Cooney trailed 14-7 at the half, but a strong defense plus adjustments on offense pave way to a 28-point second half
Down 14-7 at the half, the OHS varsity football team outscored an upset-minded Madison East Friday night, 28-7, in the second half to earn a 35-21 win in a Level 1 WIAA playoff game at OHS.
The Cooney win improved its season record to 10-0 for the second time in the last three seasons. It also advances OHS to Level 2 next Friday night where it will host another Big Eight conference team, Madison La Follette.
With most of the game played in a downpour, OHS had its hands full with East, a team that finished only 4-5 in its conference.
OHS scored first late when with just 40 second left on the game clock in the first quarter, Cooney quarterback Ben Nienhuis lofted a perfect pass to Ethan Wegner who caught the ball without breaking stride just inside the lip of the East end zone.Wegner break his defender off the line and was open by about 8 yards on the play. It was Wegner’s No. 10 touchdown catch of the season.
East countered with a score if its own, but its attempt at a two-point conversion failed, leaving OHS with a 7-6 lead at the 9:57 mark in the second quarter.
East took the lead about five minutes later when East quarterback Datril Thompson, a sophomore who was the team’s third-string quarterback until a couple of weeks ago ran for his second touchdown of the half. This time a run for a 2-point conversion was successful, leaving East with a 14-7 lead at the half.
The Cooney coaching staff made some adjustments at the half and in the third quarter, the Cooney offense which had sputtered in the first half, came alive. First, hard-charging Cooney running back Jake Rams ran two yards to tie the score at 14-14, and then Nienhuis, who for the night threw for three touchdowns to bring his total for the season to 33, found Zach Clayton, his season-long top target, for a 22-yard score.
On the play, Clayton, who lined up right, broke over the center of the field and when Clayton found him on the 8 yard line, Clayton zipped into the East end zone to give OHS a 21-14 lead with 7:14 left in the third quarter.
In the final quarter, Aaron Kruschke, one half of the Mighty Mite duo of Rams and Kruschke bulled his way for a three yard score to push the OHS lead out to 28-14.
With just under 5 minutes left in the final quarter, Nienhuis found Clayton again, this time for a 22-yard score. On the play, Clayton lined up on the right side and East foolishly decided to match him man-to-man. Big mistake. Clayton went inside and then out and Nienhuis, throwing to a spot, actually under threw Clayton in the end zone. But Clayton has great body control and he twisted his body to the outside, slowed his momentum and was able to snare the pass between two defenders for this second touchdown catch of the evening and his sixteenth of the season. His score made it 35-14 with 4:24 showing on the game clock.
East managed a late score, but it was by that time the game was well in hand for OHS..
East came into the game averaging just over 300 yards in total offense and while it was able to move the ball in the air at times, the Cooney bend-but-break defense limited East to just 246 yards of total offense. The visitors had only 116 yards rushing and 188 passing.
OHS, on the other hand, racked up 318 yards, a drop of about 100 yards from it per game average.
Nienhuis finished 17 of 25 for 189 yards. Not a great night for the junior, but given the conditions, enough to help OHS pick up the win. Clayton had 6six receptions for 84 yards to go with his two touchdowns. Wegner’s only catch was his touchdown. Brett Samson, the team’s ironman (he starred on both defense and offense tonight), had four catches for 47 yards.
Rans led the Cooney ground game with 70 net yards on 15 carries. Wide-out Casey Zwart, a seldom used rusher, carried the ball eight times for 42 yards.
No. 1 seed OHS now meets Madison Memorial, an upset winner over Madison La Follette, 21-13, Friday night at OHS. Memorial is the No. 5 seed, while La Follette was the No. 4 seed. East was the No. 14 seed.