For Germantown senior quarterback Collin Sathe, the 45-28 victory the Warhawks football team earned over Milwaukee Lutheran Friday night to claim a berth in the WIAA state playoffs was a complicated matter.
It was a "win or go home" game for both sides, but it went way beyond that for Sathe.
"This win is very personal for me," he said, "because I used to play for Milwaukee Lutheran in sixth, seventh and eighth grade.So I know a bunch of those guys and, of course, right before the game, there was a bunch of friendly smack talk, so that made me want to show them what I had even more. There was a lot of motivation for me."
Sathe rushed for over 100 yards, passed for two touchdowns and scored the final, clinching TD on a 10-yard run with 4:38 left.
With the win, Germantown improved to 4-3 in North Shore Conference play and 4-5 overall. The playoffs start on Friday, Oct. 21.
The victory was also personal for coach Jake Davis, whose team came into this season in rebuilding mode and then battled injuries all fall. Two key returnees, All-Suburban running back/linebacker Austin Mozdzen, had to go out at halftime, and All Conference defensive lineman Dan Colvin could not finish the game, either.
"We really had to adopt an attitude of next man up," said Davis. "The guys really kept their cool through it all. There's no panic in these guys. The seniors, the whole team, simply didn't want to be done."
Indeed, as the seconds wore down on the clock, the chant went up on the Warhawks sideline: "One more week, one more week".
But it wasn't easy getting there. Germantown had a hard time holding down the potent offense of the Red Knights, which was led by quarterback Josiah Hedrington and running back Anthony Jackson.
Two TD runs by Jackson (19 yards and 1 yard) sandwiched around a Mozdzen 1-yard TD run gave the Red Knights a 14-7 lead at the end of the quarter.
But Sathe, who has dramatically improved his play as the season went along, hit Josh Acker on 14-yard TD pass on the first play of the second quarter to tie the score at 14-all..
Germantown then got a rare stop and drove down to the Lutheran 7 before stalling. Jack Brzakala's 24-yard field goal gave the Warhawks a 17-14 lead with 7:33 left in the half.
They would not relinquish it.
A fumble recovery by senior linebacker Rodrigo De La Pena set the Warhawks up at the Lutheran 49 a short time later. The Warhawks stalled but got a huge break when a roughing the kicker penalty on the punt gave them a first down on the Lutheran 45. Three plays later, Sathe looked off one receiver in the flat and then hit a wide open Mason Batchelor on a 38-yard TD pass to make it 24-14.
Lutheran ground the ball down to the Germantown 5 in the waning seconds of the first half, but without any timeouts, the Red Knights botched an attempted spike, and the clock ran out with Germantown holding onto a 10-point lead.
But with the Germantown defense depleted by the injuries, the Red Knights took only six plays to score at the start of the third quarter and cut the lead to 24-21 on a 3-yard run by Jackson.
Sathe stepped up again, breaking a 54-yard option run to the Lutheran 6. Therem senior running back/defensive back Waymon McNeal roared in from 6 yards out to make it 31-21 with 9:29 left in the third.
The lead would never drop below double digits again.
Sathe said the team is showing great character.
"The past two weeks have really been the playoffs for us," he said, referring to the big win over Port Washington the Warhawks scored on Oct. 7. "We've had a lot of motivation."
The beleaguered defense got a big stop, and then the offense took just four plays to go 48 yards. Junior receiver Colten Thomas doubled his duties, serving as a fullback in place of Mozdzen. He plowed in from a yard to make it 38-21 with 5:55 left in the third.
Lutheran stayed alive with one more Jackson TD run with 3:39 left in the third to make it 38-28, but that would be the final high point for Lutheran as the Germantown defense stepped up again. The Red Knights drove to the Warhawks 23 early in the fourth, but Hedrington was forced to scramble on a fourth-down play, and his pass was picked off by junior linebacker Calvin Knapp.
Germantown then drove 77 yards in seven plays for the clincher as Sathe rolled in from 10 yards for the final score with 4:38 left.
"We talked all week about what a high-flying offense they have," Davis said. "We talked about it's not whether you get hit (by Lutheran scoring) but how you respond. Don't let it get you down, be able to rebound.
"Stay in the game."
His players did.
"This feels good," said McNeal. "We wanted to have a strong season overall. It didn't quite work out that way, but we got into the playoffs anyhow. We've had a good stretch these last few weeks. We've had some really tough losses recently, but they will help us as we head into the playoffs."