“We made too many mental mistakes,” Brown said. “Too many dropped passes, penalties, just things you can’t do against a team that good.”
Locked in a defensive battle for most of the first half, Muskego struck first on an 11-play, 40-yard drive capped by senior running back Jordan Gruettner’s 3-yard touchdown run with 4:47 left in the first half. The drive started when Franklin attempted a fake punt on fourth and 14 from its own 41-yard line. The Warriors weren’t fooled, as senior Jeff Glisch made a key stop.
“That was the play of the game in my eyes,” Muskego head coach Ken Krause said. “It’s fourth and 14, we’re expecting a punt, and we end up scoring. That was just a huge play.”
Franklin went three-and-out on its next possession, and Muskego responded with a four-play, 54-yard touchdown drive. Senior running back Brady Simkowski broke free from 20 yards out, and a scoreless tie became a 14-0 Warrior lead in less than three minutes.
“That was when I thought we had them,” Simkowski said. “We went up 14-0 right before the half, and obviously you never quit, and you start 0-0 in the second half, but those were big plays.”
With 1:40 left in the half, Franklin rallied and reached Muskego’s 28-yard line with 3 seconds to play. Junior Joe Falzon attempted a 45-yard field goal to put the Sabers on the board before the half, but it fell just short, bouncing off the crossbar in a fashion that seemed to fit Franklin’s fortunes all night.
Both teams traded punts to open the second half, but Franklin again found some offense and reached Muskego’s 2-yard line. Muskego’s defense tightened, and after three failed rushes, including two from the 1-yard line, a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
“We kept knocking on the door, but you have to give them credit,” Brown said. “They made those goal line stops, and those are good teams that make stops like that. I’ve been there.”
After multiple deflating moments, Franklin’s defense kept fighting and gave the Sabers yet another chance. Another stop allowed Franklin to take over at Muskego’s 45-yard line. The Sabers drove inside the red zone and faced another fourth and 1 from the 5-yard line, but again, Muskego’s defense denied them.
The Warriors put the game out of a reach with another touchdown from Gruettner to build a 20-0 lead with 4:01 to play. Gruettner finished with 54 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns.
“I give all the credit in the world to our defensive staff,” Krause said. “Our motto all year has been 11 Warriors to the ball, and I thought we did a great job of swarming to the ball. That was an impressive performance.”
Equally impressive was the Muskego running attack, which amassed 254 yards, including a 36-carry, 200-yard effort from Simkowski. The Warriors did not throw a single pass all night.
“They were more physical than us,” Brown said. “They come off the ball well, their running backs are big. They definitely wore us down.”
“I don’t want to sound cocky,” Simkowski said, “but I think we’re pretty good. We’re not even looking at Bradford though. Our motto is one game a time.”
“We played Park, and we gave up 27 points, and I think it was a turning point in our season,” he said. “Our seniors started to get on each other, and they were determined to never have a week of practice like that again. And this week, we got a good week of work in, and I think it showed.”
Muskego visits Racine Case (1-3, 2-4) next Friday, while Franklin hosts Racine Park (2-2, 3-3).
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