Amherst beats Springs in overtime
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
In a showdown between two of the top teams in Division 5, the fourth-ranked Amherst High School football team went on the road and beat two-time defending State Champion Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in overtime Friday, Aug. 30.
The Falcons used a touchdown in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to tie third-ranked Springs 7-7 and eventually force overtime, where senior quarterback Lincoln Cullen connected with junior wide receiver Carmelo Aleman on a 21-yard touchdown pass, and the Amherst defense came up with an interception on the ensuing possession to give the team a 14-7 victory.
“It was a nice win for Week 2,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic. “We played pretty well overall; there’s always things you can work on, but the biggest thing is we battled until the end.
“We didn’t get our first touchdown until the fourth quarter, but we finally punched it in, and then made some plays in overtime to come out with the victory,” he said. “We had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two blocked punts, so overall it was a good night for the whole team.”
Amherst and Springs squared off Friday night for the sixth time in five years, as the Falcons won 39-14 in 2015 and Springs followed with four wins in a row, including a 34-0 victory over Amherst in Week 2 last year and a 12-0 win in the State Semifinals on the way to winning the Division 5 State Title with a 14-0 record.
Springs had its 28-game win streak snapped a week earlier with a 21-14 loss to second-ranked Lake Country Lutheran, while the game Friday night featured a pair of programs that had combined to win a total of seven State Titles in the last five years.
The nonconference battle remained knotted at 0-0 throughout the first half Friday night, until Springs scored on a 40-yard touchdown run with 4:12 left in the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead, and Amherst went into halftime down 7-0.
“Offensively, we just made a few adjustments here and there, it was nothing shocking, we just took advantage of what we saw,” said Lusic. “And defensively, our goal was to make sure their running back (Marcus Orlandoni) wasn’t going to beat us.
“I think he’s an All-State player, so our goal was to stop him, and the quarterback made a few plays,” he said.
Springs held onto its 7-0 advantage going into the fourth quarter, when Amherst used a blocked punt to set up a 13-yard touchdown run from senior running back/wide receiver Chris Andersen with 3:44 left to tie the game at 7-7.
“The two blocked punts definitely helped change momentum,” said Lusic. “The first blocked punt we didn’t score on, but the second one we finally punched it in, we had a short field and we finally got it in there.
“We made the plays when we had to,” he said.
The game eventually went into overtime, where Amherst got the ball first, and Cullen hit Aleman on a 21-yard touchdown pass to give the Falcons a 14-7 lead.
“They went man-to-man coverage and they tried to press us off the edge,” said Lusic. “And the truth is, we made a mistake on the up front protection and their best player came through free and Lincoln rolled to the left, and then the outside linebacker came off the edge too.
“And Lincoln actually ended up throwing a jump pass for a touchdown to Carmelo,” he said. “Just overall, a great play, and it was great to see.”
Springs got the ball at the Amherst 25 on its overtime possession, and Amherst senior Cyle Zblewski intercepted a pass in the end zone to seal a 14-7 win for the Falcons.
“It was a great overall victory for the team,” said Lusic. “We’re putting it in perspective though, it is Week 2.
“The last couple of years we haven’t had the success (against Springs), we lost one game by three, one game by one, and last year they got our number pretty good,” he said. “But win or lose that game, even when we won in 2015 I said, ‘it’s Week 2.’ And I believe our season starts this week, when we start conference.”