After a loss, legendary Green Bay Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”
In their WLF State Semifinal game against Middleton, the Waunakee boys’ lacrosse team nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback but – like Lombardi’s Packers – simply ran out of time.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Mike Reiter. “But if that game goes on for another five minutes, I think it’s a different result.”
The Warriors’ hole was dug deepest in the third quarter.
Down 4-2 after halftime, the Warriors allowed the Cardinals to pull away of the break; Middleton scored twice within the first four minutes of the third quarter to double their lead.
Waunakee was able to recover defensively and stopped Middleton from doing more damage, but couldn’t break through offensively.
The score remained 6-2 for the majority of the quarter until a late-period penalty by Waunakee. With a flag thrown, Middleton took advantage of the free play by netting their third goal of the period, followed by yet another goal with a one-man advantage on the penalty.
When the third quarter finally concluded, Middleton’s 4-2 lead ballooned to 8-2, giving the Warriors a monumental task in order to pull off a victory.
Jack Gengler got the Warriors quickly rolling in the fourth quarter, scoring the final two of his game-high four goals within the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.
Now down just four goals, Waunakee’s defense fed off the team’s newfound momentum and started forcing turnover after turnover.
Luke Reiter capitalized on one of those turnovers, netting a goal of his own with 5:27 left to make it an 8-5 game. The Warriors continually threatened from there on out, playing nearly the entirety of the remainder of the game on Middleton’s side of the field.
“We saw how we can play when we play with purpose,” said Mike Reiter. “That last eight minutes, we had a purpose. We played like we were not going to lose and gave it everything we’ve got. That’s great to see from a bunch of high school kids.”
Nick Robson finally cut the Cardinal lead to just two goals, but with only 14 seconds remaining, Waunakee had little time to find the final two goals needed to force overtime. Middleton was able to
keep the Warriors off the board in the final 14 seconds to seal their spot in the State Title game, ending the Warriors’ season in the process.
Gengler led all scorers in the game with four goals, followed by Robson and Luke Reiter for the Warriors with one each. Luke Reiter also led the team with a pair of assists.
Gengler looks to be one of the leaders of a talented Warrior team, who return many of their key pieces, including seven starting sophomores.
“Jack Gengler is one who we’re looking forward to seeing [step up],” said Mike Reiter. “Clayton Cerett has had a fantastic season. We’ve got a group of midfielders who are sophomores. Ray Olkowski – our goalie – is a sophomore. Those are all players that have seen some battles. Hopefully by next year, they’ll be mature enough to take us hopefully to the state championship.”
Olkowski kept the Warriors within striking distance, making a total of 10 saves on the night.
The Warriors do have some spots to fill next year, most notably in the roles left by departing seniors Jarrett Wulf and Nick Robson.
“Jarrett and Nick in particular were such great leaders for us…” Mike Reiter said. “They know what commitment means; they were the ones who were staying late at practice to get better all the time. That’s what young kids need to see… This is a good learning experience for them; hopefully they’ll take it to heart and we’ll come back strong.”