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Scoring reaches new heights as Cooney tops Wisco, 84-82

Oconomowoc's Jason Brandl holds up the football after recovering an onside kick in the final seconds against Wisconsin Lutheran on Sept. 27, essentially clinching an 84-82 win for the Raccoons over their longtime nemesis.

Oconomowoc's Jason Brandl holds up the football after recovering an onside kick in the final seconds against Wisconsin Lutheran on Sept. 27, essentially clinching an 84-82 win for the Raccoons over their longtime nemesis. Photo By Scott ASh

Sept. 28, 2013

This actually happened.

It would have been enough for the Oconomowoc football team to knock off mighty Wisconsin Lutheran, move to 6-0 on the year, clinch a playoff berth and get an inside track on the Wisconsin Little Ten title. Wisco, which came into the WLT meeting Friday with a 22-game conference winning streak and a string of 11 straight wins over Oconomowoc, looked like the biggest obstacle to the Raccoons' first conference title since 2002.

But that's not the reason at least one fan was getting his picture taken in front of the scoreboard at Oconomowoc High School after the game. The 84-82 score had something to do with that.

Eighty four to eighty two. It's not a misprint, it wasn't basketball and it didn't need overtime.

When Jason Brandl emerged from the bottom of a scrum with the football, Oconomowoc had recovered a final onside kick from Wisconsin Lutheran with 30 seconds to play and secured perhaps the biggest win of coach Ryan McMillen's five years as head coach. Along the way, the two teams racked up a combined point total that by most accounts obliterated the previous Wisconsin state record.

Canton induction

Oconomowoc chose "Dancing Through the Decades" as its Homecoming theme this year, and when Saturday's dance rolls around, Canton Larson will be Homecoming King. Before that, Oconomowoc's third-year starting quarterback moved his team from the 50s to the 60s to the 70s to the 80s with his 493 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns.

"It's obviously the best game I've ever been a part of," Larson said. "It could have gone either way, and we happened to come out on top. I'm speechless, to be quite honest."

Though Larson's dazzling touchdown scamper with 24 seconds left in the first half probably counted as his most reel-worthy highlight, his 14-yard score with 4:10 to play accounted for the winning points. Cooney went up by an 84-74 score at that point, and though the Vikings answered with a 16-play drive that featured four conversions on third-and-long and a pair of fourth-down conversions, too much time had gone off the clock.

The Vikings, who did not attempt an extra-point kick all night, pulled within 84-82 on a 2-point run. Wisco missed three times on 2-point attempts, cashing in on the other eight.

"We were going back and forth from the beginning and it just seemed like nobody could stop each other," Larson said. "It could have been anybody's game."

Indeed, after Wisco took a 28-14 lead with 5:05 to go in the second quarter, neither team led by more than 13 the rest of the night.

"Wisco goes up two scores in the first (half), almost every other team is going to fold," said McMillen. "That kind of happened to us last year; we could see guys folding in various spots all over the field. We were well aware of it and knew everyone was going to be counted on."

Last year, Wisconsin Lutheran leveled Oconomowoc, 48-6.

Larson delivered passes of 64 yards (to Casey Bednarski) and 37 yards (Jack Bourdo) to tie the game. After the Vikings reclaimed the lead, Larson then darted from the left sideline across the middle of the field to the opposite side of the end zone for a 51-yard run just before the clock expired in the first half. It was a play set up by a strong Oconomowoc kickoff return, though Jarek Berg's kickoff return for touchdown to break a 42-42 tie counted as the biggest special teams play of the night.

The Vikings still led at the break, 36-35, but Nick Gomez intercepted Vikings quarterback Logan McShane and ran 44 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half, giving the Raccoons a 42-36 edge. The lead evaporated quickly, but Cooney held the edge for much of the second half.

"I read pass, dropped back, I didn't really see the quarterback," Gomez said. "I just saw the ball and grabbed it and ran. It was great to get the lead and our offense kept scoring and kept us in it.

"We had full pads all week. We knew we needed to get physical with them," Gomez added. "We usually don't go pads in practice but we did this week. We got physical and stood them up when we needed to."

As the game approached video-game level production, Wisco grabbed its last lead at 50-49 with 7:23 to play in the third quarter. Cooney's Richard Kuehl recovered a fumble to stop a Wisconsin Lutheran drive – the final stop before a string of eight consecutive drives resulting in touchdowns – and Larson ran for an 8-yard score that gave his team a 63-50 lead.

Larson later added a 60-yard run for touchdown and finished with four scores on the ground and four through the air, with 198 rushing yard and 295 passing yards. In addition to the kickoff return, the teams combined for nine drives that lasted three plays or fewer.

"Coach Mac just put a scheme in and we just ran it," Larson said. "Our dudes did what they needed to do, and it so happened that it worked. We had a good scheme and executed it."

Huge numbers

Wisconsin Lutheran had its own eye-popping collection of statistics going. McShane threw for 180 yards and two scores, adding four more on the ground with 111 rushing yards. Terrance Ward rushed for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and Austin DeNoyer cleared 106 yards with two scores.

Anthony Carver added six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. In all, the Vikings outgained the Raccoons, 708-539, with the discrepancy largely explained by OHS kicker Casey Bednarski's ability to boom the ball into the end zone for touchbacks routinely. Meanwhile, the Raccoons started on a short field much of the night.

"No matter where we were on the field, we felt we were going to score," McMillen said. "Same thing on the other side of the ball. It didn't matter where they were; they felt like they were going to score. The kids are going to be sore tomorrow."

Bednarski, who also caught two passes for 131 yards and a score, converted on all 12 extra-point attempts he had, shaking off the effects of a leg injury earlier in the game.

Somehow, neither side seemed to budge when fatigue should have taken its toll.

"They have some kids that go both ways, and we knew if we kept going, they might get tired at some point," Larson said. "To be quite honest, it didn't look like they got tired at all. They just kept going and going.

Said Gomez, "I have a lot of adrenaline going, so I wasn't getting tired. We conditioned a lot during the offseason and in practice for times like this. We stuck around until the end and got the win."

Oconomowoc's schedule doesn't soften dramatically from here, with games against Hartford, Watertown and Slinger representing formidable challenges. Watertown lost earlier in the year to Wisconsin Lutheran by a touchdown.

"We have a lot bigger goals than beating Wisco," Gomez said. "We obviously knew that was one of our biggest goals, but we have a lot of games left. We have to keep our heads and keep playing the season out."

In the short term, they get to stop scoring touchdowns for a few moments.

"It was a super stressful week with very intense practices," Larson said. "They're a very good football team and can put up 82 like they just did. Now we get to relax and dance at Homecoming."

By the numbers

50 Combined points scored by the two teams in the third quarter alone

15 Points in first quarter (Wisco led, 8-7)

8 Touchdowns by Oconomowoc's Canton Larson (four rushing, four passing)

0 Extra-point kicks attempted by Wisconsin Lutheran

0 Field goals in the game (lone OHS attempt went wide on first drive of game)

10 Scoring drives that lasted three plays or less, including kickoff return by Oconomowoc's Jarek Berg

3 Points scored in the 1988 state title game, a 3-0 Oconomowoc loss that marks lowest-scoring state title game in history. Players were celebrating 25th anniversary of that team at Friday's Homecoming.

33 Combined points beyond previous state record of 133 points in a game (D.C. Everest topped Wisconsin Rapids in 1998, 70-63)

8 minutes left in game (7:46) when Oconomowoc-Wisconsin Lutheran matchup had eclipsed previous state record

Scoring summary

First quarter

OHS -- Nick Gomez, 4-yard pass from Canton Larson (Casey Bednarski kick) , 7-0 Oconomowoc, 2:12
WLHS -- Terrance Ward, 22-yard run (conversion good, Logan McShane to Anthony Carver), 8-7 Wisconsin Lutheran, 1:10

Second quarter

WLHS -- McShane, 6-yard run (conversion failed), 14-7 WL (10:12)
OHS -- Koty Thelen, 54-yard pass from Larson (Bednarski kick), 14-14 (9:09)
WLHS -- Austin DeNoyer, 31-yard run (coversion good, Terrance Ward), 22-14 WL (6:55)
WLHS -- McShane, 37-yard run (conversion failed), 28-14 WL (5:39)
OHS -- Bednarski, 64-yard pass from Larson (Bednarski kick), 28-21 WL (4:54)
OHS -- Jack Bourdo, 37-yard pass from Larson (Bednarski kick), 28-28 (2:39)
WLHS -- McShane, 1-yard run (conversion good, DeNoyer), 36-28 WL (0:30)
OHS -- Larson, 51-yard run (Bednarski kick), 36-35 WL (0:07)

Third quarter

OHS -- Gomez, 44-yard interception return (Bednarski kick), 42-36 OHS (9:16)
WLHS -- Jacob Smrz, 36-yard pass from McShane (conversion failed), 42-42 (7:52)
OHS -- Jarek Berg, 86-yard kickoff return (Bednarski kick), 49-42 OHS (7:38)
WLHS -- McShane, 22-yard run (conversion good, Ward), 50-49 WL (7:23)
OHS -- Nick De La Barra, 6-yard run (Bednarski kick), 56-50 OHS (3:39)
OHS -- Larson, 8-yard run (Bednarski kick), 63-50 OHS (2:06)
WLHS -- DeNoyer, 20-yard run (conversion good, DeNoyer), 63-58 OHS (0:22)

Fourth quarter

OHS -- Nate Nord, 4-yard run (Bednarski kick), 70-58 OHS (11:04)
WLHS -- Ward, 38-yard run (conversion good, Ward), 70-66 OHS (7:56)
OHS -- Larson, 60-yard run (Bednarski kick), 77-66 OHS (7:46)
WLHS -- Ward, 7-yard run (conversion good, McShane to Carver), 77-74 OHS (5:01)
OHS -- Larson, 14-yard run (Bednarski kick), 84-74 OHS (4:10)
OHS -- Carver, 3-yard pass from McShane (conversion good, Rob Luckett), 84-82 OHS (0:31)

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