Late score ends season for Falcons
By Greg Seubert
AMHERST – Two different scenes played out Nov. 5 at Heartland Farms Field in Amherst.
In the north end zone, Wittenberg-Birnamwood’s football team celebrated the Chargers’ 29-28 win over Amherst in a WIAA Division 5 Level 3 playoff game.
In the south end zone, Amherst’s players and coaches talked about what could have been another step toward the program’s fourth state championship.
Ben Wesolowski’s two-point conversion pass to Jack Fraaza with 1:26 remaining in the game turned a one-point deficit for the Chargers into a one-point lead.
Fraaza had set Wittenberg-Birnamwood up at the Amherst 1-yard line with a 56-yard run. Wesolowski scored on the next play that cut the Falcons’ 28-21 lead to 28-27.
The Chargers and Falcons play each other during the regular season as members of the Central Wisconsin Conference-Large. Amherst handed the Chargers a 26-19 loss in September and came into the playoff game with an 11-0 record and an 11-game winning streak over Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
Amherst turned the ball over on downs on the game’s opening drive, while the Chargers drove 55 yards and took a 7-0 lead on David Gauderman’s 13-yard run with 4:46 to go in the first quarter.
The Falcons answered with a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. Landon Moe tied the game with a 7-yard pass to Ian Hall and the Falcons took their first lead with 1:17 to go in the first half on Moe’s 12-yard pass to Aidan Jastromski.
The Falcons had an opportunity to add to their lead just before halftime after blocking a punt and taking over at the Chargers’ 4-yard line, but Jordan Landowski intercepted Moe’s pass in the end zone and Amherst had a 14-7 lead at the break.
Both teams opened the second half with a three-and-out drive. The Chargers took their second lead – 15-14 – with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter on Wesolowski’s 5-yard quarterback keeper and his two-point conversion pass to Landowski.
The Falcons also found the end zone on their next drive, as Matthew Glodowski scored from 2 yards out with 2:07 left in the third quarter. The Chargers stopped Moe on the two-point attempt, but the Falcons had a 20-15 lead.
Wittenberg-Birnamwood regained the lead on its next drive. Facing a fourth-and-2, Wesolowski found an opening in the middle of the field and capped a 61-yard drive with a 53-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. His pass on the two-point conversion fell incomplete, but the Chargers had a 21-20 lead.
That lead didn’t last long, however, as Glodowski scored from 4 yards out on the Falcons’ next drive. Moe kept the drive alive with an 11-yard pass to Jake Hoffman on fourth-and-10 that gave the Falcons a first down at the Wittenberg-Birnamwood 15-yard line. Glodowski scored four plays later and added a two-point conversion run that gave Amherst a 28-21 lead with 3:19 to go in the game.
The Chargers started their next drive at their own 20-yard line, but were soon a yard away from the Falcons’ end zone after Fraaza’s 56-yard run.
Wesolowski’s touchdown and two-point conversion pass to Fraaza turned a 28-21 deficit into a 29-28 lead.
An out-of-bounds kickoff gave Amherst the ball at its own 35-yard line, but a sack on fourth-and-20 ended the drive and the Falcons’ season.
Two long runs on the Chargers’ last two drives helped seal the Falcons’ fate, coach Mark Lusic said.
“That just killed us,” he said. “They pounded the ball and we didn’t have much of an answer on two big plays. You can’t do much about it right now.”
Not adding to the lead following the blocked punt late in the first half also hurt, according to Lusic.
“We didn’t make enough plays when it counted,” he said. “They made one more play than we did.”
The Chargers will now face Aquinas, a 38-14 winner of St. Croix Falls in another Level 3 game, at 7 p.m. Nov. 12, in a Level 4 matchup in Wisconsin Rapids.
The loss ended the Falcons’ season at 11-1.
“I love coaching them,” Lusic said. “This senior class is a special class. I’ve known a lot of these kids since they were 5, 6 years old. None of us thought we’d be going home right now.”