If Menomonee Falls' thrilling 34-31 overtime victory over Brookfield Central taught us anything, it was that just three quarters of Christian Almonte can be too much for even a good defense.
The Indians standout senior running back left Friday night's contest with Brookfield Central early in the fourth quarter with a recurring episode of calf cramps, but by then, he'd done the brunt of his damage.
When he was back on the field for the biggest play of the game, Almonte was a decoy.
Almonte returend for the Indians' overtime possession and handled the first three plays, rushing three times for 22 yards. On third and goal from 3-yard line, the Indians ran a reverse — Bryce McMurtry instead took the rock and made a perfect cut at the line of scrimmage to hit a gaping hole for the game-winning touchdown.
The Indians stormed the field in celebration, and Almonte said he couldn't remember a better moment in his four years at Falls.
"Last year we had a great run, and that taught us a lot about this year and how we had to play," he said. "We knew it was going to be a fight. This is how we have to handle games like this and deal with adversity. This was our test game. This was the one that would show us what we can do in the GMC. Our defense picked it up and the end and came up clutch when we needed it."
Falls (4-0), ranked No. 5 in Division 1, needed every ounce of effort from Almonte as it barely outlasted Central, ranked No. 3 in Division 2, in a battle of Greater Metro Conference unbeatens.
What was expected to be a close game looked like a romp for the Lancers early, as Central scored on its first possession on a 3-yard keeper from senior quarterback Riley Richarz. In the middle of the second quarter, the Lancers scored on another methodical, 13-play drive also capped by a 1-yard run from Richarz.
The Indians looked sluggish and trailed 14-0 when Almonte got started. A blazing 96-yard kickoff return brought Falls within seven and energized the defense.
"They always try to keep it deep left," Almonte said. "We always run that crease, so we just ran it right at them. I saw it open up and just saw green."
After Falls' Zach Marohl intercepted Richarz in the red zone, Almonte went the distance on a 57-yard screen pass from Adam Vechart to create a 14-14 tie at halftime.
"The offensive line did a great job on that one," Almonte said. "We had worked on that in practice all week and they really opened it up. That was all on the line."
Falls received the ball to start the second half, and Almonte picked up where he left off. An eight-play drive was topped off with a 13-yard touchdown run by an outstretched Almonte in the left corner of the end zone. Suddenly, 21 unanswered points gave the Indians a 21-14 edge.
"I can't say enough about our kids and how they respond to adversity," Menomonee Falls head coach John Baker said. "They got down and they never quit. In the trenches, we just kept fighting. They were bigger than us. They played a hell of a football game; we just never gave up."
But as fast as Falls awakened, Central responded. Three minutes later, the Lancers tied it at 21 when Richarz hit Drew Peterson on a perfectly thrown 35-yard touchdown toss.
Almonte would score another go-ahead touchdown only to see it negated with a holding penalty. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Falls compensated with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Vechart to Jason Precia to cap a 13-play, 71-yard drive and regained a 28-21 lead.
The Lancers' Terry Wallen returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the Indians 25, and Richarz scored again from three yards out just five plays later.
On the next possession, Almonte left the game with calf cramps that have bothered him multiple times this season. Both teams exchanged fruitless possessions for the remainder of the fourth, and the Indians mustered just two first downs without Almonte.
"I got a cramp in both of my calves," Almonte said. "I had it in our first game, I had it last week. I've got to start drinking more water. I knew I was coming back in. I wanted to play."
After Falls elected to start overtime on defense, Central's Steven Knopp gave his team a 31-28 lead with a 25-yard field goal. As tough as the loss was for Central, head coach Jamie Meulemans said it was the type of game in which a coach is honored to partake.
"The kids played their hearts out; that's all we can ask," he said. "I was very proud of them. They've got each other's backs. They'll bounce back next week and be ready to play football. Football transfers into life lessons, and they know that. They'll be together, win, lose or draw."
Almonte finished with 96 yards on 20 carries and two catches for 69 yards. Richarz led Central with 219 yards through the air and 96 on the ground.
The Lancers (3-1, 1-1) return home next week to face cross-town rival Brookfield East (2-2, 1-1), while the Indians (4-1, 2-0) visit Sussex Hamilton (2-2, 1-1).
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Football: The Pattersons are finally giving someone else a chance.
- Sloppy Germantown boys basketball team roars past game Falls, 83-47
- High-speed Germantown girls overpower Falls, 73-54, in border clash
- Sloppy Germantown boys basketball team beats Falls for 60th straight
- Sports Wraps: Dec. 7
- Germantown girls basketball team overpowers Falls, 73-54
- Talented Menomonee Falls wrestling team wants more this season
- Young Falls girls hoops team optimistic this season
- Blue Knights show balance as basketball season takes off
- Healthy Almonte enjoyed banner season for Falls football team