A slow start ultimately proved costly to the Whitnall football team in a crucial 33-27 loss to South Milwaukee on Sept. 30.
The Falcons fell behind, 21-0, after one quarter, and although they rallied to tie the game at 27-27, they wound up losing and jeopardizing their WIAA playoff aspirations in the process.
Whitnall slipped to 2-3 in the Woodland Conference East Division (3-4 overall) and must defeat New Berlin West in a Woodland crossover game on Friday, Oct. 14, at home to become playoff-eligible.
Before that, the Falcons play at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at Greendale, but that game is regarded as nonconference and has no bearing on the standings or the playoff positions.
The Falcons fell into their precarious spot with the loss to South Milwaukee, which improved to 3-2 in the division and is already playoff-eligible.
The Rockets scored on first-period runs of 43, 39 and 56 yards by quarterback Jake Simuncak, who finished with 292 yards on the ground.
"They just took it down the field," Whitnall coach John Quinlan said. "We didn't come out ready to go. We couldn't get anything going on defense or offense."
In the second quarter, though, Whitnall sprang to life with three scores of its own. Dan Alexopoulos caught touchdown passes of 3 and 24 yards from quarterback Jacob Flores, and Andrew Mallmann snatched another of 3 yards from Flores. After the third score, Adam Pelkofer snared a two-point conversion pass from Flores to bring his team within 21-20 with 28 seconds left in the first half.
"We turned on a light switch in the second quarter," Quinlan said. "We ran many of the same plays but were running better and blocking better. On defense, we started to tackle better."
Simuncak scored again from 17 yards for South Milwaukee, but Whitnall answered when Mallmann hauled in a 47-yard scoring toss from Flores and Ryan Korpal hit the extra point to tie the game at 27-27.
Later, though, the rainy weather and wet conditions hurt the Falcons when a snap on a punt was fumbled, with the Rockets recovering at the Whitnall 25-yard line with about five minutes left. That led to the winning score, a 5-yard run by Simuncak, which was the difference in the game.
The Falcons reached the Rockets' 40 on their final drive but came up short.
Flores completed eight of 18 passes for 114 yards and the four touchdowns.
"He did some things well," Quinlan said of the quarterback. "I give him credit for playing as well as he did in the wet conditions, with balls going through the receivers' hands. He kept his composure."
Alexopoulos catches five
Alexopoulos caught five passes for 51 yards and Mallmann two for 50 yards, both touchdowns. Mallmann also led the rushing game with 52 yards.
Defensively, Jacob Klatkiewicz collected nine tackles, Nico Perez seven tackles, Ryan Bigalke five tackles, Mitch Knapp four tackles and Brady Burckhardt four tackles.