The Brown Deer football team is averaging 44 points a game offensively and is 6-0 for a reason.
And, if you ask coach Rob Green about it, he'll note that now-injured stars, quarterback Brett Youngbeck and running back Chris Smith, are only a part of the equation.
Don't get Green or anyone else wrong, Youngbeck has great feet and instincts and his ability to be a real threat makes life much easier for Smith, who was a NOW All-Suburban choice a year ago.
But when forced to play without his dynamic duo in the second half of a soggy and windy night in St. Francis last Friday and facing a stunning 20-13 halftime deficit, Green turned to the guys who he knew would be absolutely essential to bringing the team back.
"I looked to Alex (Williams) and B.J. (Brandon McAfee) and Tory (Dibb), Drew (Jones) and J.T. (Jordan Thompson), the offensive line," Green said. "I just told them that we had to play well no matter who was carrying the ball. These were kids with a lot of pride, and I knew that they'd stand up for one another."
That all-senior unit did just that, sinking the Mariners' hopes for an upset on their homecoming night with an impressive 27-point second-half explosion that led to a 40-20 victory.
"It really became a gut check," Green said. "We had to reach down and become one, become tight. … I just challenged the seniors and they really took over."
The Falcons, with Youngbeck on the sidelines from the start with a knee injury suffered against Pewaukee, turned to sophomore Jake Schimenz to take the reins.
The idea looked good right from the start as Brown Deer grabbed a 13-0 lead in the first quarter on a fearless 27-yard scamper around the edge from Schimenz and then a 30-yard TD pass to Sean Andryauskus from the diminutive but feisty Schimenz.
But when Smith, who has 21 TDs on the season and who rushed for 97 yards on just eight carries Friday, went down with a lower leg injury early in the second quarter, the Falcons were grounded for a time, gaining only 22 yards on their final four possessions of the second quarter.
Further, the Mariners (3-3) found their way through the Brown Deer defense in the second quarter for three straight TDs. And when their senior back Keyon Lawson (22 carries for 84 yards) bulled his way up the middle from seven yards out for a TD with just 19 seconds left in the first half, St. Francis had all the momentum and a 20-13 halftime lead.
But the Falcons never doubted their capabilities.
"We just told ourselves that we had to keep our heads up," said senior linebacker/fullback Scott "Tank" Richardson. "Coach just said that it's 0-0 now and that we couldn't let down."
Richardson had several tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and even rushed for 45 yards on seven carries in a time-consuming fourth-quarter drive.
Brown Deer's first possession in the third quarter would be crucial, and the Falcons made the most of it.
Schimenz, who completed eight of 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in his starting debut, hit Tray Palmer for 34 yards over the middle for a first-and-goal at the St. Francis eight. Two plays later Schimenz, who also had 19 carries for 78 yards and three rushing TDs, swept in from three yards out to make it 20-19.
"That was just awesome to come out like that," said Dibb. "We were just going to work it and not let it go. We came out early and pushed and showed we weren't going to quit."
But Green was still looking for a big play from his defense.
He got it on the next series when sophomore defensive back Pietro D'Amato, who was subbing in for Schimenz in the secondary, jumped an out route and intercepted quarterback Robert Kowalczyk's pass, racing in from 40 yards for the go-ahead TD.
When Schimenz fought his way in for the two-point conversion, Brown Deer was up 27-20 with 8:02 left in the third and had all the momentum it would need.
"Pietro's been working hard, really trying to prove himself," said Green. "His timing was perfect."
But the Falcons weren't done yet. They got another stop and, in just four plays, they found themselves back in the end zone as Schimenz hit end Sean Andryauskyus on a deep-out pattern for 30 yards and another TD with 2:45 left in the third.
Andryauskus had six receptions for 75 yards and two TDs for the game.
Brown Deer forced one more three-and-out series and finished off the scoring with a four-play 38-yard drive. Najee Williams keyed it with a 33-yard run around end and, on a third and goal from the 10, Schimenz brought the ball down and ran it right up the middle for his final TD of the night on the last play of the third period.
The Mariners, who were held to just 38 total yards on 20 plays in the second half, never threatened in the fourth quarter.
Dibb was pleased that the Falcons were able to show that they had character as well as talent.
"This was just wanting to play football," he said. "To be like a family."
A family that stood up itself when times were tough.
Falcons fly in face of adversity
Win clinches second straight state playoff berth
UP NEXT: With the status of Youngbeck and Smith still uncertain, Brown Deer will welcome the breather it gets when it hosts 0-6 St. Thomas More on Friday at 7 p.m. in its homecoming contest. The Cavaliers, who a few years ago, were conference champions, have struggled mightily to say the least, scoring only 22 points all season and allowing 310. It will be the last home game of the regular season for the Falcons.
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