Trick plays, a mistake by the opposition, a quarterback going out onto the field without his helmet and above all, a lot of heart.
That's how you make the WIAA state football playoffs if you're the underdog Menomonee Falls football team and you're hosting unbeaten Greater Metro Conference champ Brookfield Central in the regular season closer on Oct. 14.
The Indians had to win their way into the state playoffs, and they pulled off the upset, finishing it off with a remarkable goal line stand in the final seconds of a 21-17 victory.
Two-way star lineman and Wisconsin recruit Matt Henningsen said there was no other way to get it done.
"I know a lot of teams that start 2-5 like we did would break down and give up," he said, "but we decided not to do that. We just said 'Hey, we've got two games left and our playoffs start now!'
"We had to stay together if we were going to achieve our number one goal."
The Indians finished the regular season with a 4-3 mark in GMC play and a 4-5 mark overall. They earned the seventh seed in the WIAA Division 2 southeast bracket and will head up to second-seeded Menasha (9-0) for a 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 state playoff Level 1 game. Brookfield Central (8-1) is the top seed in the eight-team bracket. Falls had beaten West Allis Hale on Oct. 7 to set up the showdown with Central.
Coach Dan Lutz, who oversaw the happy bedlam at the end of the game on Oct. 14, knows the odds are long for the Indians, but feels the team has nothing to lose.
"Hey," he said with a laugh. "We just beat the No. 1 seed in our bracket, so I feel like we're playing with house money."
Falls did play with that sense of passion all night in a win-or-go-home game.
They punched it in on their first drive of the first quarter, as sophomore back Julius Davis (30 carries for 146 yards), bulled his way in from a yard out on fourth down for a 7-0 lead.
"We wanted to show that we weren't intimidated," said Lutz. "The kids came out and took it right to them.
But Central showed why it entered the game unbeaten, scoring two touchdowns in the final six minutes of the half to take a 14-7 lead at the break.
"We knew they were a great team; we just had to hang in there," said Lutz.
They did, even when the Lancers notched a third-quarter field goal to go up 17-7.
Falls then advanced to the Central 30, and that's when the Indians reached into their back of tricks, as quarterback Arick Gleissner threw a backwards pass to end Cameron Jemison. Jemison then looked downfield and hit a wide open Kristopher Walker on a 30-yard TD pass with 5:32 left in the third to cut the margin to 17-14.
The play was harrowing, said Lutz.
"He (Walker) was so wide open," said Lutz. "All Cameron had to do was get the ball to him. The ball took awhile to reach him, but he caught it and fell into the end zone. Those few seconds the ball was in the air felt like a few minutes."
Then early in the fourth quarter, the Indians caught a break as Jemison went out on a straight go pattern down the field from the Falls 42, and Gleissner threw it as far as he could.
"He threw it up," said Lutz, "and the defensive back misplayed it, jumping too soon. Cameron caught it and took it into the end zone."
It was 21-17, Indians, with 9:38 left. That catch and the option throw were the only two passes Falls completed on the night.
Falls was OK for awhile, but then fumbled the ball on its own 30 with only a few minutes left. That's when the heart came in.
The Lancers earned a first and goal on the Falls 10, got to the Indians 2, but then fumbled the ball back to Falls two plays later.
There were only a few seconds left, and the Falls crowd was so loud, that Gleissner ran out to do the "kneel down" play to end the game without his helmet.
Henningsen, who has been going two ways much of the season and who was on the field for that final sequence, said it was a test of character for Falls.
"That (the fumble) was tough to handle," he said, "but it's adversity, and football comes with a lot of adversity. You just have to figure out how to handle it the right way."
Gleissner got his helmet back on, the Indians ran the kneel-down play, and they were in the playoffs.
Lutz could not say enough about his defense, especially the work of Hennigsen.
"He was playing like a wild man out there," Lutz said. "He had sacks, a fumble recovery. He was all over the field just like a linebacker." Davis also came in for praise for yeoman work in the backfield.
For Lutz, this was easily the best moment of his two-year coaching stint.
"By far," he said. "The kids were so jacked for this one. They were just awesome. I honestly didn't know if we had this in us. We had given away a game a couple of weeks ago (to West Allis Central), and I was so depressed, but they bounced back and showed some true character."
It was the only way to go said Henningsen.
"I walked into this game thinking that this could be my last high school game," he said, "something I've dedicated the last eight years of my life to. It was so important that I give my best effort.
"Why not us?'"