For two and a half quarters on Friday, Aug. 22, the Menomonee Falls football team, despite giving up hundreds of pounds of line weight and years of experience to visiting Oak Creek, had the Knights on the ropes to the tune of a 10-point deficit in opening-night action.
But then the Knights forgot all their lofty, preseason rankings and just started playing football.
They scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter and then held on to overwhelm the Indians by a 20-10 count.
"This should serve as a lesson to us," said Oak Creek coach Mike Bartholomew to the team afterwards on the muggy, foggy evening. "We are not the hunter this year; we are the hunted. We've got to practice like we're in second place all week long and then play like we're in first place all game long."
The Knights started their season of high hopes at 1-0, while Falls will look for its first victory of the year at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29, atWest Bend East. East was a 36-7 loser to Kewaskum on opening night.
Falls coach John Baker was pleased with the first night effort of his young players and his assistants as the Indians were clearly not intimidated by the Southeast Conference favorite Creek team.
"To be honest, I couldn't be more proud of the way the kids played tonight," he said. "They played their rear ends off. We know we're not huge on defense, but the kids played really hard there, and we had a lot of first-year guys in there too (on defense).
"I really take my hat off to the kids and my assistants for their good game plan."
The Indians needed to have a good game plan, because the offensive line of Oak Creek doesn't have a person who weighs less than 280 pounds, while Falls scarcely has a person over 250 pounds on its entire roster.
But that didn't prevent Falls from taking the game to the favored Knights early on, out-gaining them 142 yards to 125 in the first half despite three interceptions from first-year quarterback Bryce McMurtry.
It was McMurtry who gave the Indians the lead midway through the second quarter, with a nifty 46-yard touchdown dash down the sideline on an option read to make it 7-0.
Then the Falls defense came up big as the Knights held the ball for 10 plays on the next possession and reached the Indians' 17-yard line before being stopped on downs.
Bartholomew was impressed by the Falls effort.
"Those kids played their butts off," he said, "and they really didn't do anything similar to what we had prepared for (defensively). They just had a really good scheme."
Early in the second half, the Indians had the upper hand, forcing a three-and-out and then taking advantage of good field position and a 20-yard McMurtry to Ben Knudsen pass. That set up a 34-yard field goal from Alec Knuese that made the score 10-0 Falls with 7:21 left in the third.
Lead slips away
But that's when Oak Creek decided to lay the lumber on the Indians. The Knights went 66 yards on eight plays on the subsequent drive, all of them on the ground, as veteran running back Jamie Smith finally got Oak Creek on the board with a 23-yard run with 3:09 left in the third.
Smith finished with 118 yards on 17 carries.
The Knight defense would help out, getting a big three and out. The offense would thank them by taking just three plays to give Oak Creek the lead for good, as quarterback Steve Stilwell found end Doran Turchin wide open on the left side, running a "12-10 out pattern."
Turchin gathered in Stilwell's pass and galloped untouched into the end zone from 67 yards out for a 14-10 lead.
Then the game got a little sloppy. Two big penalties gave the Indians a chance on the next series. They got it down to the Oak Creek 23-yard line, but a fumble stymied the chance.
Four plays later, the Knights turned the ball right back over to the Indians on a fumble of their own. Falls got the ball at the Oak Creek 43, picked up a quick first down, but then started going backwards with a false start and a holding penalty.
A muffed Falls exchange was recovered by the Knights' Ryan Stenlund on the Oak Creek 46.
The Indians thought they had a strip of the ball a few plays later, but the play was whistled dead.
"A lot of hinky things happened in the third and fourth quarter," said Baker.
Falls tried using its timeouts, but to no avail. Stilwell ran a perfect bootleg for a 25 yard gain and the clinching first down. A few plays later, Smith went over from 2 yards out to seal the deal with just 19 seconds to go.
"We overcame ourselves tonight," said Bartholomew. "The kids kept working and I was proud of how we were able to come back against a good program on the road. Those kids and coaches over there (at Falls) are outstanding."
Falls was led by McMurtry, who rushed for 72 yards on 10 carries, and Michael Bowe, who had 12 carries for 71 yards.
"Otherwise, we're happy with the effort," said Baker. "We'll fix the mistakes, try to eliminate the turnovers. We had some goals against a very good opponent tonight. We wanted to see if we could play hard the whole game and the kids really answered the bell in that regard."
Baker praised the efforts of defenders Tom Paul, Tyler Simcock and Mike Conrady.
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