Burlington rusher Zach Wallace drags a Badger defender attempting to gain extra yards during the Demons’ 40-37 defeat of host Lake Geneva Sept. 20 (Rick Benavides/Standard Press).

Late defensive stop key to defeating Badger

By Jason Arndt

Burlington rusher Zach Wallace had a hunch his team’s Southern Lakes Conference meeting at Lake Geneva Badger would be a high-scoring affair.

The junior’s guess came true, with both teams scoring a combined 77 points. The Demons prevailed with a 40-37 conference victory to stay unbeaten (5-0, 3-0 SLC) last Friday.

“I knew it was going to be close and figured it was going to be high-scoring,” said Wallace. “I thought if we scored over 40, we would win, and we were right at 40.”

The victory, however, boiled down to the last 30 seconds of the clash with the Demons making a critical stop on defense.

With less than 30 seconds left, and Badger in possession at the Burlington 23-yard line, Badger quarterback Grant DuMez saw his pass on fourth and long broken up by multiple Demons along the left sideline.

Burlington head coach Steve Tenhagen, who admits Friday’s contest was entertaining to watch, was simply relieved his defense came through when it mattered the most.

“Both teams got the ball up and down the field throughout the night, it makes for exciting football, there is no doubt about that. I am sure the fans enjoyed watching it,” he said. “We were just fortunate and happy that we were able to come out and make some plays down the stretch.”

The key defensive stop came after the Demons scored the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning touchdown, on the previous drive.

On the first play of the drive, senior Dalton Damon tossed a screen to Wallace, who raced 48 yards downfield to the Lake Geneva 22-yard line while breaking free from seven Badger defenders.

Three plays later, 6-foot-7 senior Dylan Runkel, caught an 11-yard pass from Damon in the left corner of the end zone to give Burlington a 40-37 lead with 5:37 left of regulation.

Runkel had 104 yards receiving on four catches, including two touchdowns, and Damon produced another stellar game.

He completed 11 of 18 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 63 yards on 15 carries.

“Those two did a nice job tonight,” Tenhagen said about the Damon-Runkel connection, adding all of his receivers performed well. “We feel that way about all of our receivers. We really got a nice core of guys out there that can get open and catch the ball.”

Wallace, who had 10 carries for 63 yards, also finished with three catches for 64 yards.

Burlington seeks to continue its streak on Friday at Delavan-Darien (2-3, 1-2 SLC). The Comets defeated Union Grove 22-21 on Sept. 20.

Capitalizing on turnovers
Meanwhile, for Badger, which accounted for 507 total offensive yards, head coach Matt Hensler acknowledged his team struggled with ball control and penalties.

“Too many penalties, too many turnovers,” he said. “We had a lot of penalties. It was sloppy.”

Burlington opened with possession at its own 27-yard line and did not gain a yard after two offensive plays, but capitalized on a Badger pass interference. The penalty pushed the football 15 yards up field to set up Runkel’s first touchdown on a 58-yard haul to make it 7-0.

On the ensuing possession, Badger pushed the ball 48 yards to the Burlington 18-yard line, where Runkel recovered a Cole Gabor-Pullen fumble.

The Demons responded with an 82-yard scoring drive capped off by a Wallace touchdown catch to pull them ahead 13-0 following a failed kick.

Lake Geneva, however, responded in the second quarter with Gabor-Pullen scoring two touchdowns to pull ahead 15-13.

Gabor-Pullen, who amassed 188 yards on 21 carries, scored on 1- and 12-yard runs.

Sophomore backup quarterback Kegan Huber’s two-point pass to sophomore Tyler Deleskiewicz following the 12-yard score gave the Badgers a two-point advantage.

The Demons responded in the next possession, thanks to Otto Traxinger’s 38-yard catch to make it a 19-15 contest following a blocked kick conversion.

Then, after Burlington junior Simon Rigert recovered an onside kick, the Demons extended their lead to 26-15 on a 2-yard Damon touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the first half.

Burlington continues to battle
The Demons seemingly had an answer for nearly every Badger touchdown in the second half.

DuMez, who rushed for a game-high 209 yards on 19 carries, opened the third quarter with a 40-yard touchdown run. DuMez then ran in for a two-point conversion to cut the Badger deficit to 26-23.

Burlington, however, responded with a Damon 4-yard touchdown run on the next possession to make it a 33-23 contest.

But Badger battled back, thanks to a 20-yard touchdown run by Gabor-Pullen. The score took Lake Geneva into the fourth quarter trailing 33-30.

Badger then took its second lead of the contest with a 9-yard touchdown run by junior Tannor Garrels with a 7:37 left of regulation.

The Demons took possession on their own 35-yard line on the ensuing drive and pushed the ball up field to the Badger 11-yard line, where Damon found Runkel in the end zone for the decisive score.

“It feels amazing, they have been a big rival,” Runkel said about his team’s win. “It feels great to beat them.”

See the Sept. 26 Standard Press for the full story