LANCASTER - During his team’s preparation for the Westby Norsemen last week, Lancaster football coach John Hoch let it be known that he really didn’t care to experience another offensive shootout like the one his team was involved in a week earlier against Arcadia.
Though the Arrows were fortunate to win that game, 45-42, and move on to level two of the D5 bracket, Hoch knew he would need a better performance from his defense if they had any hopes of beating Westby on Saturday.
What he got from his defensive unit this past week was their best performance of the season, as the Flying Arrows controlled the Norsemen in a 29-6 Level 2 playoff victory.
Lancaster’s defense was nothing short of amazing last Saturday when you consider the Norsemen were held to 115 yards rushing, were 0-for-6 on passing attempts with two interceptions, did not convert a single third-down attempt on nine tries and only had five first downs to their credit.
Westby did manage to score their only touchdown of the game with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, when Gunner Deflorian got outside for a 36-yard score, but otherwise the Arrows completely dominated the Westby offense.
“We challenged our kids at the beginning of the week to get 11 hats to the ball, and we needed to wrap up on tackling, which we didn’t do the week before,” said coach Hoch. “The kids responded, and we’ve got to continue to do that.”
Hoch also issued a challenge to his defensive unit to be especially stingy on first and second downs, looking to put their opponent in uncomfortable third-down situations, which they obviously did.
With the Lancaster defense playing at a championship level, the offensive unit did their part in putting up points to secure a rather comfortable victory
The Arrow offense ran for 288 yards on the ground and added 48 through the air. They punted just two times, converted on 8-of-13 third-down attempts and finished with 18 first downs.
Lancaster scored on its opening possession, using eight plays to cover 69 yards. With only three minutes and 22 seconds taken off the clock, the Arrows held a 7-0 lead on a nine-yard TD run by Troy Baker, followed by an extra-point kick by Hunter Budack.
The Arrow defense forced Westby to punt on their first possession of the game, which was followed by perhaps Lancaster’s most impressive scoring drive of the season.
For offensive line coach Josh Burr, who loves nothing more than a long sustained offensive drive, he had to be thrilled with Lancaster’s second possession.
The Arrows put together a drive that covered 87 yards in 18 plays and took nearly nine minutes off the clock. They converted on all six of their third-down conversions during that drive.
Junior fullback Trae Mezera capped off the drive with a one-yard TD plunge with 7:27 to play in the second quarter. Budack’s second extra-point kick of the game gave Lancaster a 14-0 lead, which they took into the second half.
Looking to gain some sort of momentum on their opening possession of the second half, Westby made a consequential decision on fourth-and-five from their own 42-yard line that turned the tied for Lancaster.
Lining up for their third punt of the game, Westby elected to fake it as the punter took off running up the field. There waiting for him at the 40-yard line was Trae Mezera, who made the tackle and set Lancaster up with great field possession.
“We had practiced for that all week. That was one of our points of emphasis because they had numerous ways of running fakes and the kid is a pretty good athlete back there,” said Hoch.
The Arrows used seven plays to cover the 40 yards, and it was quarterback Justin Hore connecting with Troy Baker on a 10-yard TD pass with 6:25 to play in the third quarter.
Lancaster took a 29-0 lead on a five-yard TD pass from Hore to Kile Jerrett that was set up by safety A.J. Day’s second interception of the day, which he returned to Westby’s 20-yard line with 1:57 to play in the third quarter.
Hore connected with Mezera on a two-point conversion pass to give Lancaster a comfortable lead going into the fourth quarter.
With 8:15 to play in the final quarter, A.J. Day came up big one more time when he recovered a Westby fumble at Lancaster’s three-yard line.
The Arrows put together a 14-play drive that took just over seven minutes off the clock, before punting the ball back to the Norsemen with under a minute to play in the game.
Westby added a late score, but missed the extra-point kick for a 29-6 final.
Troy Baker led the Arrows on the ground last Saturday, rushing for 109 yards and one TD on 14 carries. Trae Mezera ran for 98 yards and one score on 17 carries, while Justin Hore managed 72 yards rushing on 16 attempts.
Hore completed 7-of-11 passing attempts for 48 yards and two TDs, while Wes Schnepper hauled in four passes for 19 yards.
Lancaster did sustain some injuries on Saturday, that shouldn’t keep anyone out of this Friday night’s game at Necedah.
Junior linebacker Ryan Heberlein suffered a thigh bruise on Saturday and sat out the rest of the game. He was replaced by Trenton Cornell.
Kile Jerrett suffered whip-lash-like symptoms with a strained neck muscle, and should be fine, while Trae Mezera had a headache all day, but doesn’t appear to have suffered a concussion.
Necedah, who received the No. 1 seed in the bracket because they had more conference wins than Lancaster, is a team built on running the ball and stopping the run.
The Cardinals passed just three times in their 13-3 victory over Cuba City last week, and ran the ball 49 times.
They rely mostly on a stingy defense that has given up an average of 4.9 points per game, and has recorded six shutouts this season.
(D5 Level 2 playoff game from Saturday, Oct. 29)
Westby 0 0 0 6 - 6
Lancaster 7 7 15 0 - 29
L - Troy Baker, 9-yard run (Hunter Budack kick)
L - Trae Mezera, 1-yard run (Budack kick)
L - Baker, 10-yard pass from Justin Hore (Budack kick)
L - Kile Jerrett, 5-yard pass from Hore (Mezera pass from Hore)
W - Deflorian, 36-yard run (kick failed)
First downs - W 5, L 18. Rushing - W 32-115, L 55-288. Passing yards - W 0, L 48. Passes - W 0-6-2, L 7-12-0. Fumbles lost - W 1, L 1. Penalties-yards - W 5-42, L 7-35.
Rushing - W: Deflorian 11-73; L: Baker 14-109. Passing - W: n/a; L: Hore 7-11-0, 48. Receiving - W: n/a; L: Wes Schnepper 4-19.