The Westby football team traveled four hours across the state to face Lake Country Lutheran in the second round of WIAA Division 5 play-off action on Friday, Oct. 27. The Norsemen (6-5) fell 44-6 to the unbeaten Lightning (11-0)
Entering the game the second-seeded Lake Country Lutheran Lightning were averaging 45.1 points per game and allowing their opponents a mere 7.6 points. They beat Kenosha St. Joseph 44-14 in the first round of play-off action.
All season long, the Lightning relied heavily on junior running back, Dane Vance who had racked up 1,337 yards offensively and 27 touchdowns before facing the Norsemen to lead the Lake Country Lutheran offense. He was aided by junior quarterback Ethan Wilkins who completed more than 50-percent of his passes in the season teetering at the 1,000 yard mark, with 18 touchdowns and only a pair of interceptions before the Westby matchup.
Westby Head Coach Andy Hulst said the Norsemen said a team’s seeding doesn’t win a game, it’s the final points on the scoreboard that determine who advances and whose season ends.
That said, Hulst also knew going into the game that sixth-seeded Westby was not the odds-on-favorite team matching up against Lake Country Lutheran.
The Norsemen overcame a 22-point, second-quarter deficit to beat Lancaster 38-29 in the first round of play-off action. The Westby defense has showed steady improvement as the season progressed and forced plenty of turnovers against a tough Lancaster on Oct. 20.
Westby quarterback Alex Gluch’s confidence level spiraled upward as the season progressed. He had tallied up 1,235 passing yards, 11 touchdowns; and 425 rushing yards, with 7 touchdowns before the game with Lake Country Lutheran.
Junior running back Ryan Daines started out slow early in the season, but found more running room every week, including an 80-yard touchdown run against the Lightning on the first ball snapped from scrimmage. Daines had racked up 880 yards entering the final game, including 18 touchdowns, two of which were defensive scores the previous week against Lancaster.
The quick score against Lake Country Lutheran gave Westby a short-lived momentum boost, but turned out to be the only points the Norsemen would put on the board. Hulst said Lake Country Lutheran deserves plenty of credit for playing smart and capitalizing on plays that could have gone either way.
Hulst said the Lake Country Lutheran team was not overly physical or big, but their skilled players were very fast and their quarterback made his plays count, which in the end was really the difference maker in the game.
On the flipside, Westby simply could not sustain any long drives for scores, something that has hurt the Norsemen all year.
“We did not execute and it cost us,” Hulst said.
The final game of any season is always difficult, especially for the seniors. Playing their last football game as a Norsemen were: Erek Devine, Carter Bergdahl, Chevy Knight, Brad Ackerman, Jack Lipski, Grant Dayton and Kaleb King.
“Thank you seniors for your dedication and hard work over these last four years. You’re a great group of guys and really did help to turn our season around when we were sitting at a 1-3 record, so for us to finish the season like we did is a tribute to the seniors first and then to all of our players and coaches who made really good late season adjustments,” Hulst said.
The Westby football has a strong junior class who will be taking the field again in 2018 as seniors. Anyone following Norsemen football is well aware of the trials and tribulations the team had to undergo this season without lights at the Westby complex. Hulst and the entire coaching staff are hoping that the generosity of past alumni, area businesses and the general public will shine through before the next football season with enough donations to allow the and the Norsemen Booster Club to install the lights they have already purchased. The Booster Club is looking to install six stadium lights, with installation costs estimated at $90,000.
“I urge the school and communities to help the Norsemen Booster Club with their continued efforts to get lights installed and finish more of the athletic complex by next year. The lights have been purchased, but people need to realize that the cost of installation is still high and not in the budget. Any donations to bring Friday football back under the lights would be very appreciated,” Hulst said.