One final time, senior Drew Dixon got his Manitowoc Lincoln teammates together. What he said should, down the road, provide some solace to a season that was about to end.
“I can honestly say, that is the best football team we have ever played,” Dixon said.
It’s hard to imagine him being wrong.
Lincoln’s successful campaign came to an abrupt end Friday night on the FieldTurf of defending WIAA Division 1 state champion Hartland Arrowhead, 45-17.
But the score of the D1 second-round clash is a bit misleading. It was 45-3 at halftime.
Dixon said as the second half progressed, the fullback took time to soak it all in: The atmosphere, the final moments with his teammates, a few final defenders to run over. There was no true heartbreak.
“I feel no shame losing to them,” he said. “It’s nobody’s fault. They were the better team.”
Statistically, one would be hard-pressed to find a more humbling half for Lincoln football.
Manty’s rushing attack, which hadn’t been stopped by anyone all season, managed 16 yards on 23 attempts (0.7 per carry). The pass game amassed 32 yards.
Arrowhead (10-1), meanwhile, rushed 18 times for 242 yards (14.3 per attempt) and was 10-of-11 passing for 141 yards.
Manty had two first downs and six punts. Arrowhead had 17 first downs.
“This was a very, very good football team, and very well prepared,” said Lincoln coach John Dixon. “When we made mistakes, they exploited them.
“Some of those things, we can get away with against lesser teams,” he added. “But they intensified them.”
If there is any bright spot, it was Joel Leifer’s 40-yard field goal after Lincoln recovered a fumble deep in Arrowhead territory. Those were the first points scored against the Warhawks in the first half all season.
Leifer also converted a successful onside kick to open the second half. Unfortunately, that was followed by a lost fumble on the Ships’ next play.
Arrowhead, which according to Rivals.com has eight upperclassmen with NCAA Division I offers or interest (including three already declared to play at the University of Wisconsin), played its second team the entire second half.
Lincoln’s starters stayed out there and got to end on a relatively high note. Senior quarterback Brennan Mrotek rushed one in during the third quarter, and found fellow senior David Wronkowski on a 12-yard TD pass in the fourth.
Dixon finished with 48 yards rushing and senior Ethan Just had 40 yards on the ground. Ben Kohls, also a senior, had three receptions for 52 yards.
Coach Dixon said considering the relatively modest expectations going into the season, a Level 2 playoff game and 7-4 final record is very gratifying for the 33-year coach.
“This is one of the most rewarding and satisfying teams for me to coach,” he said.
…3 0 7 7
…21 24 0 0
HA — Jake Miller 12 pass from Johnny Duranso (Trevor Ostling kick)
HA — Ricky Finco 63 run (Ostling kick)
ML — Joel Leifer 40 field goal
HA — Duranso 20 run (Ostling kick)
HA— Duranso 19 run (Ostling kick)
HA— Ty Jager 1 run (Ostling kick)
HA— Cody Sellhausen 57 pass from Duranso (Ostling kick)
HA— Ostling 24 field goal
ML— Brennan Mrotek 3 run (Leifer kick)
ML— David Wronkowski 12 pass from Mrotek (Leifer kick)
First downs10 17
Yards passing106 163
Rushing: ML — Drew Dixon 12-48; Ethan Just 9-40. HA — Ty Jager 11-95; Johnny Duranso 5-82; Ricky Finco 2-65.
ML — Brennan Mrotek 8-15-0-106. HA — Johnny Duranso 10-11-0-141.
ML — Ben Kohls 3-52; Drew Dixon 2-26; Cameron Jaeger 2-16. HA — Cody Sellhausen 3-67; Jake Miller 4-44.