Both Menomonee Falls and Marquette arrived in the Falls on Friday night with work to do to secure a playoff spot this season. By the end of the night, the Indians were celebrating a hard fought 21-7 win over a Greater Metro rival while Marquette left needing to win both remaining games to make the postseason.
The battle was for grabs all night until senior Cole Hernikl took an handoff up the middle, broke a Hilltoppers tackle and sprinted 33 yards for an Indians touchdown, giving Menomonee Falls a two score lead with 5:39 left in game. The play was the culmination of a methodical seven play, clock-killing drive that started on the Falls own 22 yard line.
“The offensive line did a great job opening up a huge hole for Cole to run through,” Falls junior quarterback Adam Vechart said. “They did a good job getting a push on that play and protected me well all night.
“We just knew that as long as we kept on fighting and playing hard, things would eventually get going.”
Marquette didn’t get a first down until four minutes remained in the first quarter but once the Hilltoppers did, they didn’t stop with just one. Senior running back Jordan McClain took the lid off the first-down bottle with a bruising 11-yard run on first down. That carry was the first of five consecutive for McClain, and he accounted for 34 of the 89 yards in the stretch.
Sophomore quarterback Charlie Greif capped the drive with a nifty inside keeper which amounted to a nine yard touchdown run, giving the Hilltoppers a 7-0 lead with 10:55 left in the second quarter.
“When we scored on the first one I thought for sure we had some momentum going,” Greif said. “Some turnovers killed us then the punting back and forth killed our momentum but we stuck in there made it close.”
For a first half the seemed destined to have more punts than points scored, the initial scoring drive for Marquette gave the game life. Eight punts -- four each from senior Andy Krueger of Marquette and junior Anthony Russo of Menomonee Falls -- kept the competing offenses pinned deep more often than not. It wasn’t until the Indians broke a big play with the running game that Menomonee Falls sniffed the end zone.
With fewer than five minutes left in the half, on a drive that started on the Falls 38-yard line, the Indians went to work with a short passing play followed by two runs. After gaining a first down and entering Hilltoppers territory, junior Christian Almonte bounced outside, streaked down the left sideline then cut back to the middle of the field for a 43-yard touchdown scamper with 1:33 to go in the half.
The game took a wild turn from there. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball rocketed off a Hilltopper at the 8-yard line and shot forward to the 20, where Menomonee Falls was able to recover and set up shop. But when Vechart dropped back to pass and fired to the right side of the field on first down, junior Redmond Tuttle intercepted it right back, fighting through offensive pass interference in the process.
Falls senior, Rajaee Vasser, after gaining nothing on his earlier two carries, pushed through to the end zone in the third quarter on a 2-yard run with 2:14 left. The seven play, 52-yard drive featured a beautiful catch by junior Daniel Dahlke, who outjumped his man and hauled in a 21-yard jump ball from Vechart. That play put the ball on the 2-yard line, setting up the Vasser touchdown.
“It means a lot to beat Marquette because they are such a great program, physical kids and they played a great game tonight,” said Falls head coach John Baker, who led his team past one of the conference frontrunners in Sussex Hamilton one week ago. “Our guys just kept fighting and fighting and fighting in a close game.
“You never know what can happen but our number one goal every year is to make the playoffs, and it’s just icing on the cake if we can keep playing well all the way.”
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