Oconomowoc clinches playoff berth
The Oconomowoc football team followed the Homecoming parade into the end zone time and time again, then kept marching right into the playoffs.
The Raccoons took care of business against Hartford on Friday, 43-14, securing their fourth win in the Wisconsin Little Ten and clinching a playoff berth after a two-year hiatus from the postseason. Coach Ryan McMillen said his team successfully bypassed the potential distractions of Homecoming week to hammer out a win after a lopsided loss to Wisconsin Lutheran one week earlier.
“We were focused, we were ready to play,” he said. “The Wisco game wasn’t representative of us, and we want to stay in the hunt. Our offensive players, when they play and just have a want-to to go score and leave their worries at the door, they execute.”
Zach Poker had a dazzling four catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns, Nico Even added 95 yards on the ground and quarterback Canton Larson showed an ability to keep plays alive and keep drives moving, and the Raccoons never trailed.
“We dialed up really good in practice this week,” said defensive end Aaron Cramer, one of the team’s defensive standouts. “Everyone was ready to play, and we came out here today and showed we were prepared for this game.”
Even scored the first of his two touchdowns to open the scoring, though Hartford’s Armilles Terry returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to re-tie the score. But the Raccoons went 14 plays and 75 yards to score again, with Larson scrambling his way to a pair of fourth-down conversions, adding another on 3rd and 11, then passing for the go-ahead touchdown to Jack Bourdo.
“You watch the Badgers play last year with Russell Wilson, that’s the beauty of having an athletic quarterback,” McMillen said. “When things break down, he’s not going to give up on the play.”
Poker burst his way for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 21-7, and he later added a 39-yard score to make it 35-14. But his most impressive touchdown came with the game in hand in the fourth quarter. He worked his way toward the left sideline, then cut back to the middle after it appeared he was slowing to step out of bounds, finishing a 40-yard run to daylight. For good measure, he also returned an interception for a touchdown nearly the length of the field -- a play negated by a pass interference penalty.
He shed tackles and stiff-armed would-be defenders all night.
“It’s just kind of a response,” Poker said. “I have long arms, so I like to stiff arm a little bit. It was just kind of a spur of the moment thing.”
Poker said the loss to Wisco resonated with the team.
“After that big loss on Friday, we all kind of came down to earth, which is a good thing,” he said. “We were all pretty focused during the week and probably had one of our best practices on Wednesday.”
Following the loss to Wisconsin Lutheran, McMillen stressed the importance of staying away from Homecoming hoopla, which includes a massive downtown parade.
“This place takes homecoming very seriously,” he said.
Said Cramer, “This is our Homecoming, this game. “ We don’t care about anything else. We came out to play.”
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