Two late Webley touchdowns highlight comeback victory

Isaac Reda (34) and Christian Brenner (22) embrace moments after Burlington’s 27-20 victory over Badger Friday night, along with Jake Skrundz (3). (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

BURLINGTON – A physical dogfight turned into fourth quarter fireworks Friday night at Burlington High School, and the Demon football team used a late rally sparked by more Nick Webley brilliance and crucial defensive stops to knock off Lake Geneva Badger for the first time in two decades.

Down 20-13 with less than 7 minutes to play, Burlington rallied for 14 unanswered points to pull out a dramatic 27-20 victory and remain undefeated on the season (4-0).

The victory removed the giant Badger monkey from the Demons’ back. Lake Geneva Badger and Burlington rejoined the Southern Lakes Conference in 2009, and Badger head coach Matt Hensler had beaten the Demons nine straight seasons.

You would have to go back all the way to the Tony Romo days of 1996, when Burlington and Badger were still in the SLC before the Demons left for the Southeast Conference, to find the last time the Demons beats the Badgers.

But Friday night was a different story, as the defending conference champion Badgers remained winless (0-4, 0-2 SLC) thanks to a Webley touchdown with 2:46 to play followed by a game-clinching Jack Hartzell interception.

“It feels great,” said Burlington head coach Steve Tenhagen, who was Romo’s top receiver the last time Burlington beat Badger. “I’m happy for our guys. We battled. It’s a game of momentum, and we knew they were a good football team. I’m so glad the way our kids responded. We came up with that big stop when they had the ball deep in our territory, that held them to a field goal and kept them from going up two scores.”

“And our offense made some plays down the stretch. We had a couple wrinkles within our scheme that we used with Webley in the fourth quarter, and it worked out well for us.”

Webley saves best for last

Webley, who muffed a punt inside his own 10-yard line late in the second quarter that allowed Badger to score on a short run and take a 7-0 lead, certainly got his redemption late in the game after being double-covered and mauled most of the contest.

His first catch of the game was of the diving variety on a 40-yard bomb from Dalton Damon on 4th-and-10, and Zach Wallace scored from six yards out on the next play to give Burlington its first lead, 13-10, late in the third quarter.

But Lake Geneva answered with a touchdown and was threatening to break the game wide open, up 17-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Badger running back Mitch Rife, who busted off a 60-yard run earlier in the second half, added a 49-yard run down the right sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the 9 by a hustling Webley.

Burlington’s run defense stepped up, and a third-down stuff with goal to go at the 9 by Luis Guevara and Webley set up a 26-yard Josh Taddeo field goal.

The Demons dodged a major bullet, and their second goal-line stance in the second half set the stage for Webley.

Badger’s strategy for stopping Webley, who has been the most dominant receiver in the area by far this season, was simply to double-team him and not let him catch anything, even if it meant a pass interference penalty.

Tenhagen got creative in his play-calling, and Webley, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior captain that runs a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, did the rest only 13 seconds after the field goal.

Benefiting from rare man-to-man coverage, Webley caught a short out route and stopped on a dime, faking out his flailing defender. Then, Webley went from 0 to 100 in a split-second, out-sprinting the Badger secondary for a 65-yard touchdown to tie the game at 20-20.

“Obviously, we know we have a dynamic player in Nick,” Tenhagen said. “We moved him around a little bit, and we were looking for the right time to use him in different coverages. He was single-covered, and we knew we had to get him the ball as soon as we could. I thought he was going to be double-covered, and he wasn’t. I knew we had big-play potential, and when he gets in the open field, he’s pretty dangerous.”

Webley said the players knew they had to play better in the second half after trailing 7-6 at the half.

“I started off a little slow, and I got a little frustrated,” he said. “But our run game was working pretty well. They put me in the slot, and it screwed up their defense. I made a move, and it set up the score.”

Muffed punt sets up game-winner

Burlington’s defensive intensity continued on the ensuing drive, when the Demons forced a 3-and-out and Badger punt from its own 40. But the snap was low, and the ball trickled past the punter.

Brian Konz tackled the kicker, and Dylan Runkel recovered the fumble to set up Burlington deep inside Badger territory with about three minutes left.

“Our defense put us in really good field position,” said senior lineman Taylon Hensley. “Thank God he has those long arms to pick that ball up.”

Damon, who led the Demons with 73 rushing yards, picked up two short, tough first down runs to set up Burlington inside the Badger 10.

After a Badger timeout, Tenhagen dipped into the playbook for something the team hadn’t run all season, and it paid off.

Lined up at running back alongside Damon in shotgun formation, Webley caught a quick screen and bolted upfield nine yards to give Burlington the decisive score, 27-20, with 2:46 left to play.

“They actually wanted me to bounce it out, but I saw the alley up the middle and I had to take it,” Webley said. “It was fantastic blocking.”

“We knew we were going to it at some point during that drive,” Tenhagen said. “Big games, you put in little wrinkles like that to get Nick the ball. We made some nice blocks out on the edge. Brian Konz got a great block. They were looking for Nick and couldn’t find him. That’s what we were hoping.”

Burlington needed one more stop. After three runs went nowhere, Badger faced a 4th-and-4 from its own 26.

Quarterback Connor Clifford attempted a slant pass to the left which would’ve been enough for a first down, but Hartzell jumped the route and snagged an interception, his second in as many weeks.

“I was expecting a short pass, but I just stuck in my back-pedal and saw the ball was underthrown, so I jumped on it,” Hartzell said. “I tried to make a play on the ball, and as soon as I got it, it was exciting.”

“I remember coming to watch my brother play Badger when he was in high school. Badger’s always a tough team, and ever since then, I’ve always wanted to beat them on this field.”

Webley finished with three catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. He now has more than 500 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns in four games.

Damon scored a rushing touchdown before halftime and was 7-for-18 for 176 yards passing.

Wallace added 57 yards on 11 carries and caught two passes for 51 yards.

Rife led all rushers with 142 yards on 12 carries. Burlington out-gained Badger only by four yards, 315-311, but the Demons averaged 7.5 yards per play to Lake Geneva’s 5.7.

Though Burlington won, Badger possessed the ball for a whopping 29 minutes compared to Burlington’s 18.

Chemistry, leadership fueling perfect season

“We don’t give up,” Konz said. “We don’t want to lose. We’re looking at a conference championship, and we’re going to do everything we can to get it.”

Hensley, one of four returning seniors on the offensive line, said the chemistry has been there with these seniors for a long time.

“I think this team is very special,” Hensley said. “Overall, we’re a better team than the last couple years.”

“I think we got the line, we got the athletes, we got the defense, we got everybody. We’ve been playing together since sixth grade, and I think we’ve always had that chemistry going. We’re brothers.”

Webley said last year’s seniors have taught this year’s seniors strong lessons on team chemistry, which he says impacts the play on the field.

“It’s important to play these games,” Tenhagen said. “You’re not going to win every game by 14 or 21 points. For us to grind it out and come back, you’re looking at first and goal on the 9, down 4, if they go in and score, who knows if you have enough time to come back. I’m just proud of our kids, it was a great win for us.”