The magic ran out on the Superior High School football team.
The Spartans found themselves trailing 20-8 for the third straight game, but unlike the previous two weeks, when they pulled off come-from-behind victories, Brookfield East was able to hold on and defeat Superior 34-8 in a WIAA Division 2 semifinal at Jay Stadium in Merrill.
While Superior's season ends with at 10-3, Brookfield East takes an 11-2 record into the D2 state championship game against Waunakee at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Waunakee advanced with a 35-15 win over Waukesha West.
“We got beat by a great football team who brought their best,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “The scoreboard doesn’t indicate how close the game was and the amount of heart and grit our kids showed. I am so proud of each and every one of them.
“I’m also proud of every manager, coach, stats guy and all the people behind the scenes in this program. The parents are unbelievable and the amount of support everyone has given us has been overwhelming.”
Leading 14-8 at the half, Brookfield East received the second-half kick and came out with a new look on offense by putting Michael Poker in at quarterback and moving the starting QB Sam McGath to running back along with Donavan Hunt.
The change seemed to confuse Superior and just four plays and 1:36 into the third quarter Hunt scored on a 19-yard run.
“We knew they ran that double-tight, double-wing scheme and we did prepare for it,” DeMeyer said. “But although we prepared for it, they were just so big, physical and athletic upfront. When you combine that with the backfield they had, even when you know what they're running it's tough to stop."
Superior stopped the run on the two-point attempt, and for the third straight game found itself trailing 20-8.
It looked like deja vu again on Superior’s next drive when Brennan Morrissey caught a Jarrett Gronski pass and ran the ball to the 5-yard line.
But an illegal block brought the ball back to midfield and Superior was forced to punt three plays later.
Brookfield East continued to roll on offense and 10 plays later McGath scored from 9 yards on a run up the middle. Joey Prodzinski's kick made the score 27-8 with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
"We had our chances and as our kids have shown the last three games, we're never out of it,” DeMeyer said. “We were down 20-8, starting to get things rolling on offense, hit a big play to Brennan that was called back and that hurt.
“I understand why the penalty was called, I just don't agree with the interpretation of the rule. I'm all about keeping the players as safe as possible as are the officials. We just didn't agree on that particular play and that's part of the game. That being said, our kids still left everything they had on the field, until that last tick on the clock and I am very proud of that."
Superior’s Will Schorr recovered a fumble with 11:46 remaining, but the Spartans were stopped on fourth down at the 33.
Brookfield East put the finishing touches on its win with a 11-play drive that ended with Hunt’s 3-yard TD run and Prodzkin’s kick with 3:21 remaining.
Both teams punted the first two times they had the ball at the start of the game.
Unfortunately, on Brookfield East’s second punt, from its own end zone, Superior muffed the kick and the ball bounced right in the arms of a Brookfield East player.
Three plays later McGath threw a screen pass to Hunt and he ran down the left sidelines 56 yards for the touchdown. Prondzinski's kick made the score 7-0 with 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
On Superior's next drive it moved into a first-down situation at the Brookfield East 16. But Superior was only able to move the ball to the 11 and on fourth down Gronski was sacked and Brookfield East took over at the 18 with 5:23 left in the second quarter.
Superior forced Brookfield East to punt after three plays and followed with a seven-play, 49-yard drive that ended with Gronski scoring from 12 yards out on a quarterback draw. Gronski also ran in the two-point conversion giving Superior an 8-7 lead with 2:04 left in the second quarter.
Brookfield East answered just 1:24 lagter when McGath scored from 37 yards on a draw play. Prodzinski's extra-point kick made the score 14-8 with 40 seconds left in the first half.
"The last game is always extremely difficult,” DeMeyer said. “When it's all said and done, there's only one team that wins their last game. It's not just about winning and losing. It's about how abruptly it ends, the reality that it's over and the team, the family that you've spent so much time with not be together on the field again.
“That's the toughest part about it. Our coaches, players and managers truly build such special relationships. We learn so many things, we have our tense moments, we laugh, we struggle, we see failures and successes every day. Not having that now is a big adjustment. I really feel for the seniors who will not put a Spartan uniform on again and most will not play tackle football again. That realization hits extremely hard."
SPARTAN SPIN: Brookfield East’s Harrison Kielar and Superior’s Cody Kurki both had first-quarter sacks. … Brookfield East (19-10 overall in 12 WIAA playoffs) defeated Monona Grove 42-36 in the 2016 D2 state championship game.
“We knew they ran that double tight, double wing scheme and we did prepare for it,” DeMeyer said. “However, the film we had on them was what they were running in the first half, almost exclusively. Despite that our defense was playing lights out, stopping them on all but two big fourth-down plays. Our defensive coaching staff prepared our players so well, as they have all season. They are amazing coaches. They not only know the game and pay so much attention to detail but, they connect with kids and that really helps with the teaching and learning process. I can say that about all of our coaches -- we are blessed to have them.”
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“I’m truly thankful to have the opportunity to coach in our district and in a community that cares so much,” DeMeyer said. “It's been a blessing and ‘One Team, One Fight’ includes a whole lot of people with the same vision. We all need to keep fighting together.”