Through its two nonconference games, New Berlin West displayed an offense capable of putting points on the board.
But in their Woodland Conference opener on Sept. 2, the Vikings were slowed by five turnovers and a stout defense in a 13-0 loss to state-ranked Greendale.
"We played a really strong defensive game," New Berlin West coach Ben Chossek said. "We were in the game all night. But obviously when you have five turnovers on offense, you are missing a lot of opportunities.
"We had a number of opportunities in the first half where we were inside their 40 and didn't get anything out of them. Against a team like Greendale, you have to take advantage of those."
The Panthers, ranked No. 7 in Division 2 in the Wissports.net coaches' poll, got on the board with 6:51 left in the first half on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Gnadt to Zach Harrison.
Gnadt connected with Isaac Seibold for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 5:21 to play in the third quarter. New Berlin West blocked the extra point to keep the deficit at 13-0.
However, the Vikings' offense just couldn't get going. After averaging 28.5 points through two games, New Berlin West accumulated just 119 yards against Greendale. The Vikings also threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles and were just 2-for-9 on third downs.
Quarterback Nate Egofske was just 2-for-12 for 32 yards, and running back Max Meleski was held to 60 yards on 16 carries.
"We struggled to find any rhythm at all offensively," Chossek said. "Greendale is by far the best defensive team we've played. They have really good team speed defensively, and we struggled with that. Many of the things that occurred they caused because of what they can do defensively. Other times we made some mistakes we hadn't made in the first two games with the turnovers. That might be a byproduct of Greendale and trying to do things faster than we've had to do it."
New Berlin West was able to stay in the game thanks to its defense, which was coming off a game in which it allowed 34 points and multiple big plays against Milwaukee Lutheran. The Vikings got back a few key defensive players for the Greendale game, including Homestead transfer Jeremy Alexander, who was a first-team all-North Shore defensive tackle last season.
Tony Gress and Nate Artenian each had interceptions, while Michael Poepping had a sack and three tackles for a loss.
"Matt Hunt, our defensive coordinator, had a really excellent plan," Chossek said. "It helped that we had a couple of guys return. Jeremy Alexander was out there for us last night. He makes a big difference for us in the middle of our defense.
"We had some guys really step up and play well as a group. They were very physical, caused some turnovers and really made Greendale work all night long."
New Berlin West will look to bounce back at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 when it travels to Pewaukee to face the Pirates.