WAUNAKEE — Not too many prep football teams in the state of Wisconsin can lose their starting quarterback and running back and rally to win a playoff game.
Not too many teams are built like Waunakee.
Sophomore backup quarterback Quentin Keene threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns and senior Cole Mobley ran for 103 yards and a touchdown in relief to lift the Warriors to a 35-28 victory against Milton in a WIAA Division 2 second-round playoff game Friday night.
“Our team has a lot of skill-position talent,” Keene said after putting on a show in his first meaningful varsity action. “So it’s really not a hard job for me to do. I just have to come in and let the guys make plays around me.”
The Warriors (10-1), who lost starting quarterback Caden Nelson and starting running back Alec Morgan to injuries in the game, advanced to play Hartford next week.
“We want to win state,” Keene said. “No doubt about that.”
Down 21-14 in the third quarter, Waunakee, ranked ninth in the large schools Associated Press poll, put its hopes on Keene’s shoulders. And the sophomore delivered.
Keene hit sophomore Andrew Keller for 42 yards on the drive that tied it and hit him again for 32 and 22 on the drive that gave the Warriors a 28-21 lead.
The Warriors made it 28 unanswered points when Keene hit senior Caden Lewis for an 8-yard score to put Waunakee up 35-21 with 8:30 left in the fourth. On the drive, Keene hit Hayden Blang for 26 yards, looking sharp and showing off his accuracy in the pocket.
The Red Hawks (9-2) put on an offensive show in a snow globe-like setting in the first half, led by quarterback Evan Jordahl and receiver Dane Nelson, to take a 21-14 lead into the half.
On the first play of the second quarter, the quarterback hit the speedy wideout on a go-route down the seam for an 81-yard score. On the next possession, the two hooked up again, and this time it stung the Warriors even more.
Backed up on the 3-yard line, Jordahl dropped back into his own end zone and threw almost the identical pass to a streaking Nelson, who hauled it in and ran 50-some yards to complete a 97-yard touchdown reception to put Milton ahead 21-7. All that was left were Nelson’s footsteps in the snow and a handful of shocked Warriors — and it only got worse for the home team.
On the next possession, Nelson appeared to injure his arm on a drive that stalled. Later in the half, Keene went out briefly after sustaining a late hit.
About the only thing keeping Waunakee close in the first half was special teams. Joe Hauser blocked a first-quarter punt and teammate Randy Vojtisek made a nice play by falling on it just before it reached the end line of the end zone to tie the game at 7 midway through the first quarter. The Warriors also blocked a short field goal attempt to end the half.
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“I feel like it was very much within our grasp,” Nelson said. “We just couldn’t close it, which is sad, but hopefully the underclassmen can carry that into the offseason and work harder.”
Milton 7 14 0 7 — 28
Waunakee 7 7 14 7 — 35
M – Jordahl 3 run (Hessenauer kick)
W – Vojtisek blocked punt recovered in end zone (Driscoll kick)
M – Nelson 81 pass from Jordahl (Hessenauer kick)
M – Nelson 97 pass from Jordahl (Hessenauer kick)
W – Morgan 6 run (Driscoll kick)
W – Keene 1 run (Driscoll kick)
W – Mobley 16 run (Driscoll kick)
W – Lewis 8 pass from Keene (Driscoll kick)
M – Jordahl 31 run (Hessenauer kick)
First downs — M 9, W 18. Rushes-yards — M 29-123, W 47-181. Passing yards — M 230, W 205. Comp-Att-Int — M 6-16-0, W 12-19-0. Total yards — M 353, W 386. Fumbles-lost — M 0-0, W 0-0. Penalties-yards — M 7-52, W 8-65.
Rushing: M, Dehnert 5-45. W, Mobley 20-103. Passing: M, Jordahl 6-15-230-0. W, Keene 6-8-135-0. Receiving: M, Nelson 3-197. W, Keller 3-96.