Tosa Spartans enters IFL football playoffs with win over Muskego
Will host Milwaukee at 6 p.m. Saturday
The Wauwatosa Spartans of the Ironman Football League defeated the Muskego Hitmen, 24-17, Saturday at Hart Park in the last game of the regular season.
Both teams came in with identical 7-1 records, and both already assured of their respective positions in the upcoming IFL playoffs, which start this weekend.
The Spartans are the No. 1 seed in the American Conference, while the Hitmen had secured the No. 2 seed in the National Conference. But bad blood boils between these heated rivals, and neither wanted to concede the game and enter the playoffs coming off a loss.
The Spartans struck first early in the first quarter when fullback Cedric McFadden ran for a 10-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Early in the second quarter, the Spartans struck again, as running back Jaimie Marton scored on a six-yard dive to make it 14-0. The Hitmen mustered a 30-yard field goal by Michael Georgalas before the half, to cut the Spartan lead to 14-3.
After the Spartan defense shut down the Hitmen's first drive of the second half, the offense struck quickly, as quarterback Tony Henner found wide receiver Johnathan Sain on a deep post to open a 21-3 lead. But poor kick coverage by the Spartans kept the game interesting, and the Hitmen got a spark when returner Dominique Johnson returned a punt deep into Spartan territory. A few plays later, running back Darrell Ellison swept outside to score, narrowing the lead to 21-10.
"We started out well, but we got really sloppy on offense with penalties, and on special teams we had issues covering kicks," Spartans head coach Jordan Kopac said. "Our defense played exceptionally well, but we put them in a couple bad spots in the second half."
On the ensuing drive, the Spartans offense added a little breathing room, as Charlie Henke connected on a 48-yard field goal, increasing the lead to 24-10. The Spartans kick coverage broke down again in the fourth quarter, allowing another long kick return, this time for a touchdown by Carmelo Velazquez, cutting the lead to seven at 24-17.
But that's how the game would end, as the Spartans defense held a last-ditch Hitmen drive, and the offense was able to hold onto the ball and run out the clock for the win, creating momentum heading into this weekend's playoffs.
"We'll take the win heading into the playoffs," assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Brandy Spoerl said. "And we know what we need to clean up if we expect to make another run at an Iron Bowl."
The Spartans (8-1) host the Milwaukee Hurricanes (4-5) in the first round of the American Conference playoffs Saturday. The game starts at 6 p.m. at Hart Park. The teams met in the regular season two weeks ago, with the Spartans winning easily, 49-6.
The winner advances to face the winner of the other AFC matchup between the Shorewood Monarchs and the Southern Lakes Blue Devils Aug. 25 for the AFC championship. The Hitmen (7-2) host the Elgin Eagles (2-7) in their conference playoff game.
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