After two nail biters to open the season, West Allis Hale football coach Brandon Ehret wouldn’t have minded a Friday night that went a little easier on the nerves.
Of course, getting the team’s first win the Greater Metro Conference on Sept. 7 was the goal, regardless of the stress level.
But the Huskies instead ran into a determined Milwaukee Marquette squad that pitched a 25-0 shutout and stifled quarterback Nick Sotiros.
The senior had averaged more than 200 yards and 14 completions in his first two games of the season. Against the Hilltoppers, Sotiros completed just eight of 21 passes for 78 yards and one interception.
“It was a combination of the pressure, because they were forcing him out of the pocket, and some of our kids had drops,” Ehret said. “Good teams like this you can’t afford to have those types of mistakes.”
Hale (1-2, 0-2) was hampered by offensive miscues most of the night, especially at critical junctures of the game.
After linebackers Alex Schwab and Mitch Chevremont stuffed Marquette running back Alex Klestinski on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the first quarter, the Huskies suffered a safety on the next play.
Marquette (1-2, 1-1) extended its lead late in the second quarter when quarterback Charlie Greif connected with Andy Krueger for 17-yard touchdown.
Down 9-0 at halftime, Hale was well within striking distance, but went three and out to open the third quarter.
“It just seemed like we were off and couldn’t get a flow going,” Ehret said. “We’d have a few plays here and there and we just couldn’t get some momentum going.”
The Hilltoppers took advantage and drove 50 yards on 11 plays on their first possession of the second half, capped by a six-yard touchdown strike from Greif to tight end TJ Novotny.
Hale again had two opportunities to shift momentum in the third quarter, but were unable to capitalize on either.
Senior defensive back Richard Magray recovered a Marquette fumble late in the third quarter, only to see the Huskies gave it right back on the next play when running back Zach Smith was stripped on an option play.
On the ensuing offensive series by Marquette, Schwab picked off a Greif pass and returned it 40 yards to put Hale near midfield.
The drive stalled at the Marquette 41 yard line and Sotiros came up a yard short of picking up the first down after a 10-yard scramble.
Marquette head coach Jeff Mazurczak credited his team’s ability to make the most of its opportunities while holding the Hale offense in check after turnovers.
“The momentum swung very quickly in this game from that goal line stand that they had to the safety we put up to the interception and the fumble transition,” Mazurczak said. “I think our defense kept us strong this game and gave the offense opportunities to get their feet under them.”
Greif, in just his second start at quarterback, went 19-for-34 for 251 yards and three touchdowns, the last a 32-yard strike to Krueger late in the fourth quarter.
For Hale, Ehret hopes his team can rebound after what he said was a lackluster week of practice leading up to the Marquette game.
The Huskies won their opener, 21-20 over Lake Geneva Badger, then fell 21-14 in double overtime to Brookfield Central.
“We’ve got to understand that in the GMC, you can’t take anything for granted,” Ehret said. “These last couple of weeks we’ve had some recognition, right, wrong or indifferent. But we’ve got to do a better job of preparing ourselves to play.”
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