The Winnebago Lutheran football team won’t get any style points for its 13-0 homecoming victory against Lomira on Saturday at Viking Field, but that won’t matter.
On an overcast afternoon, WLA got just enough big plays from running back Drew Stroede and a strong push from its defensive line to stay alive for a playoff spot, which the Vikings (3-4, 3-3) can earn with a win this Friday at Omro.
“As I told our players we can’t play like this and get into the playoffs, said WLA coach Bill Heinkel. “We need to be able to get off the ball, block better and make plays and not make mistakes, and that’s what it’s got to be to make the playoffs against Omro.”
What it took to beat Lomira was an overwhelming effort from the defensive line.
Lomira quarterback Ethan Hackbarth was sacked six times and, after leaving with an injury, his replacement was planted once.
Tim Anderson rushed off the edge for three sacks and Thomas Bates plowed ahead from the nose tackle position for two sacks and one huge fumble recovery.
Two plays before that recovery, an inadvertent whistle had nullified a Lomira fumble. This time Ben Wolff got into the backfield and knocked the ball loose with Bates falling on it at the Lomira 26.
Three plays later and Stroede followed Bates on an inside veer dive, took a quick outside cut and walked in for a 16-yard score.
“That felt good getting that (fumble),” Bates said. “It felt good that we ended that with a touchdown.”
Heinkel said the athleticism of his defensive ends, Wolff and Anderson, caused a lot of havoc for the Lomira offensive line.
WLA scored on its next possession with Stroede scoring on the same inside veer from 10 yards out.
The senior finished with 92 yards on 17 attempts, but for the most part WLA was either bottled up or mistake prone. The hosts fumbled twice inside the Lomira 15 yard line in the first half, and they had a field goal blocked. In the second half, Garrett Keller had an interception, and he blocked a punt in the fourth quarter. But the Lions (0-7, 0-6) could not capitalize.
“Defensively I thought we played very well,” Lomira coach Seth Larson said. “We put our offense in a position to score some points and we just didn’t capitalize, so I was very proud of our boys defensively. The injury bug hit us and we got tired and we couldn’t keep up with them.”
It was a frustrating loss for Lomira, which has to beat Springs this week to avoid going winless for the season.
Hackbarth threw for 148 yards, but the team rushed for negative yardage.
“Right now we’re focusing on small victories, meeting team goals, celebrating individual performances and salvaging something from the season,” Larson said.
For Bates and the rest of the WLA seniors it didn’t matter how the game was won, he was just happy to win his final home game.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “I’m proud of all the guys on the team.”