Less than 24 hours after losing longtime coach Jeff Setz, the New Berlin Eisenhower football team loaded up on buses for the nearly hour drive to West Bend East.
The lengthy trip gave head coach Matt Kern and the Lions a chance to reflect on the life of the man that was synonymous with New Berlin Eisenhower football.
"We had to handle the emotions of the day," Kern said. "We had talked to the kids about what coach Setz represented and how important it was to go out and play Eisenhower football on his behalf and on his family's behalf.
"What I told the team was that I didn't want to trivialize a man's life by saying we were going to go out and win the game for coach Setz. It wasn't about one game and the result of a Friday night the day after he passed. It was more about remembering all the ideals he stood for and the things he tried to instill in the football program and in our kids when he was there. It was us wanting to respect that by trying to demonstrate that on the field."
On the field, the Lions used 31 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 54-28 victory over the Suns.
Bryce Miller continued his emergence at quarterback for the Lions by throwing for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Miller connected with Joey Lang for a 32-yard score to give New Berlin Eisenhower a 7-0 lead. After Bryce Wesling hit a 26-yard field goal for the Lions, West Bend East pulled to within 10-7 in the second quarter on an 89-yard touchdown pass from Dillen Rondorf to Karl Lemke.
Miller's five-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Halusan gave the Lions a 17-7 halftime lead, but the Suns recovered an onside kick to start the third quarter and scored on a four-yard run by Kyle Yochem to make it 17-14.
New Berlin Eisenhower responded with three touchdowns to close out the third quarter and scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to take a commanding 48-14 lead.
Miller threw touchdown passes to Sullivan Kulju (44 yards) and Boden Saikie (53 yards) during the 21-point, third-quarter spurt, which was capped a 53-yard touchdown run by Joey Scaffidi.
Eisenhower's offense has scored 82 points in its first two games due in part to Miller's emergence as Eisenhower's starting quarterback. The junior has already thrown for 512 yards and seven touchdowns.
"From an identity standpoint, something we've learned about ourselves is that we've got a quarterback who is really athletic and can make plays in the run and pass game," Kern said. "That's something we're excited about. One of the hallmarks of our pass game is that we have four to six kids that at any moment can take it the distance."
Wesling hit a 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, while Jayden Olsen added touchdown runs of 59 and 51 yards.
Olsen finished with 117 yards on six carries and Scaffidi ran nine times for 94 yards. Kulju, Saikie, Lang, Jake Belongia and Halusan all had over 50 receiving yards.
On defense, Greg Jackson and Saikie each had interceptions for the Lions. Luke Carey and Scaffidi each had a sack and a forced fumble, and Lang and Mike Baumann each added a sack.
After splitting its nonconference games, New Berlin Eisenhower will open Woodland Conference play at Wauwatosa West on Sept. 2. The Trojans went 2-0 in nonconference play with wins over Wauwatosa East and Grafton.
"It gave us a good opportunity to figure out the identity of our team a little bit," Kern said of the nonconference schedule. "When you are looking at your team all summer and through August practices and the scrimmage, there are always question marks. Now that we are through these two games and we've been able to watch how our kids have developed, we have a lot better idea of who we are offensively and defensively."