Since the midway point of the 2016 season, the New Berlin West and Whitnall football teams have moved in opposite directions.
They are now headed for different destinations: the Vikings will appear in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and the Falcons are pointed toward an offseason of trying to figure out what went wrong after a promising 3-1 start.
The Vikings will take on unbeaten Catholic Memorial, the Classic 8 Conference champion, at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct., 21, at Carroll College.
West downed Whitnall, 33-8, on Oct. 14 to notch its fourth straight victory, winding up 3-3 in the Woodland Conference and 5-4 overall. The Falcons slipped to 2-4 in the conference and 3-6 with five straight losses to close the season.
For West, this year was a nice jump from back-to-back 2-7 campaigns.
"We've got a great group of kids that were willing to buy into what we were asking them to do," West coach Ben Chossek said. "That makes it easy to coach. There's good talent in this group of kids, and we were able to find ways to maximize that talent. Kids stepped forward every week and kept getting better."
Quarterback Nate Egofske, who personally accounted for 200 yards of offense against Whitnall, added, "It's all about the process. Every day, do our jobs; every day, get to work in the weight room and practice."
The Vikings have been led offensively all season by running back Max Meleski, and he was solid again against the Falcons with 112 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries, but Egofske provided a solid second option with 82 yards on 18 attempts.
"I've gotten more confident running the ball, putting my head down," Egofske said. "Sometimes, I make a cut, but I just kept my head down and bulled through."
Chossek said, "We really needed to develop a counter to Max, and Nate has really stepped forward, especially the last couple of weeks, and become a real solid option, just controlling the offense, running the ball when necessary and throwing the ball when necessary."
Whitnall coach John Quinlan said, "They didn't do anything we weren't expecting. We knew coming in tonight that it was all about blocking and tackling. We didn't get off the ball enough and they did a nice job of firing off the ball. They took it to us. We didn't get enough penetration and they did a nice job."
The Falcons were also hurt by some more injuries, as standout running back Andrew Mallmann, who has been in and out of the lineup all season, was sidelined again for the finale.
Egofske got things started for West when he hit Tyler Stoltenburg for a 67-yard touchdown on West's first possession of the game. The extra point by Egan Iwanski made it 7-0 with just about five minutes elapsed.
That pass was the beginning of an efficient night for Egofske, who finished 6 of 8 through the air for 120 yards, with Stoltenburg catching five tosses for 113 yards.
Later in the quarter, after a short Whitnall punt, the Vikings moved 37 yards, mostly on the feet of Egofske and Meleski, with a crucial 14-yard pass to Stoltenburg thrown in, and scored on a 4-yard run by Meleski. The point after put the Vikings up 14-0 after one period.
On West's next drive, Egofske and Meleski took turns running once again, with Meleski rolling around the left side for a 7-yard score to build the lead to 20-0.
The pattern repeated itself on the next possession, with West moving 66 yards on runs from Egofske and Meleski and a pair of passes to Stoltenburg. Meleski scored again, this time from 2 yards after he took a direct snap on a wildcat play. The touchdown, with 1 minute, 1 second left in the first half, increased the lead to 27-0.
Meleski tallied from 11 yards in the third quarter for his fourth score of the evening, and then both he and Egofske saw their nights come to an end.
The Falcons, who had trouble moving the ball most of the night, finally scored with two minutes left when Marcus Arteaga went up the middle for 7 yards, capping an 82-yard night for him. Quarterback Jacob Flores then hit Dillon Peters for a two-point conversion.