By Mike Ramczyk
The Catholic Central football coaches have been giving junior defensive back Tyler Burzawa a hard time all season.
Burzawa, a gifted pass catcher and ball hawk in the secondary, never goes for the interception in practice.
Friday night against Fall River in a WIAA Division 7 Level 2 playoff game, Burzawa decided it was finally time – and it paid huge dividends.
After his timing was a split second off for an interception attempt earlier in the game, the dynamic playmaker didn’t miss late in the fourth quarter with his team clinging to a 14-0 lead.
Burzawa jumped in front of a deep out for the pick, raced 36 yards down the right sideline and cut it back to put the icing on the cake of the Toppers’ 20-0 victory.
Top-seeded Fall River (10-1) came in undefeated and had beaten opponents by more than 20 points per game this season.
After a 0-0 tie at the half, Burzawa, Cole Kresken, Ben Heiligenthal and a turned-up defense held Fall River to three and out after three and out.
Burzawa’s pivotal pick-6 was fitting for a defense that shut down Fall River’s high-powered attack all game.
“Coach Aldrich always preaches defense,” Burzawa said after the game. “We changed to a Cover-2 after playing man in the first half. Coaches always make fun of me because I never break on the ball. But it was a team effort. Our defense has two shutouts in three weeks. We’ve been clicking.”
Head coach Tom Aldrich said Fall River is a good football team.
“You don’t think about what their seed is,” he said. “It’s a battle out there in the playoffs. The kids executed in the second half. We wanted to get the kids to believe in themselves at halftime. Mentally, we thought we had an advantage because we’ve been in close games, and they haven’t.”
In the third quarter, Nolan McCourt came up with a huge blocked punt to give the Toppers a short field. Kresken, a sophomore, did the rest, barreling in from six yards out to make it 7-0 with 8:35 left in the third quarter.
Only three minutes later, Heiligenthal, a sophomore quarterback, hit Burzawa on a short pass and the 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior put on a juke clinic before finding the end zone on a 72-yard score.
“He turned on the jets,” Aldrich said of Burzawa. “When Tyler gets in space, he’s fast and dangerous.”
Though the Toppers racked up 223 total yards, they held Fall River to a mere 222. Central even overcame six penalties.
Kresken led the boys with 52 yards rushing, and Burzawa finished with 92 receiving yards on four catches.
Heiligenthal was 5-for-11 for 98 yards.
Adam Oehlers, Kresken and Jeff Stemper combined for a workmanlike 125 rushing yards for the Toppers, many of which involved broken tackles and tough, downhill running.
Catholic Central’s upset victory sets up a rematch against second-seeded Lake Country Lutheran (10-1). The Toppers (7-4) fell in Week 2 at LCL, but this time there may be no home-field advantage.
Lutheran has no lights at its field, so it can’t host a night playoff game.
The Level 3 contest, meaning there are only eight teams left in Division 4, will take place either Friday or Saturday.
“They beat us early,” Aldrich said. “But that’s in the past. We’ve improved, they’ve improved.”
Expect either a Saturday matinee in Hartford or a Friday night showdown at a neutral field.
Check www.myracinecounty.com, follow @mikeramczyk17 on Twitter and like the Standard Press Sports Facebook page for playoff updates.
Waterford 14, South Milwaukee 7
About eight miles northeast in Waterford, the Wolverines also used a big second half to pull off a dramatic, last-second triumph.
Senior running back Jake Bauer scored the game-winner with 35 seconds left to help the Wolverines advance to the third round of the Division 2 playoffs for the second time in three years.
Waterford forced a fumble and recovered on South Milwaukee’s last drive to seal the deal.
The victory moves Waterford (9-2) into the state quarterfinals against Waukesha West (9-2) at Waukesha West Nov. 8.
Waukesha West overcame a 14-6 deficit to handle Whitefish Bay, 28-14, Friday night.
Waterford quarterback Dylan Malecki hit Justin Steffens on a bubble screen, and Steffens scurried into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:36 to play.
With under a minute to play, Bauer returned a punt all the way down to the South Milwaukee 1-yard line. After Stone Nycz was stuffed on first down, Bauer, who ran for 100 yards in his five previous games, pounded it in.
Bauer finished with 85 rushing yards on 27 carries.
Other area playoff scores
Milwaukee Marquette 14, Lake Geneva Badger 3
Walworth Big Foot 38, Clinton 7
Mukwonago 35, Sun Prairie 30
Franklin 17, Kenosha Indian Trail 14
Waukesha West 28, Whitefish Bay 14