After losing its Mid States Football League (MSFL) opener to the Racine Threat, the Wauwatosa Spartans have managed to turn things around.
Tosa won its fourth straight game, 42-12, over the Milwaukee Venom on Saturday night at Greendale High School.
The Mustangs (4-1) came off a tough 13-10 win over the Madison Mustangs, while the Venom (1-4) were coming off a 72-0 shellacking by the Racine Raiders.
Despite Saturday's score, the game didn't start like a blowout.
York carries load
On the Spartans' second possession, running back Trevor York, who finished the game with 178 yard rushing, ripped off several big runs, including a 50-yarder that set up the game's first score.
Running back Jaimie Marton finished the drive, running in from eight yards out for a 7-0 Spartan lead.
A Spartan turnover — a Tony Henner interception by defensive lineman Vince Sciano — gave Milwaukee the ball back and the Venom made it count.
A 45-yard drive was topped off with a 6-yard run by running back Jerome Walker, making it 7-6 after the missed conversion.
A third turnover stalled the Spartan offense, when Henner was intercepted by safety Kevin Willingham deep in Venom territory.
The Spartans defense dug in their heels, forcing a quick Venom punt. Then the offense started moving again on the back of York, as he notched up first downs to take the Spartans down the field, finally scoring on a 1-yard dive for a 14-6 lead.
The Venom offense responded again, using two well-timed passes to tight end Sciano, the second a 2-yard score out, to make it 14-12 after another missed conversion.
Back came the Spartans behind the 1-2 combination of York and Marton, finishing with Henner finding his brother, wide receiver Jim Henner, for a 15-yard touchdown. That gave the Spartans a 21-12 lead.
A quick Venom three-and-out gave the ball back to the Spartans once more before the half, but as time expired, Henner was picked off again by cornerback Chad Peplinksi.
"Four first-half turnovers really stalled our offense and put our defense in some difficult positions," Spartans coach Brandy Spoerl said. "But we fought through it and went into the locker room up by eight points and confident about finishing strong."
After stopping the Venom on the opening second-half drive, the Spartans went 80 yards before the Henner brothers hooked up on a 15-yard touchdown pass for a 28-12 lead.
The Spartans started the final quarter with another drive, capped off by Marton scampering in from 25 yards out to make it 35-12.
Tosa's Gary Griffin then took over at quarterback and found wide receiver Brian Newell for a 42-yard reception down to the Venom 5-yard line.
Griffin dropped back and hit wide receiver Darius Harris for the final score, making it 42-12.
The Spartans improved to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in MSFL play. The Venom dropped to 2-5 overall and 1-4 in MSFL play.
"In the second half, we cleaned up the turnovers, which allowed us to try some things on both sides of the ball," Spoerl said. "We needed that, because we have a tough game this weekend."
Henner finished the night 9-for-15 for 96 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Marton added 74 yards on the ground.
— Luke Kujath
Defending Champs — The Spartans travel to Horlick Field at 7 p.m. to face the defending MSFL champion Racine Raiders on Saturday. It will be the second meeting between the teams, with the Raiders beating the Spartans in post-season play last season en route to a national championship after each team had won their respective league championships.
Seeding at stake — The unbeaten Raiders (7-0) have defeated their last two opponents by a margin of 144-0. Both teams reside in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference, so playoff seeding is at stake.
Coach's Quote — "It's going to be a challenge for sure – in a very hostile environment. We will really see what we're made of this week."
— Brandy Spoerl, Spartans coach
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