Nine minutes, 58 seconds.
Never mind that Friday night’s high school football game between Sheboygan South and De Pere contained 48 minutes of play. Unfortunately for South High’s players and fans, what happened in that unpleasant 9:58 chunk of time told the story and could not be overcome.
“That second quarter was just a nightmare,” said Redwings coach Chris Hein after his team’s 28-7 Fox River Classic Conference game. “It’s very difficult. The kids worked so hard. The coaches worked hard this week. These kids care so much, and they stick together, but that second quarter looked like we didn’t even practice this week.”
This game also featured a lightning delay that halted play with 4:22 left and emptied the stands. But by then, most of the suspense was gone.
In the final 9:58 of the second quarter, this game went from a 0-0 tie to a 28-0 De Pere lead. As rain poured down on the crowd, adversity snowballed on South’s players, and the Redwings couldn’t stop it until halftime mercifully did. It started innocently enough, with a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Rutherford to receiver Adam Beyer that made it 7-0 with 9:58 to play before halftime.
Then, just a little more than two minutes later, running back Evan Zellner dashed 65 yards on a sweep left to make it 14-0. Unfortunately, the barrage wasn’t over. About four minutes later, Rutherford inexplicably burst 85 yards — on a quarterback sneak. South had a run blitz called and Rutherford, who initiated his team’s plays very, very quickly after lining up behind center, ran right past the surprised Redwings.
Suddenly, what had been a very close game was 21-0, but it got even worse. On the last play of the half, Rutherford hit Brett Marshall down the middle of the field, and Marshall somehow evaded a few South tacklers and fell across the end zone. While some observers didnt’ think Marshall got in, that hardly mattered, as the scoreboard flashed the unreal score of 28-0.
“Our defense has struggled with big plays all year,” said Hein, whose Redwings fell to 2-3 (De Pere improved to 4-1). “We play good defense 80, 85 percent of the time, but that other 15, 20 percent kills us.”
To South’s credit, the Redwings actually won the second half 7-0, with a handful of nice drives on offense and mostly solid defense. South’s lone touchdown drive came thanks in large part to some tough running from back Ben Steen, who had a 49-yard run late in the third quarter that set up an 8-yard touchdown run by tough junior Andrew Wildman.
Hein told his team after the game that he was proud of how hard it played in the second half, how much heart it showed.
But the Redwings were sorely disappointed. One of their key goals this season, to finish unbeaten at home, had been dashed. There are other goals, Hein said, presumably including making the playoffs. To do that, South will have to win two more games.
Late in Friday’s loss, Steen stood alone on the sideline, breathing hard, with blades of grass and blood dotting his right arm. After a few seconds, Steen, limping slightly, walked over to where his teammates were standing, waiting for the final minute or so to tick away. Beaten but not broken, South left the field united.
Nothing could be done about that 9 minute, 58 second nightmare. But the good thing about all nightmares is, you eventually wake up.
With three games left, there’s plenty of football to be played. And for Sheboygan South, there are still dreams to chase.