Waukesha West senior standout Dylan Chmura hit the key to his team’s victory on the road at Waterford.
“We had to be intense the whole game," Chmura said. "We were the first half and we knew we had to play the same way in the second. We had to stick in there and we did. We did it when we had to at the end. This is going to be a magical run to the state championship.”
West held off Waterford’s final attempt for a go-ahead score with 1:10 left to play to post a 14-12 first round victory. The Wolverines will host Watertown, a 49 – 14 victor over Burlington, in Level 2 next week.
“They were bigger than us in the offensive line,” noted West coach Steve Rux. “I challenged our linemen all week and they responded. Our plan was to get outside and we had success and I liked the way we threw the ball.”
His outside attack worked perfectly as West’s offense took over when Waterford’s opening drive stalled at its own 34. Starting at the West 43, the Wolverines moved 57 yards in 3:04 to get on the board with Ar’Breon Dunson-Lilley’s 2-yard run. Steve Drida’s PAT gave Waukesha a 7-0 lead.
Bronson Semerau struck the outside corners with seven carries in the 10-play drive, good for 43 yards.
After being forced to punt, Waterford’s defense got the game's first turnover,
forcing a fumble that was recovered by Max Fisher at the West 15 yard line. It took just 3 running plays by quarterback Ryan Danbrea to get the touchdown.
Tom Benko’s attempt at a 2-point conversion failed, which eventually proved crucial. With a good mixture of runs and passes, West responded to the turnover and score with a seven-play, 69-yard march. Drew Rhodes took advantage of Dylan Chmura’s height advantage in the end zone and connected with a 25-yard scoring strike.
Waterford had its chances to pull ahead. Chris Benavides intercepted two West passes, one after Brandon Schindler tipped the ball, to stop drives. Another bullet was dodged when Drida’s attempted 36-yard field goal was wide of the mark.
Chmura, Jake Hekel, Dyson Chmura, Abe Gustafson and Alex Andraski all had key defensive plays for West.
West opened the second half with a 9-play drive from its own 46 to the Waterford 12. Facing a fourth down, Rux went to Drida for the field goal, but his attempt hit the upright and bounced away.
On a key 3rd and 2 at the 6-yard line, Waterford's Jacob Bauer looked to be stopped but twisted, turned and squirmed to get the vital yardage for the first down. Danbrea followed with a 5-yard pass to Chris Benavides two plays later for a touchdown, though Benko was again stopped short on a 2-point conversion attempt.
Five plays into the final period, West had to punt from its own 38, rolling the ball dead at Waterford’s 7-yard line. Waterford moved to its 30-yard line with 20 yards coming on a Danbrea to Benavides pass. But an 8-yard loss on a sack by Heckel and a drive stopping tackle for no gain by Andraski force the hosts to punt.
Starting at their own 49, Waukesha West drove to Waterford’s 27 but failed to convert a 4th and 5, giving Waterford the ball with 2:41 to play. West’s defense again came up big, stopping Waterford from gaining a first down when Dylan Chmura and Gustafson sacked Danbrea.
Waterford would not concede the game. With 2:14 still to play and two timeouts still to use, the Wolverines were forced into a 3-and-out. Waterford took over on
its 20 to battle the clock with no timeouts left. Danbrea hit Justin Steffens, who was tackled at the Wateford 40 with 30 seconds to go.
The next pass was lofted towards an open receiver, but Alex Andraski came over the top to intercept and end the threat and allow West to close out the remaining 24 seconds.
“We had the best week of practice," said an elated and tired Semerau after carrying the bulk of his team’s ground game effort. “We brought up the frosh and JV guys to be the scout team so the varsity got a chance to rest and let us go all out tonight."
Andraski added, “We overcame our mistakes – we lost a key guy to injury (TJ Durand) and the defense did what it had to do. This whole week I just had a feeling….”