OHS may have lost stat battle, but big defensive plays, including two fumble recoveries, gave Cooney the edge over Memorial

Brett Samson, Ashton McNamee and Jeff Rowan haul down Memorial quarterback Emmet Enright during the Cooney, 33-23, win Friday night.Malcolm McIntyre | Oconomowoc Today

Brett Samson, Ashton McNamee and Jeff Rowan haul down Memorial quarterback Emmet Enright during the Cooney, 33-23, win Friday night.

OHS also recorded two sacks and an interception to stymie Memorial attack, earn 33-23 playoff win

 

In an earlier article about Friday night’s, 33-23, win over Madison Memorial in the WIAA playoffs, Oconomowoc Today noted that while OHS won on the scoreboard, a quick look at the stats showed that Memorial topped OHS in almost every category, except the only one that counts. The points.

So, how does that happen? How do you lose the stat battle and yet win the game. Maybe Green Bay Pack coach Mike McCarthy is right: “stats are for losers.” Ok, maybe yes, maybe not.

A deeper look at the stats (and at photos from the game) shows that a key stat where Memorial did not shine was in the turnovers.

Memorial fumbled five times Friday night, closing two of them. It also gave up two sacks and an interception. Most coaches would jump on that telling stat to tell you that if you lose the turnover battle, you’ll likely to lose the game, as Memorial did.

Yes, Memorial recovered three of its fumbles, but those three fumbles were negative plays, drive stoppers, and morale busters. OHS, on the other hand, did not fumble once.

The first “lost” Memorial fumble came in the second quarter, with Memorial clinging to a slim 2-point, 9-7 lead. And it came after the Memorial defense had forced a Cooney three-and-out sequence and a Cooney punt.

Zach Clayton’s punt left Memorial with a first down on its own 15-yard line and on the first play for the Spartans, a run by its top rusher, Terrel Goodwan, Cooney linebacker Brett Samson stripped the ball from Goodman, who was running left. Another, senior, Spencer Waldron, recovered the fumble for OHS on the Memorial 21-yard line.

After an incomplete pass, Cooney head coach Ryan McMillen wisely put the ball in the hands of Mighty Mite running back Jake Rams and the junior carried for 5, 7, 2, and then the final 7 yards for his team’s second touchdown of the game and a little breathing room at 14-9.

Clearly a big play by the Cooney D at a critical point in the game.

Memorial’s next lost fumble came with just 1:53 left in the second quarter and OHS still up 14-9. Memorial had the ball after forcing another Cooney three-and-out and a Clayton punt.

This time, starting within Cooney territory on the OHS 31-yard line, Memorial quarterback Emmett Enright, who had a big night with 284 passing yards and three touchdowns, hit his top receiver Jake Ferguson with a short pass. At 6-5 Ferguson is a big target. He is also an elusive runner and while weaving his way for yards after the catch and with several Cooney defenders trying to stop him, Ferguson had the ball stripped by Adam Dziatkiewicz, with Jeff Rowan recovering for OHS on the Cooney 15-yard line.

That second fumble for Memorial and positive play for OHS kept a very promising Memorial drive from producing any points (and perhaps a lead). It also gave the home team a chance to put more points on the board before the half, and it did, going 87 yards in six plays in just under two minutes to up the Cooney lead to 20-9 at the half.

On the first play from scrimmage following the fumble recovery, senior Casey Zwart zipped 32 yards with a pass from Cooney quarterback Ben Nienhuis to put the ball on the OHS 45-yard line. Rams then ripped off a 20-yard run down to the Memorial 35-yard line with 1:18 showing on the clock. The junior, who has blossomed over the second half of the season, then picked up 11 and 17 more yards as the Cooney line gave Rams even room to maneuver through the Memorial defense.

With the ball now on the Memorial 7-yard line, Rams was held to no gain, but with 27 second left in the half, on second-and-goal, Nienhuis rolled to his right and fired a low pass to Samson, the outstanding two-way performer for OHS, and the big guy made a shoe-top catch just inside the Memorial end zone for the score (see photo). OHS missed the extra point, but it did not matter as McMillen’s crew was able to go into the locker room at the half with a comfortable 20-9 lead.Both teams were able to score twice in the second half, but the two Memorial fumbles and subsequent Cooney scores ultimately were the difference in the game.

The Cooney defense, which, as it has for most of the season bent often bent but did not break, also had other key stops Friday night.

Twice it sacked Enright and once it forced him into an intentional grounding call after he was flushed from the pocket. The sacks were credited to Cameron Wolf and Hunter Kolhberg.

Wolf’s sack came in the second quarter and effectively ended a Memorial drive. With 4:12 on the clock, and facing a second-and-9, Wolf, who is relentless and a sure bet to earn all sorts of post-season honors, got to Enright for a 12-yard loss. That made it third-and-21 and Rowan was able to contain Goodman after a 15-yard run and force a Memorial punt.

Kolberg’s sack of Enright came in the final quarter as Memorial tried to claw its way back into the game. With 2:07 left, and after the intentional grounding call, Memorial had no choice but to go for it on fourth-and-17.  Kolberg said no way, and OHS was then able to run out the clock.

Kolberg’s big play could have produced another score as OHS took over on downs with the ball on the Memorial 12-yard line. In a classy move, McMillen decided to call off the dogs with Nienhuis going into the victory formation.

There were other big defensive plays that contributed to the win. In the first quarter, Cooney defensive back Adam Dziatkiewicz stopped a Memorial receiver short on a critical third-down play, forcing a Memorial punt. Later, another Cooney defensive back, Ashton McNamee, made a great interception on an Enright pass in the third quarter with OHS up 33-16. McName was backpedaling on the play, dropping into coverage, when Enright zipped the ball right to him. His difficult grab killed yet another Memorial drive.

So, Memorial may have topped OHS in most of the important stats, but helped by two fumble recoveries, two sacks, and an interception, OHS came out on top where it matters the most–the scoreboard.

 

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