Seeing as this was a Germantown-Cedarburg football game and that many an odd and thrilling finish has occured in the last 15 years of this spirited rivalry, one should not have been surprised at how strangely things turned out Friday on the Bulldogs' home field when the two teams met again.
The youthful but talented visiting Warhawks had broken an 8-8 halftime tie with the help of a quarterback sneak touchdown by Dwayne Lawhorn, Jr., and a 33-yard field goal Carter Schmitz.
Furthermore, they were threatening to build on their seemingly comfortable 18-8 lead with a drive that had reached the Bulldog 36 with just 9:16 left in the game.
But in the space of just six plays and 2:13 on the clock, momentum had shifted dramatically, as Cedarburg seized a 22-18 lead and would withstand a later Warhawk threat to hold onto a critical North Shore Conference victory.
Three Bulldog interceptions in the final four Germantown possessions would help seal the deal.
It marked the third significant outcome in as many weeks in a roller-coaster of a league that looks like it will go down to the wire on the final night of Oct. 12 as both Germantown and Cedarburg are 2-1 in league play and 3-1 overall.
"It's not fun to give away a game like we did tonight," said Warhawk coach Jake Davis. "We just didn't have a lot of good reads tonight, but give them credit, they have a good secondary. It just didn't go our way."
Cedarburg coach Brian Leair, whose team was coming off a discouraging 38-8 thumping at the hands of Whitefish Bay the week before, credited his team resolve down the stretch for making things happen.
"We did have our backs against the wall," he said, "but unlike last week, we didn't lose our focus or get back on our heels. We focused on being tough down the stretch and we were."
It started right at that 9:16 mark when Bulldog linebacker Jon Kallas snagged Lawhorn's quick slant pass for a pick on a third and six play. The Bulldogs added 15 yards for a Germantown personal foul and were in business at the Warhawk 49.
It took them only three plays to get back into the game as all-world receiver Matt Johnson made a great read on a Mike Mojica pass deep downfield for 35 yards.
Two plays later, back Hudson Walton (27 carries for 102 yards) crashed over from three yards out and the margin was cut to 18-15 with 8:28 left.
Just three more plays later Cedarburg would have the lead for good as sophomore defensive back Jonathan Stiever detoured a Lawhorn sideline pass and raced 30 yards free and clear down the sideline for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:01 remaining.
"He's just another one of our sophomores who have been out there making plays for us," said Leai of Stiever.
But as said, seeing as this was a Germantown-Cedarburg game, things weren't quite down yet.
A special teams gaffe' left the Warhawks stuck back on their three-yard line after the subsequent kickoff. But Lawhorn found his bearings and led Germantown 70 yards downfield. A high-level, gritty 39-yard catch and run by end Cole Karcz got the ball to the Bulldog 29.
But that's where the drive would stall, as a critical drop of a well-thrown Lawhorn pass that would have converted a fourth and eight situation gave the ball back to Cedarburg with just 4:35 left.
With the help of Walton, the Bulldogs ground out three precious first downs, forced the Warhawks to burn their final two timeouts and gave Germantown only 47 seconds to cover 80 yards if it were to win the game.
Germantown gave it a game run, but with only seconds remaining a deep Lawhorn bomb was intercepted yet again by Cedarburg defensive back Jake Wallock as time ran out.
It was a disappointing night for Davis, whose team won the yardage battle 289-256 and wasted a career night by senior running back Tyler Baran (27 carries for 170 yards).
The 4-1 loss in the turnover battle simply could not be overcome, as Davis noted that top receiver senior Jason Townsend was unavailable to play this night for reasons he declined to discuss.
"We have to shore some things up," Davis said. "Our offensive line was one big positive. We had challenged them and they played well, but now we have to see what we're made of and how we respond as a team."
"This is a good conference and we know what we're in for every night we play. We have to go out and compete and not rely on other teams to do our work for us. I just told the guys, let it hurt for a night and then go out and control your own destiny."
Something that Leair now understands as his team now has a solid pulse in the North Shore race.
"I was really happy with how our kids responded," he said. "Especially with how our offense was able to jump on things when the defense cranked it up. This was a tough one. It took physical plays to get the win."
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