Defense rises to occasion for Germantown gridders in 24-7 win
Warhawks have huge game at Bay on Sept. 6
Like any normal kid, Germantown senior defensive tackle Hunter Higginbotham is not looking forward to the start of school this week.
"No, I am not," he said emphatically after the Warhawks football team's 24-7 home opening win on Aug. 29 over Hartford, "as a good student/athlete, you have to keep the grades up, but really, I'd just like to concentrate on more football."
You can't blame him, as Higginbotham and the rest of the Warhawks defense stifled Hartford to the tune of 188 total yards, improved to 2-0 and set up a smashing North Shore Conference opener on Sept. 6at defending league co-champ Whitefish Bay.
Higginbotham, whose team edged the Blue Dukes last season in a one-point thriller, can't wait.
"It's very important to get off to a start like this," he said. "Everything is going to be at a higher intensity right now so it's very important that we be ready."
Offense needs some fixes
And junior returning quarterback Dwayne Lawhorn, who threw for 121 yards including one pretty 5-yard fade pass for a third quarter score to Nick Holcomb, knows the offense will have to pick up its intensity, too, after a night of fits and starts and three total turnovers.
"It's going to be the first conference game, a very big one," he said, "and you always want to improve, but we know that we have some things that need to be cleaned up and we're going to do that this coming week. We're going to get things fixed."
Coach Jake Davis was relieved that his defense did come to play, as people like Higginbotham, junior defensive end Lincoln Gruber (who had one tremendously smashing hit on a running back in the first half to force a fumble) and senior linebacker Kameron Lau, made their presence felt on numerous occasions this night.
"The defense played very well tonight," Davis said. "They got us out of some tight situations that we put ourselves in....It's good that I can have that trust in the defense, because it gives us a lot of flexibility."
The defense's primary job was protecting a lead because, before a series of mistakes slowed the offense down, it built a 17-0 first half lead.
A four-play opening sequence led to a 34-yard field goal by junior Carter Schmitz and a series later, a five-play 51-yard drive was finished off by a 4-yard run from junior Joe Lemerond. Quinn Fliss (16 carries for 81 yards) cracked a 27-yard run and then Lawhorn hit Schmitz on a 17-yard pass to make it 10-0 in the first quarter.
Return game botches two punts
The Warhawks had trouble fielding punts in the first quarter, botching two and losing one. The recovery gave the Orioles a first down on the Warhawks' 31 but two plays later, Gruber turned in an eviscerating full body slam on an Oriole running back and separated him from the ball.
Its intensity was reminiscent of the kind of blows that 1970s Warhawks great Gary McCardle used to deliver. McCardle is now an assistant coach for Germantown.
Two series later, the Warhawks were up 17-0, as great blocking at the point of attack opened up a cavernous hole for Lemerond (eight carries for 100 yards). He met no initial resistance and was completely in the clear by the time he reached the second level.
He didn't stop running until he had an 88-yard TD run that earned the Warhawks a commanding lead before the first period was over.
And that would prove to be enough. A well-set up 45-yard screen pass in the second quarter gave the Orioles a first and goal at the Germantown one, and quarterback Tommy Noennig snuck it in from there to make it 17-7.
But that would prove to be the high-water point for Noennig, as he would be harassed and harried into a 10-for-30 night for just 114 yards. Warhawks defensive backs Joe Sykora and Holcomb both had interceptions.
Germantown, which had a hard time chunking out a sustained drive in the first half, finished off the scoring in the third quarter with a fine six-play, 78-yard effort that ended in Lawhorn's fade to Holcomb. Fliss had a 21-yard run and Lawhorn hit junior Connor Schulz for 37 yards to set up the score.
"That score helped us breathe a little easier," Davis said, "and doing something like that (finishing a drive) is one of those things that we have to be able to do on a regular basis."
All told, the Warhawks had 195 yards rushing and 326 total yards as Lawhorn finished with seven completions in 14 attempts.
The Warhawks know they will have to, as in the words of their coach, "polish things up" before Bay, because they know it's a game that both sides will have circled.
"We've got to fill in the gaps," Higginbotham said, "because they (the Blue Dukes) will be looking for revenge."
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