Both offenses had their moments Friday night in Brown Deer, when the Falcons and the South Milwaukee Rockets combined for 47 points and more than a handful of spectacular plays in a Woodland Conference East Division football game.
Both defenses had plenty of moments as well, forcing turnovers, scoring a touchdown and stopping drives short of the end zone.
Despite that, the special teams turned out to play a larger role in a tightly fought, 28-27, victory for South Milwaukee.
The Falcons special teams stopped a fake punt, successfully defended a fourth quarter two-point conversion and used booming kicks to control the field position game. South Milwaukee managed three field goals, blocked an extra point and countered the long Brown Deer kicks with solid returns.
Junior place-kicker Joe Saskowski was 3 for 3, including a 37-yard booming kick midway through the fourth quarter to give South Milwaukee the one-point edge. The kick brought the Rockets all the way back from a 15-point second half deficit.
“I hit the first two field goals early in the game, so when it came down to the last one I had a little confidence going,” Saskowski said. “I knew my teammates would back me up so I just went out there and put it through.”
Saskowski plays two sports for South Milwaukee and had played in a soccer game earlier Friday before meeting up in Brown Deer to play football. His practice schedule makes it difficult for him to attend full football practices, but his performance against Brown Deer cemented his football credibility.
“I go to football and warm up with the team and work with the special teams before soccer practice,” Saskowski said. “It feels really good to know that I can help the team because I’m only here for half the practice but tonight I feel like I really contributed to the team.”
Special teams played a negative role in the game for South Milwaukee when the Rockets attempted and failed to convert on a fake punt. That shortcoming provided the Falcons with the ball on the Rockets 46-yard line midway through the third quarter. It took Brown Deer less than two minutes to gobble up that yardage and with 4:54 left in the quarter, senior Drew Worth threw his second touchdown pass of the night to Kineith Lewis, giving the Falcons a seemingly commanding 27-12 lead.
South Milwaukee battled back and went 80 yards for a score late in the third. Sophomore Justin Oliden directed the Rockets down the field with a 25-yard run slicing through the right side of the defense. Oliden then finished off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Evan Marlowe for another touchdown, cutting the lead back down to eight points going to the fourth quarter.
A second interception for the Rockets defense stopped the first fourth-quarter Brown Deer drive and brought South Milwaukee almost all the way back. Junior Tom Mitchell floated back and snagged a Worth pass before returning it 30 yards to the end zone, with the failed conversion making the score 27-25 early in the fourth quarter.
“They were doing slants the whole time so I dropped back and read the quarterback’s eyes,” Mitchell said. “I almost dropped the ball but it worked out.
“I was just hoping I wouldn’t get tackled because I wanted the touchdown.”
Brown Deer set the tone with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Worth to fellow senior Pietro D’Amato. After the extra point was blocked, the Falcons led 6-0 and controlled much of the next three quarters.
Ultimately, the mistakes on offense and that blocked extra point early ended up being the difference in the game. Brown Deer head coach Rob Green gave credit to South Milwaukee for keeping his offense from converting on big plays and noted how important special teams are in big games.
“South Milwaukee is a very good football team and the team that made the least amount of mistakes tonight is the team that won,” Green said. “You look back in hindsight, and that’s the first special teams play other than the kickoff so you don’t think it’s going to come back and haunt you but then it does.
“You have to take every point you can get when you play a good team.”
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