Is history being made by the South Milwaukee football program?
Veteran coach John Galewski will wait and see.
"I can't remember the last time we've been 4-0," said Galewski moments after the Rockets pitched a 15-0 second half shutout en route to beating visiting Woodland Conference rival Brown Deer, 29-14 Friday night. "We're in uncharted territory."
But that territory has a chance to expand, thanks to strong and determined effort by the Rocket offensive line and a revitalized effort by the defense that limited the Falcons to just 16 total yards on the first four possessions in the second half after Brown Deer had gained over 270 in the first half.
Add into the fact that Brown Deer had three turnovers that the Rockets turned into 14 points, and Falcon coach Rob Green had an easy explanation why his young team (just 15 seniors) fell from the unbeaten ranks (3-1) tonight.
"The turnover bug got us tonight," he said. "In a game like this, the turnover battle is always going to be a huge factor. We fought and we fought but we couldn't keep giving them short fields like we did."
And Green had other worries, as all-world junior quarterback Zack Baun went down late in the game with an injury.
Baun had driven the Rockets crazy in the first half. He connected with Devante Jackson on a beautiful deep out pass that went 80-yards for a touchdown to tie the score with just seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Then just seconds after the Rockets' Xavier Bitseedy had finished off a 68-yard drive with a three-yard run for score to make it 14-7 South Milwaukee midway through the second quarter, Baun proved once again why he's become the toast of the Milwaukee area with over 600 rushing yards in just three games.
He pulled down the ball, went up the middle cut to the right, evaded a couple of people, broke a couple of hand tackles, and when people were closing in on him, cut back to the middle once again to complete an 80-yard run for the tieing TD.
Baun would finish with 168 yards on 17 carries.
"On some plays we needed to have all 11 of our guys in front of him," said Galewski.
And after the Falcons' Maurice Lucre stifled an attempt by the Rockets to seize the lead back late in the half with a diving interception at the Brown Deer 11-yard line, one could sense that momentum was on the Falcons' side. It was the third time Brown Deer had turned back the Rockets within striking distance in the half.
"We just had a hard time containing number seven (Baun)," said Galewski. "Such great speed and we just didn't wrap up. Atr halftime we focused on getting more guys consistently to the ball."
And they succeeded.
The game remained tied at the half and through four possessions of the second session, it was still so, but then South Milwaukee safety Ben Zbikowski made a diving interception of a Baun out pass at the Falcon 25.
And five plays later, the Rockets had the lead for good when upback and co-captain Zach Simuncak plowed up the middle from one yard out for a TD at the 1:43 mark of the third quarter.
More good fortune shined on the Rockets a moment later, when the extra point snap to holder Mitchell Dess was high and it was clear that there was going to be no kick.
But Dess didn't lose his head, quickly picking up the ball, rolling to his left and throwing a floater of a pass that found the hands of teammate Mike Wierman for a two-point conversion and a 22-14 advantage.
"The snap was bad, but Mitchell ran the emergency play well and we were able to get something out of it," said Galewski.
But despite a three and out on its next possession, Brown Deer succeeded in staying in the game. Another South Milwaukee drive ended in a missed a field goal midway through the fourth quarter and so it was still a one-possession game.
However, the Rocket defense rose to the occasion again, and shortly thereafter Baun was hurt. Just after that, the Rockets put the clinching squeeze on this game driving 57 yards in six plays. Co-captain Allen Walter ran for 24 yards on one play and then Ian Pribyl stormed his way up the middle the final 10 yards for the score with just 2:04 left to play.
With that final push, the Rockets ended their powerhouse rushing night with 251 yards on 54 carries as Pribyl had 21 carries for 117 yards and Walter eight for 90. Galewski was impressed with his team's stamiuna.
"The offensive line has been a work in progress," said Galewski, "but it is coming along. We're not a two-platoon team so we have a lot of guys going two ways (up-front)."
Quarterback Justin Oliden did his part for South Milwaukee with a drive-sustaining nine of 15 passing effort for 145 yards and end Andrew Plewa caught seven of those balls for 100 yards. Oliden added a 10-yard run for touchdown in the first quarter that finished off an eight-play, 52-yard drive.
Brown Deer will likely get its depth tested in the coming weeks too, as there were other injuries this night too for the Falcons.
"The defense played well for long stretches," Green said, "but in the end, their offensive line just pounded on us. Hopefully, those kids (hurt) will bounce back and so will the rest of us. The sun will hopefully rise again for us."
That concept appears to be certainty in the near future for the Rockets as their future looks very bright. They entered the season as Woodland Eastern Division favorites and did nothing to dispell that notion this evening.
"Let's put this way, we're 4-0 and we haven't been here in awhile," said Galewski, "but we've got good leadership and it's nice to see that we can do things like this."
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