LAKE MILLS — The L-Cats recovered an onside kick with a 1-point lead in the fourth quarter and were driving to extend the lead, potentially putting the game out of reach.
Instead of opting for a field goal, Lake Mills went for it on fourth down from well inside Onalaska territory. The play was stopped short and the Hilltoppers needed a field goal to win.
Onalaska moved it to the red zone before attempting a 28-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the game. The ball was snapped over the holder’s head and into the kicker’s arms, who heaved a prayer towards the end zone.
The heave fell incomplete and Lake Mills held on for a 24-23 victory over Onalaska in a nonconference game at Campus Field on Friday.
The L-Cats (2-1) built a 17-8 halftime lead behind the strength of a 5-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Adam Moen in the second quarter. After sophomore defensive back Michael Stenbroten jumped on a muffed Hilltopper punt, Moen rolled right and found junior wideout Jaxson Retrum for a 25-yard score just before the half.
“We ran the ball really well and ate up tons of clock,” Lake Mills football coach Dan Ferkovich said. “We ate up eight minutes of the first quarter. We had two offensive possessions, really three in the first half because they muffed the punt. We found ways to move the chains in the first half. We used play action to take some shots.”“We weren’t the normal Lake Mills teams of past where we were throwing it deep and all over the place. We still spread out and did lots of motion, but we got the ball in the hands of our play-makers and let them run with it.”Onalaska (2-1) running back Nathan Lubinsky scored in the third quarter from three yards out to cut the lead to 17-15. The L-Cats scored on their next drive after huddling and taking some time off the clock to push the lead back to nine points on a Moen 1-yard run.
Lubinsky scored from a yard out in the fourth quarter and a successful two-point try made it 24-23. The Hilltoppers elected to onside kick it, however Lake Mills recovered and started with good field position. The L-Cats were deep into plus territory and the Hilltoppers were out of timeouts when they elected to go for it on fourth down to try and seal the game.
“The crowd was amazing on both sides,” Ferkovich said of the atmosphere. “They were definitely something else. It was a fun game. One of the funnest games at Campus in a really long time.”
Moen finished 20-for-29 passing for 141 yards and a touchdown, totaling a team-high 89 yards rushing on 21 carries. The L-Cats offensive line was stout in pass protection and run blocking as the team put up 157 yards rushing on 38 totes.
“Our line played fantastic, when we needed to run the ball they created some space for us to run,” Ferkovich said. “When we needed to throw, they gave Adam time. The line was stand out tonight.”
Onalaska had some success on the ground, but Lake Mills’ tackling and pass coverage efforts proved vital.
“They didn’t do a lot of motion. I was waiting for it and expecting it,” Ferkovich said of the Hilltopper offense. “They just didn’t do it. They did a good job of running up the gut at us kind of like New Glarus did. We stopped that first which was great.
“They made an adjustment and I’d have to look at film to see what they did and started gashing us. Our outside linebackers were playing a little to aggressive and they were going over the tackle on us. We tackled well tonight which was key. We didn’t miss a lot of tackles and our pass coverage was fantastic.”
Senior receiver Hunter Buechel had eight catches for 56 yards and senior wideout Matt Johnson caught six balls for 36 yards.
On defense, Johnson recovered a fumble and freshman linebacker Benjamin Buchholtz intercepted a Larson pass.
Junior outside linebacker Grant Horken and junior defensive lineman Josh Lescohier both had two tackles for losses.
“On special teams we played great, on defense we played great and on offense we played great. That’s exactly the kind of effort we would need to beat a team like this and we did.”
Lake Mills plays at West Salem for its last non-conference game of the season on Friday.
LAKE MILLS 24,
Onalaska 0 8 7 8 — 23
Lake Mills 3 14 7 0 — 24
Yards rushing (att-yds.) 35-146 38-157
Yards passing 171 141
Attempts 26 29
Completions 15 20
Had intercepted 1 0
Total yards 317 298
LM — Levake 27 field goal
O — Olsen 50 pass from Larson (2-point attempt good)
LM — Moen 5 run (Levake kick)
LM — Retrum 25 pass from Moen (Levake kick)
ON — Lubinsky 3 run (kick good)
LM — Moen 1 run (Levake kick)
ON — Lubinsky 2 run (2-point attempt good)