LAKE MILLS — On a night observing 113 years of football history at Campus Field, these L-Cats added their names to the history book.
Adam Moen threw 300 yards with five passing scores and Matt Johnson had 105 receiving yards, including two touchdowns, as the Lake Mills football team routed Lodi 42-7 in the last regular-season game at Campus Field to clinch the team’s first conference championship since 1988.
Lake Mills opened the game with a scoring drive capped off by junior receiver Jaxson Retrum’s 27-yard touchdown catch over the top of Lodi defender Jack Hansen three minutes into the game.
It took less than two minutes for Lodi to answer as tailback Colton Nicolay busted a 57-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive to setup a red zone opportunity. Four plays later Nicolay, a senior, scored from five yards out to tie it.
Lodi’s Connor Faust picked off Moen in Blue Devil territory on the next drive.
And then the Lake Mills defense stiffened.
The Blue Devil offense punted five times and turned it over on downs another time in the first half while Lake Mills (7-1, 4-0 in conference) was busy lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 28 first-half points, double the total any Lodi opponent had scored in a game all season.
“We said ‘we have to be able to stop their power run game and their play-action passes,’” Lake Mills football coach Dan Ferkovich said. “I thought we did phenomenal on the play-action passes. We still struggled a little on the power plays. Our linebackers were shooting gaps early and trying to blow plays up in the backfield. We wanted to play on their side of the line of scrimmage. When we stopped shooting gaps and started reading plays, we were able to clamp down a little more.”
Junior wideout Charlie Bender made an acrobatic, juggling catch down the sideline with Hansen in tight coverage. That reception setup Moen to Johnson from 21 yards out with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first quarter. Johnson high pointed the ball near the left pylon and outleaped Faust to secure the grab, increasing the lead to 14-7.
On the first play of the second quarter, Johnson took a short pass 65 yards to the house, leaving a pair of Blue Devils in his wake.
Lodi (5-2, 2-2) got backed up on its own end after quarterback Quinn Faust was called for intentional grounding with Retrum in close pursuit. The Blue Devils got a decent punt off, a kick Hunter Buechel almost blocked, before a holding penalty led to a rekick.
Except Trysten Thiede’s second try never got airborne thanks to a block by Buechel, who more than got to the kicker this time around, that the senior fell on in the end zone for a score with 5:47 left before halftime and the L-Cats up 28-7.
“The first one I just missed barely,” Buechel said. “That was an actually called punt block. The second was one was supposed to be a safe punt, but I pretended I didn’t hear that so I went anyways and got there and was right in his face when he punted. I blocked it and picked it up.”
“It’s a big momentum boost,” Ferkovich said. “Anytime you can get a special teams touchdown, it flips the momentum. He was on the punter. He almost could have grabbed it right off his leg. It’s awesome when you can set the tone that we are going to come after you whether it’s defense, offense or special teams.”
Lodi moved it to the L-Cat 26-yard line before a fourth-down pass to Connor Faust was batted away by Johnson late in the half.
“They’re fun and they have been loose” Ferkovich said of the now conference-winning team. “At times, we have been like ‘are they too loose?’ Every team every year is different. We knew we had athletes. With Josh (Lescohier) and Tyler (Theder) we had size. We had strength and guys who could make plays on the ball. The thing was how were we going to react mentally, when there was adversity and how we were going to finish games. After that Menomonie game when we fought through the first half and had the lead with a chance to go up 17-7, we knew we had a dang good team.”
Retrum recovered a Quinn Faust fumble on the first drive of the second half. Moen and the L-Cat offense, one that is averaging 46.7 points in league games, capitalized and junior running back Charlie Cassady found paydirt on a 28-yard catch-and-run.
Sophomore defensive back Michael Stenbroten intercepted Quinn Faust early in the fourth. In the waning minutes of the game, Buechel hauled in a 32-yard catch to put Lake Mills in business again. Buechel finished off the drive with a 23-yard scoring grab.
“Minus that first drive they had, I thought we played a complete game,” Ferkovich said. “We ran the ball hard and were breaking tackles against a good tackling team.”
Moen finished with 17 for 28 and had 17 carries for 63 yards.
Johnson caught five passes for 105 yards while Buechel hauled in six receptions, totaling 84 yards.
Nicolay, the conference’s leading rusher, had 164 yards on 26 rushes. Quinn Faust was 3 of 8 for 17 yards.
Lake Mills plays at Luther Prep on Friday at 7 p.m.
LAKE MILLS 42, LODI 7
Lodi 7 0 0 0 — 7
Lake Mills 14 14 7 7 — 42
LM — Retrum 28 pass from Moen (Ciesiolka kick), 9:19, 1st.
LO — Nicolay 5 run (Curtis kick), 7:27, 1st.
LM — Johnson 20 pass from Moen (Ciesiolka kick), 2:52, 1st.
LM — Johnson 65 pass from Moen (Ciesiolka kick), 11:48, 2nd.
LM — Buechel 0 punt block return (Ciesiolka kick), 5:47, 2nd.
LM — Cassady 27 pass from Moen (Ciesiolka kick), 6:55, 3rd.
LM — Buechel 23 pass from Moen (Ciesiolka kick), 1:08, 4th.
First downs — Lo 12, LM 13. Rushes-yards — Lo 47-251, LM 25-84. Passing yards — Lo 10, LM 300. Comp-Att-Int — Lo 3-8-1, LM 17-28-1. Fumbles-lost — Lo 1-1, LM 0-0. Penalties-yards — Lo 5-54, LM 3-30.
Rushing (att.-yds.) — Lo, Nicolay 26-164, Heyroth 8-35. LM, Moen 17-63, Cassady 6-18. Passing (att.-comp.-yds.-ints.) — Lo, Q. Faust 3-8-17-1. LM, Moen 17-28-300-1. Receiving (comp.-yds.) — Lo, Nicolay 2-10. LM, Johnson 5-105, Buechel 6-84.