PREVIEW: Expect the air to be filled with footballs Friday night as OHS and Watertown clash at Watertown

IMG_0996Malcolm McIntyre | Oconomowoc Today

Jarek Berg’s interception of a Watertown pass in the first quarter last season broke a 7-7 tie and gave OHS a 14-7 lead. Watertown rallied, however, to earn a 17-14 win over OHS at Oconomowoc.

Already assured of the 2015 WLT crown, OHS looks to end conference play with a perfect 7-0 record: Watertown could forge a tie for first place if it manages to upend the Raccoons

This is one you do not want to miss.

While it is true that win or lose Friday night at Watertown, OHS is still the 2015 Wisconsin Little Ten conference champion. But don’t kid yourself. There is still a lot on the line, for both teams.

OHS, if it wins, will be the undisputed champ; it won’t have to share the title with Watertown and perhaps Slinger.

Given that last season OHS stumbled to a stunning 1-6 record within the conference, an undisputed title and a 7-0 record this season would cap an amazing comeback. A Cooney win would also give it a higher seed and one if not more home games in the WIAA D1 playoffs.

Watertown, if it manages to pull off the upset, would cap a season that started horribly. On Sept.11, the Goslings were 1-3. Since then they’re unbeaten and with a win, could even tie OHS for first-place with both teams finishing 6-1 in the conference.

Finally, this is an annual grudge match and over the last four seasons, the Cooney-Watertown games have been unpredictable, controversial, close, and wonderful to watch.

Watertown won last season at Oconomowoc

Last season, OHS, playing on its home field, stayed close to Watertown, but finally dropped a 17-14 decision to the Goslings. The Goslings scored first in the game, but OHS came back to take a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. The first Cooney score came on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ben Nienhuis to Zach Clayton. The second came in a pick-six by Jarek Berg, who went 68 yards to give OHS the lead.

Watertown added a field goal in the second quarter, but neither team was able to score in the third, leaving the score 14-10 in favor of the Raccoons entering the fourth quarter. Watertown then added a touchdown for the game’s last points and the win.

In 2013, the season OHS won the WLT title with a perfect 7-0 conference mark, OHS won 20-13, but it was a close game early as Watertown led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. A Cooney touchdown in the second quarter allowed OHS to edge ahead and at the end of the half it was 10-6 OHS. OHS then jumped out to a 20-6 lead at the end of the third quarter before Watertown came back with a score in the final quarter to make it a 20-13 game. A notable stat from the game was Oconomowoc’s 222 yards on 47 times.

In 2012, Watertown scored two late touchdowns on passing plays to edge OHS 19-16. That game was a passing duel as Watertown’s all-state and all-conference quarterback Tarek Yaeggi threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Then junior Canton Larson wasn’t far behind as he tallied 248 yards in the air, good for two Cooney touchdowns.

In 2011, Watertown and OHS again played a close game, with Watertown scoring twice in the fourth quarter to pull out a 21-17 win. OHS played without an injured Larson, and Yaeggi’s 207 passing yards and three touchdowns were enough to give Watertown the win. Cooney’s Mitch Pauers was outstanding in defeat as he rolled up 167 yards on 28 carries to lead OHS.

So look for the same Friday night.

Watertown started season 1-3

Watertown opened the season the same way OHS did, playing nonconference games against schools from the Classic Eight conference. OHS won its games against Kettle Moraine and Waukesha South while Watertown lost to Waukesha West, 42-13, and Kettle Moraine, 25-20. It then served notice that it would be a contender for the WLT title by slamming last season’s top WLT team, Wisconsin Lutheran, 34-16, in the WLT opener. But the following week, Sept. 11, Slinger ripped the Goslings, 35-7. That loss left Watertown 1-3 overall to start the season.

Since then then the Goslings have defeated West Bend West, Hartford, Beaver Dam, and last week, West Bend East. Watertown’s 5-1 conference record leaves it just a game behind OHS in the standings.

This season the Goslings, coached by former Mayville High School and University of Minnesota quarterback Benji Kamrath, still rely heavily on a pass-first, run-second attack, but perhaps with a little more balance than in past seasons.

Watertown averages 370 yards of total offense per game with 213 of the total coming through the air and 157 on the ground.

Kamrath has used two quarterbacks this season with Tarek Yaeggi’s brother Zeke responsible for most of the passing yards. He has completed 69 of 135 pass attempts for 1,012 yards. Austin Gifford has also picked up some passing yards (595) on the strength of 38 completions in 79 attempts, Yaeggi has thrown for six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Gifford has five passing TDs and three interceptions.

Look for Colin Schultz and Zach Fenner to be the top rushers for Watertown. Schultz has 525 yards rushing and Fenner 430.

Watertown’s top receiver is 2014 all-conference pick Drake Stramara. He’s hauled in 26 passes for six touchdowns and 475 yards in six games. Last season, Stramara earned first-team honors on the strength of 33 catches (7 games) for 578 yards and eight touchdowns.

Nienhuis has thrown 29 touchdown passes this season

OHS counters with a new-look offense this season, one that relies on Air Nienhuis, the area’s top passing attack.Through the first seven games of the season, junior quarterback Ben Nienhuis, in his first full season as the Cooney signal-caller, has thrown for an amazing 29 touchdowns, the top figure in the area and perhaps statewide.

In addition, Nienhuis has completed 164 of his 262  pass attempts, an impressive 63%. His yardage total is also outstanding: 2,158 yards, or 270 a game..

Clayton, his top receiver is also in the midst of a breakout season. Through seven games, the junior, on his way to first-team WLT honors this season, has 807 yards on 49 receptions, good for 13 touchdowns.

The Cooney ground game, getting stronger every week, is led by junior Jake Rams. Almost exclusively a defensive back last season, Rams has piled up 527 yards on 75 carries over the span of eight games.

OHS is racking up 394 yards of total offense every game this season, about 20 more per game than Watertown. The Cooney edge is in its passing game where it averages 272 yards a game. On the ground OHS averages 122 yards.

Both teams will be sky-high for the game. You would expect nothing less.


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