards, the last of which came on Brady Oates' 44-yard touchdown reception from Lance Baretz, the second time the two connected in the first half.
South Milwaukee botched the ensuing kickoff return leading to Matt Ward's 27-yard field goal that gave Franklin a 17-14 lead with 1 second to go before intermission.
"That little swing right before the half hurt us a little bit," South Milwaukee coach John Galewski said. "We could have used that momentum once we got that seven-point lead going into halftime."
The next big swing came when the underdog Rockets failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Sabers' 4-yard line
"The big thing there was I knew if we were going to beat them we would have to score and get a few more touchdowns," Galewski said. "It's tough because we were thinking we could tie it (with a field-goal attempt), but it was fourth-and-short and we just had a big play. It really wasn't a hard choice."
The Sabers took possession and marched 96 yards on nine plays, including a 13-yard touchdown throw from Baretz to Anthony Meyer, who out-jumped South Milwaukee defensive back Chad Sadowski for possession of the ball in the end zone with 1:31 left in the third.
That gave Franklin a 24-14 lead and the Sabers never looked back. Baretz tossed two more touchdowns, his fourth and fifth of the game, down the stretch to atone for two first-half interceptions.
"Those first two picks I just made bad reads," said Baretz, who completed seven of nine second-half passes and finished 14-for-22 for 281 yards. "That's on me. Our defense did a good job of hanging in there after I put them in a couple of bad spots. I don't think you'll see that out of me anymore."
Oliden, whose improbable 52-yard field last weekend beat Pius XI in a Level 2 game, completed 18 of 33 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 114 yards and a TD on 24 carries.
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