DEFOREST — Even though it was football in the spring, the Waunakee-DeForest rivalry brought out autumn intensity Friday night.
Junior quarterback Quentin Keene threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and the Warriors took advantage of six DeForest turnovers in a wild 48-30 victory between Badger North Conference rivals that was a marquee area matchup during the WIAA’s alternate fall season this spring.
“I think we appreciate DeForest and I think DeForest appreciates us,” Waunakee coach Pat Rice said. “It’s just what high school football and sports are really about. There was a buzz in the air. I know our kids were excited to play them. Obviously, they won the (WIAA Division 3) state championship (in fall, 2019) and we took second (in Division 2). There was no culminating event, so this was a culminating event to us, and I’m sure it was to them.”
Senior Caden Nelson and junior Andrew Keller each scored twice for Waunakee.
Waunakee, ranked fifth among large-sized schools in the WisSports.net state coaches’ poll, completed its season with a 6-0 record. DeForest (5-1), ranked sixth among large-sized schools, finishes its season next week against Menasha.
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Waunakee overcame a 24-21 second-quarter deficit with 20 consecutive points. Waunakee outscored DeForest 20-6 in the third quarter, breaking open a tight game.
“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Rice said. “They have a heck of a team. I think you have to give our kids credit the way they bounced back. No matter what DeForest had, we had an answer. … It was a pretty amazing game. A lot of teams would have flinched.”
After Waunakee recovered a fumble, Keene scored on a 5-yard run, giving the Warriors a 35-24 lead with 10 minutes, 58 seconds left in the third quarter. Waunakee then recovered a Norskies’ fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which led to a 39-yard field goal by junior kicker Aidan Driscoll.
“It definitely was something we haven’t shown all year,” DeForest first-year coach Aaron Mack said about losing four fumbles and having two interceptions. “But give them credit. They caused us to do some uncharacteristic things. Usually, we bounce back from them and get our footing and get things rolling. We just couldn’t overcome them. You just can’t do that against a good team. You can’t turn it over.”
Rice believed the turnovers starting the second half were pivotal.
"That was huge," Rice said. "Getting the turnovers was gigantic. There were so many ups and downs (in the game)."
Driscoll then converted a 30-yard field goal, boosting the Warriors’ lead to 41-24.
Earlier, Gabe Finley’s 6-yard touchdown run gave DeForest a 24-21 lead with 2:57 left in the second quarter.
But Waunakee answered on its next drive.
The Warriors took a 28-24 lead with 1:20 remaining in the first half on Keene’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Nelson in the back of the end zone.
That was the nature of the back-and-forth second quarter.
Nelson scored on a 10-yard run, giving Waunakee a 14-10 lead with 7:48 left in the second quarter.
DeForest sophomore quarterback Mason Keyes fired a 42-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Max Weisbrod, putting the Norskies ahead 17-14 with 7:06 left.
Waunakee senior Isaac Schaaf then returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown and the Warriors led 21-17 with 6:53 remaining before halftime.
DeForest rallied to grab a 10-7 first-quarter lead on senior cornerback Trace Grundahl’s pick-six and junior Ty Tisch’s 29-yard field goal. Keene’s 26-yard scoring pass to the 6-foot-5 Keller opened the scoring with 7:03 left in the first quarter.
Keene threw for 242 yards, with Keller grabbing eight passes for 106 yards. Nelson had 88 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
Keyes totaled 270 yards passing. Weisbrod caught four passes for 124 yards and Magli had five receptions for 95 yards. Finley gained 128 yards on 23 carries. DeForest's defense had three interceptions.