Intensity, resiliency and courage -- they were all part of the long-standing West Allis Central-West Allis Hale football rivalry.
It is appropriate, then, that those qualities were all present in what would appear to be the final meeting of the two schools for at least a number of years.
Central used the sharp passing of quarterback Griffin Johnson and some timely defense to build a 27-0 lead, then held off a Hale comeback in the second half to post a 27-14 victory on Sept. 16 at the West Allis Athletic Field.
The two schools will be separated by WIAA realignment next season. Central will go to the Woodland Conference, and Hale will stay in the Greater Metro Conference, which will play crossover games with the current Classic 8 teams, filling the Huskies' nine-game schedule.
Thus, Central and Hale will be unable to meet on the football field for the foreseeable future.
Hale coach Brandon Ehret hopes they can get back together again soon.
"Everyone comes out for this game," Ehret said. "The stands were full, and this game really brings the energy. The community revolves around this game. I hope we can get this back. This is a rivalry like none other, one of the best in the state. There is nothing on our schedule close to this in terms of atmosphere. This is what high-school football is all about."
With the rivalry at least suspended after its 76th game, Central holds a 40-31-5 lead in the series that dates back to 1942.
Bulldogs strike early
The Bulldogs (1-2 in the Greater Metro Conference, 2-3 overall) jumped out on top in this meeting, driving for a score on their first possession. On the Hale 3-yard line, Johnson rolled to his right and passed to Jared Welsch for a touchdown. The point after by Jack McCutchin was good, putting Central up 7-0 with 6 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first period.
The Huskies (0-3, 1-4), could not move and punted, putting the Bulldogs on their own 20-yard line, but they moved those 80 yards in just five plays. Johnson found Welsch for a 24-yard gain to the Central 44 and later hit Xavier Mullins for a 17-yard play to the Hale 40.
Just two plays later, Johnson passed to his right to Jose Cruz, who hauled in the ball, saw an opening and rambled 36 yards for the score. The kick made it 14-0 with 1:25 remaining in the first.
"Obviously, a rivalry like this, everyone's geared up and ready to go, and we just had the early edge," Central coach Keith Ringelberg said.
Ehret said, "They (the Bulldogs) got off quickly. They have some good skill kids with speed, and they got us on the edge early. We made some adjustments as the game went along."
The Huskies started to find some traction midway through the second quarter. They stopped Johnson on a fourth-down-and-one at the Hale 45, then moved downfield on passes by quarterback Michael Johnson to Jacob Phillips and Brandon Barr.
They reached the Central 6-yard line, but Kelshawn Johnson made an interception to halt the march.
Central took advantage, moving 66 yards in six plays, with Johnson hitting Breshawn Renfro perfectly in stride for a 19-yard touchdown that made it 20-0.
Hale put on a drive in the final minute of the second period and reached the Central 14 before an end zone pass barely escaped the outstretched hands of a receiver as time expired.
"We missed a couple of plays by just inches," Ehret said.
The Huskies fumbled the second-half kickoff, with the ball returned to the Hale 19, and the Bulldogs took full advantage. Johnson hit Glenn Martin on a 17-yard swing pass to the Hale 2-yard line, then found Welsch with a scoring toss. The point after put Central up, 27-0.
Johnson was in the middle of a string of 14 straight complete passes spanning the first through third quarters.
"Johnson was phenomenal tonight," Ringelberg said.
Johnson said, "It was a little bit of everything. We had momentum, the receivers were doing a great job."
Hale answered with an 85-yard drive featuring Michael Johnson passes to Christian Slotke and Barr and ending with a 6-yard touchdown run by Aaron Schmidt. The point after by Slotke made it 27-7 with 46 seconds left in the third period.
The Huskies scored again on their next drive, with two nifty plays. First, Michael Johnson hit a swing pass to Slotke that went for 26 yards to the Central 2, and Johnson was chased out of the pocket but flipped an underhand pass to Jordan Breznik in the end zone for the score. The kick cut it to 27-14 with 6:29 still remaining in the game.
Hale, though, never saw the ball again. Central moved methodically downfield to the Hale 15 to run out the clock and seal the victory.
For Central, Griffin Johnson completed 18 of 20 passes for 187 yards and four touchdowns on the evening.
The Bulldogs next meet Menomonee Falls at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the West Allis Athletic Complex for their Homecoming game. The Huskies take on Sussex Hamilton at 7 p.m. the same day at Sussex.
For now, though, Central can enjoy its rivalry victory.
"This was a great win for our kids," Ringelberg said. "To see them get a significant win like this is great. If this is the end of the rivalry, we get to keep the trophy for a while."