There will be no return trip to state for the Amherst football team.
The Falcons saw their season end Nov. 15 with a 28-21 loss to Stanley-Boyd in a Division 5 state semifinal game at D.C. Everest High School in Schofield.
Amherst’s season ended at 11-2, while the 13-0 Orioles will take on another unbeaten team – Lancaster – at 4 p.m. today (Thursday, Nov. 21) for the Division 5 championship at Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium. Amherst defeated Lancaster last year to win the school’s first state football title.
It looked at first like the Falcons were well on their way to defending their 2012 championship after scoring on its first two possessions and taking a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Colton Boelte recovered Ronny Ponick’s fumble on the first play of the game to set Amherst up at the S-B 12-yard line. Connor Zblewski took it in from a yard out and the Falcons led 7-0 1:23 into the game.
After holding the Orioles to a three-and-out on their next drive, Amherst needed only five plays to go 86 yards, with Zblewski scoring from 4 yards out after a 60-yard run on the previous play.
The Orioles got on the board with 10:11 to go in the first half on Zach Turner’s 42-yard fumble recovery. The Falcons drove to the S-B 18-yard line on their next drive, but turned the ball over on downs. Amherst got the ball back on the next play, however, as Joel Oney recovered Tyler Sorensen’s fumble on a sack to set the Falcons up at the Oriole 16-yard line. Zblewski found the end zone three plays later from 8 yards out with 3:09 to go in the half, but that would turn out to be Amherst’s final touchdown of the season.
Ponick made up for his early fumble with a 34-yard TD a minute before halftime to cap a nine-play, 73-yard drive to make it 21-14 at halftime.
“The touchdown before the half hurt a little bit,” coach Mark Lusic said. “We kind of went into the locker room deflated, like we were losing the game.”
Zblewski piled up 158 rushing yards on 20 carries in the first half, but it was a different story in the second half. The Orioles took him out of Amherst’s offensive game plan by holding him to 3 yards on four carries in the second half.
“We came out flat and couldn’t move the ball,” Lusic said. “We were looking like we were down, but we were up. We kept telling the kids, ‘Hey, we’re all right. Let’s go.’”
Meanwhile, the Orioles begin chipping away at Amherst’s lead. S-B punter Jamie Hoffstatter pinned the Falcons on their 1-yard line and the Oriole defense tackled Zblewski in the end zone on the next play for a safety.
“That hurt,” Lusic said. “They made a play and we didn’t. What are you going to do? You can’t say a whole lot about that. They made more plays than we did.”
The Orioles took the lead for good on their next drive, as Craig Mason scored on a 1-yard run with 5:49 to go in the third quarter to make it a 22-21 game. S-B went for two, but Wyatt Brooks batted Sorenson’s pass down.
Mason recovered a fumbled pitch to end Amherst’s next drive at the Falcon 39-yard line, but S-B turned the ball over on downs. After forcing another three-and-out, the Orioles soon had the ball again and drove 66 yards in seven plays, with Sorenson connecting with Turner for a 10-yard TD pass on fourth down with 9:57 to go in the game.
The two-point attempt failed again, but the Orioles had a 28-21 lead.
Zak Ingersoll ended Amherst’s next drive with an interception, but the Orioles punted and the Falcons had the ball on their own 37-yard line with 4:16 remaining. The Falcons ended up turning the ball over on downs after Hunter Klapperich batted down Garrett Groshek’s pass to his brother, Garth Groshek.
The Falcon defense forced a three-and-out and Amherst had the ball again on its own 15-yard line with 2:55 remaining in the game. Garrett Groshek kept the drive alive with a 4-yard run on fourth-and-3 and Garth Groshek wrestled Dusty Spaeth for the ball for a first-down catch to set the Falcons up at the S-B 36-yard line. However, a sack and a pair of incomplete passes set up a fourth-and-17. Groshek found his brother for another reception, but he came up a yard short of the first down marker and the Orioles took over and ran out the clock.
Amherst outgained the Orioles 313-276, but most of the Falcons’ yardage came in the first half.
“They’re a better team than we are and I have no problem saying that,” Lusic said. “They’re a better team. They outplayed us. We played well, but couldn’t finish the deal.
“I give Stanley-Boyd a lot of credit,” he added. “They started outhitting us and made plays. Until I watch the film, maybe this offseason way down the road, I’ll find out what they actually did. At the beginning of the season, if you would’ve said Level 4 (of the playoffs), I would’ve said no way. This team came a long way.”