Oconomowoc fends off Hartford's upset bid
This time, it was the defense's turn to make things happen.
One week after an 84-82 offensive showcase against Wisconsin Lutheran, the Oconomowoc football team staved off what would have been a disheartening followup, rallying for 14 points in the fourth quarter to down Hartford on Friday, 21-14.
Nate Nord jumped a rout when Tommy Noennig dropped back to pass on first-and-goal from the 8-yard line with 2:09 to play, corralling an interception that put the Raccoons in control and allowed them to move to 7-0 on the year. Battles with Slinger and Watertown are all that remain between Cooney and a conference title, though Hartford (2-5) looked like the least-daunting test remaining on paper, and it proved to be anything but easy.
"Before that Wisco game, our starting defense was shutting kids down," said Nord, who also had a touchdown on offense in the first half. "I think the Wisco game was just a fluke game. I think our defense is capable of shutting them down. If we had another chance (at Wisco), we'd have a great chance of sending a message."
Oconomowoc needed the defensive boost on a night when the well-choreographed big plays that helped the squad beat Wisco for the first time since 2001 simply weren't materializing. Sam Phillips made a diving recovery on a Hartford fumble after the Orioles had reached the OHS 27-yard line with 9:56 to play in a 14-14 game, and quarterback Canton Larson found Jack Bourdo for a 30-yard touchdown less than two minutes later.
Trailing for the first time all night, Hartford appeared to have a game-tying touchdown on a fourth-and-4 play from its own 44, but receiver Jordan Jewell, who caught 11 passes for 172 yards on the night, dropped the wide-open pass. Jewell, however, atoned nicely with a gritty 50-yard gain on a pass play that put the Orioles inside the 10 with time ticking off the clock.
But on the next snap, there was Nord, unfazed by Hartford's decision to use the pass.
"Coming in, we were watching film, and we knew they were a trick-play team," Nord said. "If we stayed on our keys, we would get the job done. Our team is just the most resilient team that Oconomowoc has seen in a long time. Haymaker after haymaker, we come back and stick with them."
Oconomowoc finally got its offense clicking in the final quarter. Down 14-7, Larson hit Nord for a 26-yard pass on the final play of the third quarter, and the two-play drive closed 10 seconds into the fourth quarter on a 47-yard heave to Bednarski.
The drive started only after Hartford missed a 44-yard field goal. One drive earlier, the Orioles took a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard dive by quarterback Ethan Willer, his second score of the game.
"There are a lot of different ways to win, and we found a way to win tonight," Oconomowoc coach Ryan McMillen said.
"I am thrilled they came back with adversity in their face. ... We haven't won on this field in forever. It was a lot of different things that we haven't faced in a long time."
Larson finished 12-of-22 for 129 yards and the two scores, and he added 77 yards rushing. Both Bourdo and Koty Thelen caught four passes. The win was Oconomowoc's first on the road at Hartford since 2002.
Slinger pays a visit to Oconomowoc next weekend, with the regular-season finale slated for a road test in Watertown. The Goslings (6-1) incurred their only loss to Wisconsin Lutheran, 42-35.
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AS IT APPEARED IN PRINT: PDF collection of Oconomowoc "Athletic Fields Forever" coverage.
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