Teams that do not make the WIAA football playoffs are granted an option for a 10th game each season, and West Allis Central slated an extra contest last week but got more out of it than just another football game.
The Bulldogs journeyed to Rock Island, Illinois, on Oct. 20 to take on a strong team that has a number of NCAA Division 1 recruits. Central lost, 43-17, but the result was secondary to the benefits and perks offered.
"This was a great experience," coach Keith Ringelberg said. "We got to ride in a coach bus, which is kind of special for us. We played in a great stadium, which seats 10,000 people. We had some nice meals. This was a nice way to send out our seniors, and this helped the younger guys bond. They now know that we (the Central program) can do some special things for them."
The Bulldogs also experienced some top-level competition because Rock Island currently has five or six players who are going to be Division 1 recruits next fall.
Even so, Central was able to hang with Rock Island for much of the game.
The first quarter was scoreless, and the Bulldogs trailed, 14-3, at the half after Jack McCutchin connected on a 25-yard field goal.
Central scored two touchdowns in the third quarter on a 10-yard run by quarterback Griffin Johnson and a 28-yard pass from Johnson to Xavier Mullins, staying within 28-17 after three periods.
"We decided to go with our young guys in the fourth period, kind of pass on the torch, and (Rock Island) was able to add a couple of extra touchdowns," Ringelberg said.
Johnson completed 19 of 26 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown, and Mullins caught 14 passes for 185 yards and a score. Mullins also collected 55 yards rushing and Johnson 43 on the ground, and Jared Welsch hauled in two passes for 63 yards. All three are seniors.
Ringelberg said sophomore running back Darius Grice looked good while posting 22 yards, and he will be a key piece of Central's future.
The Bulldogs finished 4-6 overall but made strides this season and look forward to competing in the Woodland Conference in 2017.