Shortly after the Pewaukee-Whitnall football game ended Friday night, two onsite bulldozers revved up a groundbreaking ceremony honoring the planned reconstruction of Whitnall High School's Falcons Field.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the earth-moving machines provided an apt metaphor for Pewaukee's dominating performance in a 44-8 victory over the Falcons on Friday.
Pewaukee needed a win or a Brown Deer loss to clinch an outright Woodland-Blue Conference championship, and the Pirates didn't take any chances, sewing up the league title with a 7-1 record (7-2 overall).
"We wanted to win the conference outright," said Pewaukee head coach Clay Iverson. "Whitnall's a good team; they're well coached, and to come in here and play the way we did was encouraging as we start our next season. Now it gets really fun."
The Pirates stout defense set the tone early, scoring the game's first points on a safety midway through the first quarter, then blocking a punt deep in Whitnall territory, which led to a 4-yard touchdown run by senior Alec Henderson.
Pewaukee started the second quarter with an 81-yard drive that culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Collin Sternad. Then, after getting the ball back with 3:22 left in the first half, used a pair of long completions from senior quarterback Brock Bateman -- a 46-yarder hauled in by T.J. Watt followed by a 24-yard snag by Derek Folkert -- to set up a 12-yard touchdown run by senior Austin Kaatz.
Bateman completed only six passes for the game but finished with 163 yards through the air, 113 of which went to Watt.
"We understand that even though we are a running team, there will be times when we have to pass, and the other team knows it," Iverson said. "But we're still going to do it, so we practice it."
Whitnall struck the first blow of the second half when senior quarterback Luke Mentkowski connected on a 45-yard touchdown bomb to junior receiver Sam Mentkowski, who made a great catch in tight coverage. Luke Mentkowski then hit senior Michael Bonin for the 2-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 24-8.
But Pewaukee pulled away from there, racking up three touchdown drives in the third quarter to round out the scoring. By game's end, the Pewaukee starting backfield of Henderson, Sternad and Kaatz combined for 159 yards rushing and six touchdowns (two apiece).
"We spread the ball around quite a bit; that's been our M.O. the whole year," Iverson said. "It makes it hard to key on one person. We throw the ball enough to keep [opposing defenses] a little bit loose, but in general we're going to run the football."
The Pirates finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak after dropping their first two games and will now try to maintain that momentum heading into the playoffs, which start next weekend.
Meanwhile, it was a tough finish to the season for the Falcons, who started 3-1 but lost their last five games to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Whitnall head coach Rob Leboeuf noted things went south for the Falcons after injuries decimated his offensive line.
"I'm proud of our seniors definitely," Leboeuf said. "I'm proud of our kids, and I think a lot of players overachieved, but it's disappointing to not be able to win one of your last couple games down the stretch, partially because the season took its toll on us with injuries. With the physicality of the game, that's how it goes."
Whitnall's shortcomings up front were evident in Friday night's loss as the Falcons finished with -54 net yards rushing, mostly due to sacks caused by Pewaukee's relentless pressure. Despite getting knocked to the ground often, Mentkowski did complete 13 passes for 158 yards.
Falcons fans can look forward to the $6.5 million renovation of their outdoor athletic complex now under way. The existing football stadium, which was built in the 1960s, will be replaced along with the field itself, which will transition from grass to a synthetic surface commonly referred to as FieldTurf.
"The people in the community and the school did a tremendous job with this project," Leboeuf said. "I'm just happy we are able to provide opportunities for the kids and provide the best experience that we're capable of providing. This is a step in the right directon for that. We're always striving for academic and athletic excellence.