New Berlin Eisenhower might have lost a football game on Friday night, 34-28, to Plymouth, but the Lions found a quarterback.
Junior quarterback Bryce Miller rallied Eisenhower to 28 fourth-quarter points to tie the game, 28-28, but Plymouth scored the winning touchdown when senior quarterback Gavin Falk hit senior wide receiver Alex Shutter with a 48-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left in the game.
Shutter caught the ball over the middle and ran into some shaky tackling by three Eisenhower players on the 30-yard line, then broke free and raced in for the touchdown. A missed extra point still left the score, 34-28, and the Lions with some hope.
The Lions actually had two chances to win in the final minutes, but Falk intercepted one of the few poor passes Miller threw inside the 10-yard line with 1:16 left. But the Lions defense stopped the Panthers on three plays and got the ball back at midfield with 49 seconds left to play.
Miller scrambled for 5 yards before tossing two incompletions but then hit running back Jayden Olson with a 12-yard pass down to the 31-yard line. Miller, while scrambling for his life, tossed two more incompletions, and then on third down, Plymouth was called for pass interference in the end zone with one second on the clock.
But Miller's pass fell incomplete as time ran out on the Lions.
"We approached the fourth quarter and used it as an opportunity to find out how to use players in certain situations," Ike coach Matt Kern said. "I wasn't necessarily worried about the score. In these situations, you find quality and character traits, and we found both."
The game, which got a late start, was delayed at halftime for an hour, as predictions of lightning cleared the bleachers and sent many fans to their cars. There was nothing much for the Eisenhower fans to cheer about in the first half as the Lions trailed, 7-0.
The key play in the first half saw Plymouth defensive lineman Gabe Haun go unblocked, and he used his 255-pound frame to sack Miller and cause a fumble on the Ike 25-yard line. The Lions defense later stuffed the Panthers three times on the 1-yard line before Derek Novotny scored for a 7-0 lead with 4:04 in the quarter.
The third quarter was all Plymouth, as the Panthers scored 21 unanswered points. Falk hit Shutter with a 57-yard TD pass with 9:31 left to play. Then, Novotny intercepted Dylan Karvala, who played some quarterback in the second half, and raced 60 yards down the sidelines for the score at 8:27. Cody Kuhn ran in a score with 45 seconds left in the quarter and a 28-0 lead.
Then the fun started, as Miller lit a fire under the Lions offense.
On a 4th and 13, he tossed a TD-pass to Jake Belongia to get Eisenhower on the scoreboard. Sullivan Kulju then recovered the first of two Eisenhower onside kicks, and seven plays later, Miller hit tight end Joey Lang cutting across the end zone to cut the lead to 28-14.
New Berlin then recovered another onside kick, and Miller hit Belongia with a 47-yard TD pass to make it 28-21 with 8:05 left to play.
The defense held and Miller used 11 plays, the last four on runs by Joey Scaffidi of 5 yards, 9 yards, 8 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 28-28.
Afterward, Kern talked about Miller's play.
"Some things you see in August practice doesn't bring out all the things he can do," he said. "We knew what kind of athlete he was, but Dylan also has done good things. To see what Bryce could do in a game, what he did in the fourth quarter is unsustainable to do for an entire season, running the hurry up offense like he did. But we need to work on our fundamental line play, what it takes to run the ball. That is an area we need to spend more time with.
"I look at this game as the first three quarters and the fourth quarter. I'm proud of the way we hung in there; the way we executed our onside kicks. But the first three quarters - turnovers, poor tackling, not being able to run the ball - all adds up to negative results."