Demons open postseason Friday in Brookfield

Underclassmen Dalton Damon (junior, left) and Zach Wallace (sophomore) have stepped up in the absence of star receiver Nick Webley, but will it be enough to knock off 2016 Division 2 state champion Brookfield East? (Dwight Beuthling/SLN)

 

For the second straight season, the road was anything but smooth for Steve Tenhagen and the Burlington Demon football team.

In 2017, a team spearheaded by multi-dimensional athletes Grant Tully and Nick Klug battled through injuries to Klug and came out on the back end virtually unscathed, only to finish 6-3 for the first time in 10 years but fall to rival Waterford in overtime thanks to an unfortunate playoff draw.

Tenhagen, in his fifth season with Burlington, had a goal to earn a home game in 2018, and one would think a 7-2 record, his best with the Demons and second-best of his 10-year head coaching career, would be enough.

But people don’t exactly realize how strong Division 2 football is in this part of the state.

Not only is Burlington grouped in a bracket with two Southern Lakes teams that beat it during the regular season, No. 2 Waterford and No. 3 Wilmot, but also the fifth-seeded Demons must deal with former state champions Waukesha West (6), Brookfield Central (1) and Brookfield East (4), the 2016 WIAA Division 2 champion.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday night in what is sure to be a cold, blustery Wisconsin fall night, and BEAST, or B-East, as the locals like to say, certainly brings an impressive pedigree.

While the Demons faced the Lakes, the Spartans battled perhaps the second-best football conference in the state this fall, with undefeated Milwaukee Marquette, a Division 1 powerhouse, along with second-place Central, a D2 multiple-time state winner.

East’s three losses came to the Greater Metro hierarchy along with a blowout loss to Muskego (9-0), the third-ranked team in the state in Division 1.

Burlington, fresh off a dominant 47-21 victory over Elkhorn to close the regular season, must deal with a 1,000-yard rusher in Donovan Hunt and Sam McGath, who ran for more than 600 yards.

East’s quarterback threw for 500 yards, and it looks like the Spartans win with the traditional high school staples of defense and run game.

“They are big and physical and feature three good backs,” said Tenhagen, who was under the weather Tuesday. “It will be a good test. We wanted the 4, and our goal was to host a game.”

“We’ve needed other kids to step up without Nick Webley, and I think we’ve done that.”

It won’t be easy going into a hostile playoff road environment without the 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior Webley, the only person on the 50-man Demon roster that could run a 4.5 40-yard dash.

Webley broke a bone in his lower leg in a 24-0 victory over Westosha Central about one month ago, and the Demons have been forced to switch things up a bit offensively.

While a 38-0 loss at Wilmot where Tenhagen said everything that could go wrong went wrong hurt the Demons’ seeding chances, Burlington bounced back in resounding fashion last Friday, picking up a huge win at home against a game Elkhorn squad.

“That won’t happen again,” Tenhagen said of the Wilmot debacle. “No doubt we’re a better team. Against Elkhorn, we changed our focus. In the last three quarters we really responded.”

Much like in Wilmot, Burlington stumbled from the jump against the Elks, trailing 8-0 after one quarter.

But that woke up a sleeping giant, as the Demon offense exploded for 28 second-quarter points and tacked on 19 in the second half to cruise to victory.

The defense only allowed 13 points in garbage time in the fourth quarter, but the score wasn’t as close as it states.

“We’re a little bit different of a team now, without Nick,” Tenhagen said. “We’re running the football more, and Lucas Sazada is stepping up and having a great year. The kids have done a good job. It’s big to get things back on track.”

Burlington racked up 534 total yards and held the Elks to only 241.

Quarterback Dalton Damon was stellar, firing three touchdown passes of 48, 25 and 23 yards to Sazada, who Tenhagen says has developed into a true No. 1 wideout.

Damon added a rushing score to go along with two from Zach Wallace and one from Zach Anderson.

Damon finished 11-for-17 through the air with 188 yards and ran for 107 yards on 13 carries.

Wallace, a sophomore, gained 141 by land on 20 carries, and Anderson added 59 yards, including a 35-yard burst late.

It will be a tall task for Burlington to pull the upset Friday, but the Demons still have an elite passing attack for a high school team, and anything can happen in the playoffs.

 

FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS

Last week: 8-0

Season: 71-23

 

WIAA PLAYOFFS (all game Friday, 7 p.m.)

 

Brookfield East 24, Burlington 21

Mukwonago 42, Lake Geneva Badger 21

Wilmot 20, Waukesha West 19

Waterford 50, Milwaukee Reagan 14

East Troy 17, New Berlin West 15

Palmyra-Eagle 33, Mayville 27

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