In the end, it came down to Brookfield East's defense having to stop Sussex Hamilton junior running back Drew Patterson one last time.
The Chargers came out and lined up for a 2-point conversion following Patterson's 6-yard touchdown run that cut the score to 14-13 in overtime. Right before the play, East called time out to talk things over and the Chargers ended up changing the play.
"We had a play called," Chargers coach John Damato said. "We were going to go off the edge. Then we decided to go up the middle."
East coach Tom Swittel and his staff had noticed that Patterson was right behind quarterback Mark Gryszkiewicz.
"When they put Patterson up, they didn't have him at tailback. So they moved him up and put him right behind the quarterback. It's a 'tell.' We expected that."
Patterson got the ball and drove into the middle of the Spartans' defense, where he was met by Jack Podewils, Alex Lessila, Eric Weller, Alec James and the rest of the defense.
"I saw the ref walking in and he did this (signal for no touchdown), and I was just happy," James said. "So I started smiling … at the bottom of the pile."
Damato didn't second guess himself.
"I wouldn't take it back," he said. "They were giving that to us a little bit. We just came up six inches short. It was a good push. It just wasn't enough."
It was not surprising that the game came down to one play as two outstanding teams squared off all night and came up with big plays when they needed them. The Chargers came in with just one loss, and undefeated East was looking for its first outright conference title since its only other conference crown in 1984.
Defense dominated the game in a scoreless first half, and penalties hurt both teams. East was flagged six times in the first half, including three delay of game penalties, and Hamilton was hit with two crucial holding penalties.
"They hurt us quite a bit," Damato said. "In stalling some drives ... once you start to get some momentum, it's taken away. We have to clean that up, and I think we will."
"I told them it was a heavyweight fight," Swittel said of his halftime comments. "Anybody who has ever been in a fight knows the guy that loses is the guy that flinches. And I said we were not going to flinch."
In the third quarter, the Spartans recovered a Chargers fumble, and Spartans senior quarterback Zach Damico tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Brian Smith. Connor Allen's point after made it 7-0 with 10:05 on the clock.
But then the Chargers got into the act and went 60 yards in six plays keyed by a 40-yard run by Patterson, who scored from 2 yards out to tie the game at 8:13.
"I think it woke us up a little bit," Damato said. "I think we both woke each other up."
After Smith returned the kickoff 40 yards to the 50-yard line, the Spartans went on an 11-play drive. But an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the ball back and Allen's 45-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar and bounced back.
The Chargers then went on a 16-play drive that ended when Kenny Lo's 26-yard field goal was wide left.
Each team had a chance to win it in the final minutes of regulation, but Lo was short on a 42-yard field goal attempt.
On the 14-play drive, an illegal block in the back, a holding penalty and a fumble kept the Chargers from scoring.
East got the ball back on its own 20 and a 43-yard run by Damico eventually set up a 35-yard field goal attempt with one second left when Damico, who was out of timeouts, spiked the ball.
But a fumbled snap prevented a chance to win in regulation.
Hamilton won the toss in overtime and elected to take the ball second. It only took East four plays to go 25 yards, as Damico scored when he raced 19 yards for the score after bouncing off a would-be tackler.
"It was a great football game," Damato said. "I'm proud of our kids. Our kids fought hard. So did Brookfield East. It was a great high school football game."
Said Swittel, "You know you play to win, and John Damato and Sussex Hamilton, they're winners."
Patterson rushed for 119 yards, and Damico led East with 101.
Soccer finishes strong
After Hamilton knocked off Nicolet in the opening round of the WIAA Division 1 regional Oct. 9, the Chargers grabbed a 2-0 lead against Menomonee Falls on Oct. 11 but couldn't hold on.
The Indians (18-4-3) rallied for three goals, scoring a 3-2 victory in the second round of this season's soccer playoffs.
Senior midfielder Tyler Wischnefski scored early in the first half for Hamilton. Senior forward Garrett Lee had the second goal before the Indians got scores from Nick Gonzales, Alex Eastman and Alex Russo.
"We had an excellent first half," Hamilton head boys soccer coach Steve Provan said. "At halftime, we talked about the Falls coming at us with everything they have, and they did. Once they scored that first goal, I think we kind of went into a shell, playing too defensive."
Against Nicolet, Wischnefski scored twice. Junior forward Bret Harvestine had the other goal.
"That was a very good win for us," Provan said. "The second half of the season we were playing with confidence, and I think our team went into the game knowing we could succeed."
Hamilton held the No. 10 seed in the draw, upsetting the No. 7 squad before falling to second-seeded Falls. Hamilton finished the season 11-8-2.
McCarty Park in West Allis was a happening place despite less-than-ideal conditions for the Greater Metro Conference cross country meet.
This year's conference champions included Brookfield Central junior Elizabeth Flatley for the girls and Brookfield East junior Stephen Browne for the boys at 14 minutes, 42.94 seconds and 16:09.18, respectively.
The Lancers won the girls team event with 31 points. Hamilton's girls ended up in seventh place with 165 points. In the boys meet, the top team was Brookfield East with 61 points. The Chargers also finished seventh with 198 points.
Ashlyn Paulson, a junior for the Chargers, ended up in eighth place with a time of 15:19.87. Junior Molly Lucas was 35th at 16:50.03 and senior Rachel Weiss placed 39th at 16:54.44. Sophomore Hannah Jeffers was 41st at 16:59.44 and Erin Heaster was 42nd at 17:01.36.
Hamilton senior Spencer Ezell finished 33rd as the top finisher for the Hamilton boys with a time of 17:35.36 and junior Robert Little was 35th at 17:38.15. Sophomore Joshua Desorcy placed 36th at 17:38.94.
Jack Perrizo, a junior was 45th at 18:02.03 and sophomore Steven Smith ended up in 49th with a time of 18:16.05.
- Chris Schuck contributed to this story.
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