GMC title opportunity on the line when Falls gridders host Marquette on Friday
Crown would be first since 2004
Safe to say, Menomonee Falls football coach John Baker and his program have been waiting for an opportunity like this for four years.
A Greater Metro Conference championship game at home against old rival Marquette in the last game of the regular season.
"Our guys have talked about it and now it's here," Baker said. "It's just so hard to win a conference title in our league. Very, very tough to win it, so we're proud to be in the position we are, with this chance."
The Indians (5-1 in GMC play and 7-1 overall), will get that chance against the Hilltoppers (5-1, 6-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. It will be Falls' senior night.
Falls is looking for its first GMC title since 2004 when it beat Marquette in two epic contests, one during the regular season in the rain and the other in the WIAA state playoffs before the largest crowd (4,659) in Schumann Stadium history and one of the largest crowds in state playoff history.
Don't be surprised if that's packed again on Friday night.
The last time Falls and Marquette met in a really big game was the WIAA State Division 1 title game of 2009 where in his last contest, Hilltoppers state Hall of Fame coach Dick Basham capped off a superb career when his squad overpowered a game Baker-led Indians squad, 7-0.
Marquette's defense that year was widely seen as the best in the state that season and one of the best anyone has seen in a decade.
Baker loves this opportunity.
"We're very happy with where we're at," he said. "We lost a lot of good kids last year (to graduation), and we've lost some good ones to injury this year, too. But it's been a tremendous team effort and everyone has picked each other up."
Tough Spartans squad
Falls earned that opportunity when it scored four rushing touchdowns and defeated Brookfield East, 29-21, on Friday on Athletic Hall of Fame night.
"Brook East is a playoff team," Baker said. "They are a good hard-hitting team. We talked about field position, which was really huge tonight. The guys converting on short fields because in a big game, that's what you have to do to win it."
The Indians rushed for 260 yards and were led by sophomore Bryce McMurtry, who rushed for 134 yards on 9 carries (14.9 yard average). His 72-yard TD run with 1:47 left in the half gave Falls a 14-7 lead at intermission.
"Bryce is dynamic kid," Baker said. "He's only a sophomore; sometimes it's like you get that sophomore in him a little bit and all of a sudden you can see this kid who can change a game. He is young yet, but he is awesome to watch."
Quarterback Adam Vechart rushed for 119 yards in 21 carries, as the Spartans shut down ace running back Christian Almonte, who managed just 17 yards in 20 attempts.
Falls holds Damico down
The Falls defense did a good job on East quarterback Zach Damico, who finished 13-for-30 for 221 yards and a touchdown pass to Will Sutton, which tied the game in the third quarter. Damico, who opened the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown run, finished with 75 yards rushing in 15 carries.
Almonte scored on a 1-yard run after a 7-play, 31-yard drive to open the fourth quarter that made the score 20-14. Falls then recovered a fumble on a double reverse that started with two flags being tossed for two men in motion.
East coach Tom Swittel got the information on the play second-hand.
"I wasn't watching it. I was with the defense at that point," he said. "We had two guys that went in motion, one guy just stopped because he probably thought it was going to be a penalty. The guy that got the ball and was supposed to pitch it and pitched to nobody I was told. The other kid thought because the flags were thrown, there wasn't going to be a play."
Falls hustled and recovered the ball at East's 23, and Almonte scored five plays later from seven yards out for a 26-14 lead with 3:49 in the game.
But Damico took East 60 yards in eight plays to the Falls 32-yard line. On a roll out pass to the left, as he threw the ball he was leveled by a Falls defender on a third-and-eight play.
After being attended to, he had to leave the game, and Spartans placekicker Connor Allen came in and tossed a beautiful fourth-down TD pass to Cole Larson to cut the lead to 26-21 with 2:36 to play.
A return and face-mask penalty on the Spartans once again gave the Indians a short field to deal with. After running four plays, kicker Anthony Russo drilled a 25-yard field goal to account for the final points.
"Our coaches have been putting kids in good positions all season and we have great confidence in our senior leadership," Baker said. "We have six days (from last Saturday) to get ready for a conference championship. Another major goal to reach."
— Additional reporting by Steven L. Tietz
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