Waukesha North is trying to accomplish something it hasn’t since 2006 – make the WIAA postseason. For the second straight week, the Northstars were just one win away from that elusive goal, and yet, it's an achievement that is looking increasingly problematic.

North held a 14-6 lead over Muskego on Oct. 7 but lost the momentum and struggled to execute offensively in the second half, falling to the Warriors, 28-21. To reach the playoffs, North (5-3 overall, 3-3 in Classic 8) must now defeat undefeated Catholic Memorial next week.

“The second half, they came out beating us up,” North head coach Matt Harris said. “I thought our defense responded this week and did a much better job stopping the run. We put everything we had into this week, just like every week. I don’t really have any answers. They gave everything they had. We should’ve scored 40 points.”

The game got off to an unusual start. Waukesha North (5-3, 3-3) received the opening kickoff and when it looked like Muskego (4-4, 2-4) would tackle the returner just shy of North’s 20-yard line, Muskego’s Gavin McNally stripped the ball out of the returner’s hands and returned the ball 18 yards for a touchdown.

After a missed extra point, Muskego held an early 6-0 lead over Waukesha North with 11:49 remaining in the first quarter.

“Give Gavin McNally a ton of credit,” Muskego head coach Ken Krause said. “That is a drill the defensive staff works on to rip the ball out. Arguably the play of the game.”

The Northstars took possession on their own 20-yard line and marched down to Muskego’s 15-yard line on 10 plays. Following two sacks and an offensive holding penalty, North lined up for a 3rd-and-41 play when quarterback Brennan Demark found receiver Rafa Martinez wide open in the middle of the field.

Martinez caught the ball and sprinted past Muskego defenders for a 44-yard touchdown, putting North ahead, 7-6, following the extra point with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter.

Both teams struggled offensively the remainder of the first half until the Northstars tacked on to their lead on a 7-yard TD run by Tyrone Howard with 22 seconds reaming the second quarter.

But the second half was a different story. Muskego returned the opening kickoff in the third quarter to midfield, and just three plays later, running back Cody Krause walked into the end zone for an 18-yard score, to bring Muskego within one point.

On Muskego’s next drive, it was Krause once again from 1 yard away to give Muskego a 21-14 lead after a successful 2-point conversion with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

“Cody is a hard worker in this program,” Ken Krause said. “But, all the credit goes to his offensive line. Cody put the time in during the offseason, but it’s the offensive line that did it for him tonight.”

In the third quarter, North tallied only one first down and 10 yards in two offensive series.

“The third quarter was probably the worst quarter offensively that we’ve had all season long,” Harris said. “That’s what’s frustrating, because you hope they respond. Maybe there are still some lessons that this school needs to learn and that’s our job to teach it. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I don’t know how to get them to finish games. All we can do is to look back, figure out what the answer is and fix it.”

Muskego pushed its lead to 14 following a 3-yard rush by Michael Madia with 8:38 remaining in the game.

With 1:59 left, North tallied a passing touchdown, when Demark connected with Taylor Anderson on 4th-and-goal from 9 yards out. But, North’s comeback attempt was too late.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” Ken Krause said. “North had a good scheme against us. They moved a couple of their players around. Then, we made some adjustments. Fortunately for us, our adjustments worked.”

Harris knows his team is in for a major test against Memorial, but he believes if they can fix their mistakes that haunted them against Muskego, they have a shot.

“Obviously we need to practice harder,” Harris said. “We worked our butts off this week. Every single person. Coaches did everything they possibly could to get us prepared for this game. We have to do the same thing.

“Maybe we catch them. They aren’t unbeatable. They are a great football team. They are a great program. But if we execute and do the things we are supposed to – so are we.”