Goslings narrowly win turnover battle, spoil Stoughton’s homecoming
STOUGHTON — It was a weird ending to a weird game.
With his team protecting a seven-point lead with 12 seconds remaining, Watertown senior Paul Kujawski was punting near his own end zone. Get the ball away and the game is likely over. Kujawski knew Stoughton would be coming after him.
“Coach was just like, ‘Do your best to get it off and if it’s a bad snap, take the safety,’” Kujawski said. “I tried my hardest to get it off and they got on it.”
Stoughton senior Jacob Gibson came in free and got a piece of Kujawski’s kick, but Kujawski still got enough on the punt to get the ball away. It fluttered and came down near Watertown’s 30-yard line.
Hoping to return the kick amidst the chaos, Stoughton senior Trentin Conklin jumped up and caught the ball. But he lost the handle on it, and when Watertown junior lineman Klayton Kopet pounced on the loose ball, the Goslings left Stoughton with a 28-21 Badger South victory.
“Yeah (it worked out),” Kujawski said. “I’ve never seen that before. I was really happy with how we stuck it out in the end. Defense had some great stops. It was a crazy victory.”
Watertown (6-1, 5-0 in conference) turned the ball over three times, but took it away four times from Stoughton (5-2, 3-2), and that was enough to spoil homecoming for the Vikings, who ruined the Goslings’ homecoming 49-7 last season.
“They touched it (the punt) there and I just saw it on the ground and jumped on it and held it until the refs were around me,” Kopet said. “Last year, we got smoked by this team and it feels great to beat these guys, especially on their homecoming. It’s awesome.”
For the sixth time in seven career varsity starts, Watertown junior quarterback Ethan Pauly made more plays than his counterpart and earned the victory. Pauly completed 28-of-49 passes for a season-best 353 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for the winning score from 2 yards out with 2:40 remaining.
Pauly threw a pair of 9-yard TD passes in the first half to junior receiver Kory Stas to give Watertown one-score leads.
The first scoring toss in the left corner of the end zone with 9:07 left in the first quarter capped a 10-play, 76-yard drive to open the game.
Pauly converted a third-and-11 with a 30-yard pass over the middle to junior receiver Daniel Denault, who finished with 12 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. His next pass to junior receiver Cade Oiler on a slip screen was good for 17 yards. After finding Denault for another 17-yard pickup, Pauly hit a wide-open Stas following a pump fake. Kujawski, who finished 4-for-4 on extra point attempts, drilled the first to make it 7-0.
“I was just trying to get those outside linebackers and safeties to jump up and (then we could throw) little bubbles and hit the slants,” Pauly said.
“The line did amazing. The only pressure I had was outside linebackers blitzing. It’s hard for the tackle to scoot out to that, because you don’t see it coming. But other than that, it was amazing protection tonight.”
Stoughton answered on its first series with a big play to tie the game. Senior receiver Drew Anderson (four catches, 103 yards) beat his man on a slant off the line, and when junior quarterback Adam Hobson hit him 10 yards upfield, he made one defender miss and took it for a 54-yard touchdown. Senior Cade Spilde’s extra point tied it at 7-7 with 8:08 left in the first quarter.
Watertown drove 70 yards on its next series, including Denault’s fourth down conversion catch near the goal line. But senior running back Brian Katzenberger fumbled on the next play and Spilde recovered it for Stoughton at the 4-yard line.
The Goslings forced a three-and-out. Despite Spilde’s 64-yard punt from the end zone, Watertown put together a scoring drive on its third possession to regain the lead.
Sophomore Evan Pauly began the drive with a 12-yard reception and Denault moved the chains again with a one-handed catch for 12 more yards.
The Goslings got Stoughton to jump on a fourth-and-2 play for another first down, and Ethan Pauly capped the drive by hitting Stas on a slip screen, with Stas sprinting and diving across the goal line with three defenders draped over him. Kujawski’s kick made it 14-7 with 10:24 left in the half.
“I thought we started out really well,” Watertown football coach Benji Kamrath said. “We were able to move it down the field, and got rolling with our pass game. Ethan was on early. We mixed it up with some run, just executed and found a way to get the ball up and down the field. We scored on that first drive and then had that turnover. We were right inside the 5. The kid made a good play and poked it out from Brian. We still moved the ball in the first half really well.”
Stoughton tied the game up again late in the half with a 59-yard drive. Junior receiver Nathan Hutcherson beat his defender on a go route and Hobson hit him for 39 yards. Hobson finished off the drive with a 17-yard TD run with 2:39 left in the second quarter.
Owen Chase intercepted a high pass off Oiler’s fingertips on Watertown’s next possession, but the Goslings held and Spilde missed a 44-yard field goal attempt just before halftime to leave the score tied at 14-14.
“Defensively, I thought we were really, really good,” Kamrath said. “Their big plays, one was just one-on-one over the top. You’re going to lose there once in a while. We lost there and they had a really good inside zone key play and just blocked out with their tackle and their guard and we talked about it, but it’s tough when your (linebacker) flows over the top hard. They made a good play.
“We came into halftime, and I said ‘Wow, we made so many good plays.’ It’s going to be a last possession game. Then we (fell behind). I’m just really proud of the way our kids got over the adversity tonight. “
The Goslings got out of rhythm offensively in the second half, punting twice and turning the ball over another time when the ball-hawking Vikings secondary ripped the ball out from Denault and recovered it at Stoughton’s 24.
Watertown’s defense responded by taking the ball away four times in the second half.
Senior linebacker Isaac Bohlman pounced on a muffed option pitch after Stoughton drove to Watertown’s 33 on its opening series.
Stoughton marched into the red zone on its third series of the half, but senior defensive back Luke Gifford stopped the drive with a end zone interception. Despite having to chase his man on a corner route and with his back to the quarterback, Gifford outfought a Stoughton receiver for a ball in the end zone.
The Vikings finally took their first lead of the night after recovering Denault’s fumble. The Goslings committed their first three penalties of the game during this drive, which featured three long runs by senior running back Dwight Walker (29 rushes, 155 yards). Walker bounced to his left after getting through the hole on an inside zone play and scored from 12 yards out. Spilde’s kick put the Vikings in front, 21-14.
Ethan Pauly badly overshot receivers three straight times on the next series, but Stoughton failed to take advantage when senior running back Quinn Arnott dropped a sure touchdown on a deep route over the middle and Hobson threw incomplete on a fourth down play.
Watertown took over at its 30 and put together a game-tying drive. Katzenberger caught a throwback screen off his shoetops and went 22 yards to Stoughton’s 46. Ethan Pauly then found Stas for 12 yards and Oiler for 18 to set the Goslings up with first-and-goal at the 8.
On third-and-goal, Ethan Pauly hit Denault on a corner route on the left side for an 8-yard scoring pass and Kujaski’s kick tied it at 21-21 with 7:32 left in regulation.
Stoughton drove to Watertown’s 41 on the next series, but the Vikings botched another exchange and junior lineman Zach Pleester fell on the ball and the Goslings were in business near midfield with 5:30 remaining.
Ethan Pauly was 4-for-5 for 46 yards on the go-ahead drive, with three completions to Oiler. After Oiler made a pair of short catches to move the chains, he shook his defender on a deep corner route and made a 29-yard catch. He hurt his ankle attempting to score, but got the ball to the 2-yard line, where Ethan Pauly ran a keeper around the left side untouched for what proved to be the winning points. Pauly led the Goslings in rushing with 13 carries for 45 yards.
“Third down came, he threw (and I made) that diving catch (for the first down),” Oiler said.
“We set them up for the great touchdown. We connected when we needed to and I thought we played great.”
After missing Oiler so many times this season, Ethan Pauly and Oiler had their best night of the season here. Oiler finished with nine catches for 122 yards.
“Oiler was just stepping up,” Ethan Pauly said. “I know I’ve been off, throwing to him, just throwing to my right, trying to turn. We’ve been working on it in practice, just trying to get it right on. I’ve been pulling it back a little bit more instead of so far out, and the outs were just amazing … his little spins moves and jukes, they were killing them.
“(We went with a) corner on that (29-yarder). We were running the post a lot, so we thought they were going to bite on the post, so he just stuck the post and went corner. I just lobbed it out there. I thought he got in.”
Kamrath gladly gave his quarterback another passing grade.
“Ethan cooled off a little bit (in the second half),” Kamrath said. “They made some changes defensively. I thought they did a really good job of the way they defended our run. We just had to be really good on the quicks. We missed some big plays over the top early, that could have gotten us out in front.
“There’s nothing easy. We just had to grind it. We found a way to make some big plays. We forced some big turnovers, got some big stops.
“Ethan made that amazing throw to Danny on that corner route, a third and goal play, to get us the tie. Then we came back with the same route to the other side with Cade. He made a good move, and just got rolled up on. That got his ankle there. We’ll see what happens.
“I thought our kids were warriors tonight. We had so many guys going both ways. (Junior linebacker) Jake Crogan was out with severe cramping for a few series there. Jack Sherman came in and did a great job, made some big plays. We also had Luke Gifford make some huge plays. He had a turnover, the pick in the end zone. So many big plays.”
After the Goslings took the late lead, Walker returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards to Watertown’s 44. Stoughton reached the 16 before turning the ball over on downs on a fourth-and-5 incompletion with 1:09 remaining.
Watertown needed to make one more big play and got it when Kopet recovered the fumble after the partial punt block.
“The guy attempts to go catch it and by rule, it is our ball there,” Kamrath said.
“We had a freshman long snapper there, Andrew David, who was solid in every extra point and punt. (On the late block), they just brought the house. They got a tip on it. We were fortunate the guy attempted to go for the catch. Well take it. It was definitely a big win for our team, for our program, finding a way to get over the hump against a really good team that will definitely be a playoff team down the road. We’re excited where we’re at.”
Hobson was 9-of-28 for 173 yards for Stoughton.
Stas added five catches for 62 yards for Watertown. Katzenberger rushed 13 times for 23 yards.
Defensively, Bohlman led the Goslings with 15 tackles. Crogan and senior Tyler Bartz each added 12. Kujawski added 10 and Kopet added nine.
“All the mental mistakes we are making, they are all fixable things,” Ethan Pauly said. “But this is the first game where we came out strong in the first half and I am really happy about that.”
Watertown hosts Oregon for homecoming next Friday. The Panthers are 5-2 and 4-1 following a 35-6 win over Edgewood.
Watertown 28, Stoughton 21
Watertown 7 7 0 14 — 28
Stoughton 7 7 7 0 — 21
First downs 22 16
By rush 2 9
By pass 17 6
By penalty 3 1
Yards rushing (att-yds.) 26-68 41-192
Yards passing 353 173
Attempts 49 28
Completions 28 9
Had intercepted 1 1
Total yards 427 365
Penalties, yards 5-55 8-94
Fumbles, lost 2-2 3-3
W — Stas 9 pass from Et. Pauly (Kujawski kick)
S — Anderson 54 pass from Hobson (Spilde kick)
W — Stas 9 pass from Et. Pauly (Kujawski kick)
S — Hobson 17 run (Spilde kick)
S — Walker 12 run (Spilde kick)
W — Denault 8 pass from Et. Pauly (Kujawski kick)
W — Et. Pauly 2 run (Kujawski kick)