It was all about establishing a tone and an atmosphere for the Menomonee Falls football team Friday night against West Allis Central after the Indians' rough loss to Brookfield East last week.
And the job was done quickly, as Falls scored on its first three possessions and never looked back despite a late-game rally by the Bulldogs, earning a 28-12 Greater Metro Conference decision.
"We had some good practices this past week," said Falls quarterback Brett Krause. "They were needed because that was a bad loss last week. We needed to just come out and pound it."
Despite a shaky second half, where Central shut out the Indians, Falls managed to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Greater Metro Conference, good for a four-way tie for second in the hyper-competitive league. Central fell to 1-2 and 2-3 respectively.
"Our guys did a great job of coming out and establishing a tone," said Indians coach John Baker. "We needed to get to where we were playing more physically and we did that.
"Now we just have to play for all four quarters and not let up."
Or maybe just bottle what it did for the first quarter-and-a-half Friday night.
After the defense forced a three and out, Falls took a short punt and marched 40 yards in six plays, with Justin Johnson going over the right side for four yards and a TD at the 8:47 mark.
After another three and out, the Indians put together their most cohesive drive of the night, going 65 yards in 13 plays. Johnson (64 yards on 20 carries and two catches for 32 yards) had six carries for 23 yards and a catch of 11 yards on the march, before Krause rolled in easily over the left side from four yards out on an option play to make it 14-0 with 3:10 left in the first stanza.
Falls punched up the margin up to 21-0 after senior defensive back Zach Weyenberg grabbed an errant Dakota Behrs pass and returned it to the Bulldogs 15. Two plays later, Johnson took a pitchout, made one guy miss and cruised in from 14 yards out to make it 21-0, still with 2:08 left in the opening session.
"It's strange, everytime we come out here (to Falls' Schumann Stadium) they punch us in the mouth right away," said Central coach Dax Rodriguez. "Give Falls credit, they're a good football team and they had some incentive (from the East game), but we knew that we were not nearly as bad a team as we showed in that first quarter."
The Bulldogs proved their point, and the Indians offense began to stagnate against a more resilient Central defense thereafter.
Still, Falls was able to get one more critical TD right before the half, as senior defensive back David Staron picked off a Behrs pass at the Central 28. On 4th and 3, Krause rolled out to his right, found Johnson open in the flat, and the junior back did the rest, rolling in from 21 yards out for a 28-0 lead at the 1:32 mark of the second quarter.
Baker was impressed with the junior Krause, who finished nine of 14 passing for 112 yards -- including a couple of drops.
"Brett did a nice job and played hard," said Baker. "Now we just have to catch a few more balls for him."
The Indians also had critical in the secondary, where they could have easily had two or three more interceptions.
Falls outgained Central, 188-99, in the first half.
However, despite very good field position on its first three possessions of the second half, the Indians could not find paydirt again. Down two running backs (Otis White and Christian Almonte) because of injury, Falls experimented and rotated players into the line-up to get experience.
That did pay off for junior fullback Rajee Vasser, who wound up leading the Indians in rushing with 66 yards on 10 carries.
"A lot of guys are working hard in practice trying to fill in the gaps," said Krause.
Central's resistance finally paid off a little too late, as it put together an impressive 95-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter, with Behrs hitting Tre Nowaczynski from 15 yards for the Bulldogs' first score. A 41-yard toss to Brian Hoppe (four catches for 100 yards) proved critical in the effort.
The Bulldogs got another breath of life as Falls fumbled on its first play of the next possesion, and Central recovered on the Indians 40. Eight plays later, Behrs hit Hoppe from 17 yards out with 2:07 remaining.
But Falls smothered the two-point conversion attempt to keep it at 28-12, and then Johnson recovered the onside kick attempt to dash any remaining Bulldog hopes.
"I thought our defense did an outstanding job in the second half," said Rodriguez. "I was just glad that we were able to respond like we did. It's just that it's one thing to practice against the kinds of things Falls does, but it's a totally different speed in the game."
Baker wanted the team to enjoy the evening, which was Falls' Hall of Fame night, before moving on to a critical road game at rival Sussex Hamilton (2-1, 4-1) next Friday.
"The guys needed this one for their confidence," said Baker. "We needed to come back and play well offensively because we did not do that at all last week. For a long time tonight we did and it paid off."
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