Schneider's run leads Homestead football team into state semifinals

Nov. 3, 2012

In Homestead football lore, there is the cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow touchdown pass from Derek Watson to David Harkensee to beat Germantown in the greatest regular season game ever in 2003.

In 2007, there was the overtime fourth-down out pass from Casey Barnes to Justin Howard, which Howard took over the goal line to help beat Whitefish Bay on its refurbished stadium's dedication night.

Some Bay fans still insist that Howard never got the ball over.

To that legacy, you can now add "The How in the Name of Red Grange's Century- Old Sneakers Did Jay Schneider Find Room to Slide Down the Sideline?" seven-yard TD scamper with 1:16 remaining Saturday that lifted the Highlanders to a 17-13 WIAA Division 2, Level 3 playoff win over previously unbeaten host Green Bay Southwest.

With the win, the Highlanders (10-1) advance to the WIAA D2 state semifinals next weekend against Marshfield (10-1). It is their first berth in the semifinals since the 2008 D1 state championship season.

"I just saw a wall of blockers and a sideline that was thinning out fast," said Schneider, "so I decided to do what the pros do on Sunday and launch myself (from about the three-yard line) and there it was, the touchdown we needed."

His coach, veteran Dave Keel, was a bit more effusive about the play.

"We'd been down inside the 10-yard line so many dog-gone times and come away with not so many points," he said. "I called a play which turned out not to be open, so Jay decided to take a shortcut into the end zone and all of a sudden, before we knew it, there he was.

"Just a great play by a great athlete."

Schneider tiptoed along the left sideline and at the very last second and launched himself from about the three-yard line. He spun to his back in mid-air and landed on his butt in the end zone, much to the delight of his dog-tired teammates.

Teammates who still had some work to do.

The Trojans (10-1) got a good kickoff return out to their 40 with 1:06 left and quarterback Matt McMahon put them into scoring position quite rapidly, with a quick out pass to Matt Adams that went for 21 yards to the Homestead 39.

But that's when the Homestead defense, which gave up only three first downs in the entire second half, rose to the occasion again.

After an incomplete pass, the heart and soul of the defense, the line, came up big.

McMahon rolled out to his right, but before he could plant his feet, all-world Homestead end Ryan Stendler and offensive line ace turned occasional pass-rushing fiend Luke Worthington were in his grill.

The result was a powerful sack of McMahon that lost 14 yards and forced the Trojans into taking a timeout with 47 seconds left.

Not that it helped them much.

On the next play, McMahon was under pressure again and threw a fastball into the middle of the field, where junior defensive back Max Pavelec tipped the ball right into the waiting arms of teammate and senior defensive back David Anderson, who corralled the game-ending interception and sent the Homestead sideline into bedlam.

"We just have a very talented front line," said veteran defensive coordinator Fritz Rauch. "We now have eight different guys we can rotate in there. Luke (Worthington) has just been waiting for his chance and he took advantage of it today.

"...Our defense just wanted to be on the field with the game on the line."

It seemed to be all afternoon.

The Highlanders had a 10-6 lead at the half but had to feel that it hadn't gotten its money's worth for all the time it spent on the Trojans side of the field.

They got to the Trojans 11 on one drive but saw that threat disappear on an interception in the end zone.

Later in the half, they got to the Southwest three, but two successive losses on runs by Schneider forced a 27-yard Ryan Stendler field goal instead of the wanted touchdown.

Shortly thereafter, the Highlanders extended the advantage to 10-0. A Southwest player accidently touched a punt by the Highlanders' Stendler. It was recovered by Homestead's Tyler Gehrke on the Trojans 19.

Five plays later, senior running back Shaquille Cole plowed four yards into the end zone with just 55 seconds remaining.

But the Trojans, who spent most of the game in a pistol formation, cut McMahon loose in the final seconds of the half.

He completed five of seven passes on the subsequent sequence, including a 23-yarder to Chad Leeman that gave Southwest a first and goal at the one with just over five seconds remaining.

McMahon then snuck the ball in, and all of a sudden, it was a much closer game at 10-6 at the half.

Keel howled in protest that Leeman was actually ineligible on the play, even calling a timeout after the touchdown to discuss it with the officials. He carried on the discussion into the early part of halftime.

Rauch said that the Trojans took advantage of a weakness in the Highlanders pass defense that gave them too many easy looks on the outside.

"We tightened that up in the second half," he said.

But the momentum remained securely with Southwest. The Highlanders got a good return of the second half kickoff from Cole, but Southwest forced a fumble and recovered at its own 49.

However, instead of staying with the successful passing attack that netted them the late score in the first half, the Trojans went back to the option attack and Homestead, with the help of a motion penalty, was able to force a three and out.

The Trojans continued to play the field position game to great advantage, and two sequences later it paid huge dividends. On a third and 14 play from his own seven, Highlander quarterback Jake Laihinen tried to drop back to pass but was quickly overrun and sacked, forcing a fumble in the process.

Southwest's giant sophomore defensive lineman Reggie McKenzie (6-4, 266) recovered the ball in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown at the 4:46 mark of the third quarter, making it 13-10.

"That was a bozo call by me that the team had to overcome," said a chagrined Keel.

But overcome it the Highlanders did.

Two subsequent excursions into Southwest territory failled to net points. The second effort, a 13-play march, got to the Trojans 19, but a 4th and 1 sneak by Laihinen was turned back.

Two possessions later, the Highlanders began their last-ditch effort from their own 37 with 3:37 remaining.

Laihinen, who struggled to make plays in the passing game most of the afternoon, suddenly found his range, as he hit the versatile Schneider with a quick out route that went for 26 yards on first down.

Two plays later, he hit Brett Geschke on a similar pattern to the other side of the field. Geschke bounced off a tackler and got a great block from teammate Darius Cross and rumbled 18 yards to a first down on the Southwest 17.

Strong runs by Schneider (six yards) and Cole (five) gave Homestead a first and goal on the Southwest six.

Homestead was showing its heart and tenacity at this point, as the backs were running behind a patched-up offensive line. Starting guard Max Daniels had to come out with an injury. His replacement was sophomore John Marita.

Cole himself was running on a heavily-taped up ankle after getting hurt in a pile-up earlier in the half.

It was after Cole was thrown back for a 2-yard loss on first down that Schneider engaged in his heroics.

"We just had to get things shaped up," said Schneider. "Something just wasn't clicking on those previous drives. We just all had to step up and give a little something extra."

From 2001-2008, Homestead made at least the state semifinal round seven times, with state championships in 2006 and 2008. The failures in the second round in the last three years had been a hard nut that needed cracking. And now it was.

"Character and heart," mused Keel afterward. "We had chances to put the game away early, but we didn't. Then we tried to give it away, but then we took it back. ...I was just so tickled with the defense getting those stops in the second half.

"They really did the job."

As did everyone else.

"From day one Coach Keel and Rauch have preached how much character goes into playing football," said linebacker Bryce Juedes, who had two critical sacks in the game. "We had to face tons of adversity this year. We just had to battle back so hard.

"We had a hurt guard, Shaquille was going on a bad foot, but we knew we had each other's back, just like when Max (Pavelec) makes that great tip to Dave (Anderson on the clinching interception).

"We'd been stuck on level 2 (of the playoffs) for awhile now. Now we get to start a new tradition. Now we're back."




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