The rivalry between Waukesha North and Waukesha South always seems to produce a matchup full of surprises, and Waukesha North brought it this year.
The Northstars stunned their rivals, 31-28, under the lights Thursday night to earn their first win of the season, knocking South out of playoff eligibility on its homecoming.
It was a back and forth game all the way, and it would be Waukesha North (1-7, 1-5 Classic 8) getting the last laugh, when wide receiver Zach Reiter caught a 50-yard pass on 4th-and-5 from quarterback Jacob Thode and outran his defender to the house for the game-winning score with 1:05 to play.
“JT (QB Jacob Thode) pulled me over during the play and was like, ‘Run a fly’, and I was really surprised because I thought he’d go short to the right,” said Reiter about the play. “He put it right on the money, made the play, and the rest was history.”
Waukesha North coach Chris Freiman was ecstatic about the victory and what it meant to his team.
“It’s a win that’s a long time coming,” Freiman said. “It’s been one that we’ve been working our butts off (for) since August. We’ve never quit in any game. We’ve played some really good teams along the way, and when presented with an opportunity to win the game, we won the game. It was great to see our kids excited, great to see and experience a win.”
Waukesha South (4-4, 2-4 Classic 8), a team shaken by injuries this season, saw its hopes to achieve its first playoff appearance since 1999 almost completely dashed. The team would still have an outside chance to make the field with a win next week to reach a 5-4 overall record, but the win would have to come against league frontrunner Arrowhead. The loss was tough for the Blackshirts to take, especially coach Dave Rusch.
“This is probably the toughest loss I’ve been a part of,” Rusch said. “To get such a spark at the end and score with a couple minutes left, and then they pop one on a fourth and short and go over the top and get that touchdown ... a good call on their part, but we actually had it covered pretty good, and the guy just made a good play.”
The Blackshirts did attempt a game-winning drive after giving up Reiter’s touchdown, but running back Isaiah Pitchford fumbled after gaining enough for a first down on a 4th and 1 to end any hopes of a South victory.
“He had a nice burst, and North got the ball, that’s all; no fault of Isaiah’s,” Rusch said.
The game was close for much of its duration, and it started early when Blackshirts linebacker Logan LeCaptain intercepted a Jacob Thode pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 at 9:09 in the first quarter.
The Northstars attempted to respond but fumbled the ball on their 49. On the next play, they got it back when the Blackshirts fumbled. Thode then drove Waukesha North down into the red zone, but the Northstars missed a field goal.
Early in the second quarter, the Blackshirts missed an opportunity to go up by two scores, having moved the ball from their own 20 to the North goal line, when they were stopped on another 4th-and-1.
Helped by an 18-yard fake punt run by Eric Reel to extend the drive, North capped a time-consuming drive when Thode dove in from two yards away, knotting the score at 7-7. North’s quarterback would finish 10 of 23 for 166 yards, with two touchdowns, an interception and the two rushing scores on 136 yards of ground gain.
North took the lead with 39 seconds left in the half, when Thode connected with Derek Longmeyer for a 31-yard touchdown pass, and the Northstars went into the half up, 14-7. That lead built to 21-7 when Thode scored again on a five-yard run, set up by a 31-yard run from Mailk Noblin (27 attempts, 91 yards).
Waukesha South responded during their next possession, starting with a Jordan Yatchak kickoff return to the North 41. Three plays later, the Blackshirts would pull within 7 when Mikal Merriweather scored on a 39-yard run to make it 21-14 at 9:07 of the third quarter.
Yatchak tied it up on a 4-yard run with 9:15 to go, but North reclaimed the edge on a field goal by Ryan Cottrell with 3:18 to go, 24-21.
Immediately, the Blackshirts responded, and on the second play of the drive, it was Yatchak who scored again, this time on a 45-yard run, to make it 28-24 Blackshirts with 2:45 left in the game. Yatchak finished with 12 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
Starting at his own 18, Thode again guided them down the field to the 50, setting up the go-ahead score.
“It is a rivalry like none other, because each team could come in at a different spot; it’s always going to be a good game,” Freiman said. “I mean, we’re coming in 0-7, and they’re coming in 4-3, and it’s going to be a good game. Last year, we were two teams that I thought were pretty evenly matched, and it was a great game. I don’t think I’ve been part of a bad North-South game yet."
“North-South game is always a huge battle. Last year, they were supposed to beat us and we beat them, so always coming into this game, all bets are off, and it’s going to be a battle. Doesn’t matter what record anybody has, and it’s just the way it is.”
Waukesha North will close the year next week at home against Kettle Moraine