Things were looking positive for the McFarland High School football team in its WIAA Division 3 Level One playoff game Friday, Oct. 25, at DeForest.
The Spartans drove for a touchdown on the opening kickoff, but the favored Norskies took away McFarland’s momentum right away with four first-quarter touchdowns en route to a 49-7 win.
“Our kids did the best they could. They worked hard and played hard,” head coach Paul Ackley said. “I never felt like they gave up at any point in the game. It’s hard to keep your momentum when things aren’t going your way.”
The Spartans ended the 2019 season 6-4, a stellar accomplishment considering the team lost its first two games but recovered to make the postseason after winning six of its last seven.
While DeForest entered the game 9-0 after clinching the Badger North Conference the previous week with a victory over Waunakee, McFarland caught a break on its first possession as the Norskies fumbled away a punt to give the Spartans the ball on the DeForest 32-yard line.
Quarterback Jeremiah Price-Johnson then completed a 27-yard pass to Nic Hall, and Price-Johnson scored on a 5-yard run to give McFarland the early lead with 2:23 gone in the first quarter.
But the Spartans only held the lead for 19 seconds as DeForest ran the kickoff back to the McFarland 42, and Gabe Finley galloped to the end zone on the Norskies first play from scrimmage to tie the game.
McFarland caught another break the next time it had the ball when a roughing the passer penalty put the ball deep in DeForest territory. But Price-Johnson threw an interception on a third-down play to end the drive.
Norskies quarterback Trey Schroeder scored on a 26-yard run to put DeForest on top 14-7 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
After another McFarland drive stalled, DeForest added to its lead on a 30-yard run by Alex Endres.
McFarland’s luck ran out on its next possession as it was forced to start on its own 10-yard line after the kickoff and Price-Johnson was sacked for a 9-yard loss moving the ball back to the one.
Eventually, the Spartans punted again but a personal-foul penalty gave DeForest the ball on the McFarland 17. After running the ball 16 yards to the Spartans 1, Gabe Finley added another DeForest touchdown to put McFarland behind 28-7 with 33.5 seconds left in the first quarter.
A 5-yard run by Finley put DeForest up 35-7, but McFarland fought back on its final drive before halftime.
A series of successful passing and running plays put the ball on the DeForest 39, but Price-Johnson threw his second interception which was returned to the end zone for an apparent touchdown. But it was nullified by a DeForest penalty.
The Norskies scored two third-quarter touchdowns on a 5-yard run by Finley and a 65-yard pass from Schroeder to Lane Larson.
McFarland gained only 101 yards total offense while DeForest notched 400.
Price-Johnson threw the ball 17 times and completed eight for 71 yards, and led Spartan rushers with 30 yards in 15 carries.
Aside from scoring three touchdowns, Finley ran for 190 yards in 17 carries. Larson caught four passes from Schroeder for 117 yards.
Ackley said the Norskies controlled the line of scrimmage with their talented, strong linemen.
“DeForest is an extremely talented football team and they are very big up front,” Ackley said. “When you can control the line of scrimmage and get to the second level like they were able to do with their offensive line, that makes defending them very hard.”
The Spartans will graduate 15 seniors including Price-Johnson, who passed for 1,180 yards and rushed for 621, Hall, who caught 37 passes for 747 yards, running back Connor Frasier, who rushed for 492 yards, and linebackers Jonathan Cain and Jonah Pribbenow. Cain led the team with 95 total tackles, and Pribbenow had 82.