Bitter taste after cheese was frozen in Muskego
Monroe’s football team just finished their best season since my freshman year of high school (2000). The Cheesemakers went 11-2 overall (officially, after Edgewood’s canceled victory) and reached Level 4 in the WIAA Division 3 playoffs – the state semi-final.
Then came the damn Pewaukee Pirates. Six seasons ago, the Cheesemakers had turned the table over a decade of losing with an unbeaten regular season, only to be understaffed in a narrow home loss to the alma mater of JJ, TJ and Derek Watt.
At level 4, games are played on neutral grounds. With only 14 games played in the state, the level of officiating is also higher. At least it should be.
I know, I know – pissing off public servants is not the way to go. Generally speaking, I agree. I was already a certified official years ago and spent 13 years objectively covering high school sports. I understand that arbitration is hard work. I understand parents and coaches (and some players) criticize every call of every game, play by play. I agree it shouldn’t be that way – our high school officials do it for the love of the sport. They don’t get paid very well and they are human, which means mistakes can happen.
And I understand that over the last few years the number of those coming forward to officiate in high school and youth sports has declined due to these factors and is not tending to recover.
I understand all of this and I say this next point with it all in mind:
A singular flag, more than any other game, determined the outcome of the Monroe-Pewaukee game on November 12, 2021.
Yes, the officials determined the game.
I am in no way suggesting that the game has been bought and sold. I am 100% aware of the massive collapse of the third quarter which let the game level out (I was there). But as the calls arose, the most significant flags went against Monroe when they simply shouldn’t have been thrown.
For those present, a red flag (pun intended) should have appeared at the start of the match. Monroe needed to re-kick the opening kickoff because the DJ in the press box let a song play three seconds too long. And then again on the next piece. And the next piece. Finally, the official had to tell DJ Muskego not to play any music after the teams broke up the group.
My question, for the moment, was: “Doesn’t this DJ make games, or has this referee never played a game in a big stadium with a DJ?”
Anyway, in the first half I didn’t notice the arbitrage other than the music controversy – which it should be. Referees should never be part of the commentary of a match. It might have helped if Monroe turned defensive saves into offensive runs and led 14-0 at halftime. Seeing as the Cheese were taking the ball to start the third quarter, I couldn’t help but let my brain run with ideas of side stories and angles to discuss for the potential edition of the State Championship. .
“I have to call Pat Martin tomorrow to comment and talk about 1986.… Do I get a quote from every assistant coach who has declared as a player? … Which player (s) should I focus on for the celebratory photos? “
Instead, Monroe opened the third with a 3-and-out. And a bad snap / fumble combo that led to a Pewaukee touchdown.
Okay, it’s not a good start, but it’s time to put things right.
Next possession, another fourth down, but this time with a clean slap on the punt. But there is a bull rush and the kick is stuck. Phew.
[Three plays later, after a holding penalty, Pewaukee on the Monroe 25 on third down].
Okay, look at the screen here, or maybe reverse yourself. Ope, through pass, triple cover, good jump, no interference with the pass… “Wow, what a hold,” I said as Pewaukee’s Max Sheridan muscled through the defenders for an impressive catch. TD who tied the game.
With just under 4 minutes to go in the third, there was still time, as I said before, to put things right.
But there was another 3-and-out. Moments later, Pewaukee had his first try at the Monroe 45.
Then Monroe’s defense stepped up with a sack. And then another tackle for a loss, forcing a third and 23 for the Pewaukee 43. A short pass only gained three yards, making it a fourth down.
The course seemed (finally) to be correcting itself.
Pirate kicker Logan Schill unfolded to his right, in the increasingly popular brand of rubgy-style punt play, and threw a beauty that was shot inside the Monroe 5.
But wait, there was a flag in the backfield.
I watched the manager throw the flag in real time (the same guy as the DJ fiasco). The toss was delayed and it looked like he had waited for Pewaukee’s sideline to audibly complain. Monroe’s Charlie Wiegel had struck Schill’s still extended foot, who appeared to be holding the “just in case” pose.
As I have often seen, a rugby / running bettor is contacted from time to time by a defender, because the bettor IS a runner, during the entire game except for one step where he drops the balloon at his foot. According to the NFHS rulebook, a defender should only be penalized in this situation if he has the opportunity to avoid the punter, but does not. This decision is slightly different from that of college, where once a bettor starts running they no longer have kicker protections even after kicking.
So the official threw the flag, which is a 15-yard penalty for the brutal kick in high school (not a 5-yard variation for the kick in higher levels.
Pewaukee then kept the ball, advancing 15 yards. Three games later, it’s the fourth and seventh again. With the ball at the Monroe 37, the Cheesemakers opted to stay defensive at the base and not miss the punt team, given the short yardage. Time Shill does not run, but throws a ball into the seam. Monroe’s secondary is in perfect position and reads play all the time, with three players converging on the ball. Senior DB Jace Amacher is the one who reached for the ball and hit it to the ground with both hands instead of picking it up – the smarter play considering the 20 meter difference in position on the pitch.
Only this time, another flag is thrown, and apparently out of nowhere. Pewaukee fans weren’t looking for a defensive pass interference call. The bench didn’t seem to be arming either.
Amacher played the ball, went to the ball, got his first and while jumping his foot made contact with the Pewaukee player who was so late in the position he hadn’t even turned yet to reach the ball.
The penalty gave Pewaukee another first try – this time at the Monroe 22.
This is the game I first called blatant. It was the only room. Not the punt, as Monroe was back to another fourth place. Because if no flag had been thrown on the pass, Monroe would have had the ball at his own 37, not at 2, like on the punt.
But the flag was dropped, much to the dismay of almost everyone in the stadium. Pewaukee scored four games later to take a 21-14 lead.
The DPI was the complete turning point of the game. It was the singular moment that rocked the competition. Comparatively, this led to an outcome like the no-pass interference call in the 2018 NFC Saints-Rams Championship game – a late and controversial fourth-quarter call that directly led to the end of the game differently. In this game, a third down pass was incomplete when the receiver was hit hard by the defender long before the ball got there. If the flag had been thrown, New Orleans might have knelt down before throwing a last-second chip shot to go to the Super Bowl. Instead, they had to hit the basket with 1:41 to go, and the Rams came down the field and tied it with a basket. The Rams went on to win in overtime.
I understand that humans make mistakes. I do it fully. I must look no further than my own life, which is full of mistakes and assumptions from my teenage years and early to mid-twenties. I understand. But it was a Tier 4 match on November 12 – not Week 2 on August 27. At this time of year, officials just need to be better, especially in critical situations.
Yes, back-to-back punts were bad. Yes, Pewaukee had equaled him at 14 and quickly recovered the ball. Even, yes, the blow left Pewaukee to continue a possession and empty time.
But the second chance to continue the race was the difference in the outcome of the match. The Pirates could have elapsed more than two minutes before scoring (6:21 left). This meant that when Monroe faced his fourth down moments later, the cheesemakers had no choice but to go. There were less than five minutes left on the clock, one minute behind, and two minutes on the ride before they were stopped and the officials allowed the ride to continue. Again, Monroe had no choice but to go.
Instead, junior QB George Brukwicki saw his pass intercepted at Monroe 34. Five games later, another score from Pewaukee.
In Monroe’s last practice, MHS picked up heavy hitters from 29 and 12 yards. Brukwicki threw a deep pass to his brother Henry, whose left arm was held at his waist by his one-on-one defender, and the ball hit Henry’s only free hand, then the grass. No DPI this time around, however.
On the next play, George’s deep pass to the sideline was caught by Sheridan with 86 seconds left, sealing the game.
The unanswered 28 points in the second half will be on the minds of players and coaches for a long time – and for some of them, the rest of their lives. There will always be “what if?” ”
Simply put: Monroe won the first half; Pewaukee won the second half.
But the singular moment which decided the game came from a poorly refereed game. And it should never be so.
Could Monroe’s offense have continued to be lackluster and Pewaukee forced another punt or turnover and score to win? Certainly. In fact, the momentum was moving in this direction.
But we’ll never know now.
Finally, a message to this group of Cheese makers: Congratulations. It was a good season. The end of everyone’s year in tears, the difference is that only eight state teams end it with a smile beneath those tears.
Football is more than winning. It’s not just about playing sports. It is about much more. It teaches bonding, teamwork, trust and camaraderie. Players learn the hard work and how preparation (like scouting, lifting weights, conditioning, and specified training) goes a long way in determining success.
They are real links; real life lessons that will stick with a player the rest of their life.
This team developed these connections and learned these lessons. They also invigorated and captivated their community for 13 weeks. Whether they lost at Level 4 or State Championship Level 5 a week later, it was all going to end abruptly. It wasn’t supposed to end like this, but that’s life for you.
– Adam Krebs is editor of the Monroe Times and can be contacted at [email protected]