Ethan Clark and the Stevens Point Area Senior High football team took care of business in the game they needed to win Friday night.
They did so without knowing for sure if a victory would put SPASH in the playoffs.
Clark rushed for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Panthers, who rolled to a 35-0 victory over Oshkosh West in Valley Football Association South Division action at Community Stadium.
With the win, SPASH reached 5-4 overall, but finished 3-4 in the conference, falling short of the .500 record required for automatic inclusion in the playoffs and leaving its postseason fate in the hands of the WIAA.
The playoff field was to be announced soon after midnight Friday.
“We just wanted to do our part, and we took care of our job,” SPASH coach Pete McAdams said. “We put ourselves in a hole going into Game 9. We’re just hoping for another opportunity.
After a rough start to the season, the Panthers finished strong, winning three out of the last four.
Senior quarterback Mitch Mallek passed for a season-high 199 yards, including a 30-yard scoring strike to Kirien Specher in the third quarter that put SPASH up 28-0.
Victor Kizewski spent most of the night open in the Wildcats’ secondary, grabbing three passes for 75 yards, while Joey Flowerette caught three passes for 65 yards.
“The guys got open and I was lucky enough to hit them for some big plays,” Mallek said. “Coach told us this would be our last game on the field, so we wanted to leave with a bang.”
Running as if the Panthers playoff lives was on the line, a determined Clark finished with 97 yards on 15 carries in the opening half. He found the end zone on runs of 4 and 1 yards in the opening half to help SPASH build a 21-0 cushion.
Mark Sebree added a 2-yard touchdown run to open the scoring in the first quarter.
The SPASH defense also looked like the defense of old in the opening half by keeping the pass-happy Wildcats off the scoreboard and limiting them to 117 yards of total offense.
West was most effective through the air, but quarterback Sam Olejnik finished with just 120 yards passing for the game.
Prior to Marshfield putting up 31 points against them last week, the Panthers had surrendered just seven points combined in wins over Neenah and Wisconsin Rapids.
Linebacker Noel Winch even got into the scoring act, returning an interception 33 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
“Like we said all the way back in August, the defense was an area that was going to be a strength of our team,” McAdams said.
SPASH – Mark Sebree 2 run (Mark Ponczoch kick)
SPASH – Ethan Clark 4 run (Ponczoch kick)
SPASH – Clark 1 run (Ponczoch kick)
SPASH – Kirien Sprecher 30 pass from Mitch Mallek (Ponczoch kick)
SPASH – Noel Winch 33 interception return (Marc Renfert kick)
Records: SPASH 5-4, 3-4 VFA South; Oshkosh West 2-7, 1-6 VFA South.