WIAA PLAYOFFS: Brookfield East 24, Burlington 0

Demons held to 3 yards per carry against elite Spartan defense

Josh Letkewicz and a Brookfield East player hustle for the football after Zach Anderson (32) stripped running back Donovan Hunt in the second half. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

For 24 minutes Friday, Oct. 19, the Burlington Demons football team was poised for an upset.

But only three plays later, Donovan Hunt made sure the host Brookfield East Spartans would send the sparsely-populated bleacher section home happy.

Quarterback Sam McGath fired a deep ball down the left sideline, and Hunt, a multi-purpose back every bit as skilled at running as receiving, leapt high over the outstretched arms of a Burlington defender, came down and jogged the rest of the 25 yards into the end zone for a 14-0 lead in what ended in a 24-0 victory.

With the way East’s large, imposing defensive line and athletic, fast backers and secondary was playing, it was going to take perfect football and maybe a little luck for the Demons to catch up.

East fans and moms on the sideline said the overall quiet atmosphere for a playoff game may have reflected Milwaukee-area sports lovers flocking to the Brewers playoff game, or the fact that East’s Super Bowl would come in Level 2 against rival Brookfield Central and the team was possibly overlooking Burlington, a school 35 miles away.

 

A frustrating night

For Burlington head coach Steve Tenhagen, it was a frustrating night for an offense that put up 47 points the prior week.

“It’s tough,” he said minutes after the game on the field. “They’re a darn good football team, and they showed it tonight.”

“When you play good defenses like this, you have to put 8, 10, 12 plays in a row together. Our defense did a great job to get us through the first half and came up with the stops.”

Mistakes defined the game, as Burlington was stopped on 4th-and-1 twice – once on the first drive inside the Spartans’ 20, and another that killed the Demons’ final comeback attempt in the fourth quarter.

Forced to pass first the entire second half based on the scoreboard and the inability to run between the tackles, Burlington junior quarterback Dalton Damon was intercepted twice in the middle of the field by East linebacker Cam McDonald.

Hunt followed his acrobatic touchdown catch with a game-sealing rushing scamper late in the game.

The East senior burst through the line untouched and cut it outside for a big gain.

Sixty-five yards later, he was tackled in the end zone by a hustling Jack Hartzell, but it was too late.

The 21-0 lead was essentially insurmountable, as the ensuing possession saw a 40-yard leaping catch by Lucas Zasada, only to be followed by Damon’s second pick.

 

Program in good hands

Burlington senior Julian Luciano, finally healthy after missing half the season with an injury, talked after the game about a memorable four years.

“It was a good ride,” he said. “It was the best time of my life, these four years of football. I’ve got nothing but love for everyone in this program. They’re trending upward, and they got the right guys.”

“They’ll be good the next few years.”

For Nick Webley, who missed the final five games with a broken leg but still finished in the top 20 in the state in touchdown catches with 10, reflected on two strong varsity seasons where team captains like he and Luciano changed the culture of the program.

“I’ve been playing for four years, and there’s nothing quite like Friday Night Lights,” Webley said. “It sucks that it has to end.”

Webley will get his leg re-evaluated in two weeks, where it will be determined if the crutch-ridden athlete can start rehab.

“It should be about five or six months, so I’m aiming for track,” Webley said.

 

An unbreakable bond

Luciano, who intends to play college football, said being on the Demons was about more than just winning or putting up numbers.

“The brotherhood, I know it’s cliché, but some of us wouldn’t talk to us if it wasn’t for football,” Luciano said. “Now we hang out and eat lunch together every day.”

“We’ve created a bond that’s unforgettable,” Webley added.

Tenhagen is proud of his group of 17 seniors, and wishes them well in future endeavors.

He twice alluded to the team’s back-to-back playoff appearances, something that hasn’t happened since the Southeast Conference days of 2005-06.

“It’s something to build on,” Tenhagen said. “This group of seniors bought in. I’m proud of that commitment. Hopefully, that continues to pave the way moving forward.”

Wallace was held to 32 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Damon totaled 194 yards passing, 90 of which went to Zasada on six catches.

Luciano added 46 yards receiving on five catches.

The Demons committed three turnovers to East’s one.

The Spartans ran for 265 yards, led by McDonald’s 119 on 10 carries.

Hunt added 116 yards on 18 carries.

East outgained the Demons, 377-270.

 

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