For years, the Greendale football team has enjoyed a stranglehold on the Woodland Conference West Division, but that run is over, at least temporarily.
With a strong running game and a stout defense, New Berlin Eisenhower took down Greendale for the first time since 2009 with a 17-7 victory on Sept. 30 at Steven J. Gavinski Memorial Stadium.
"That was on the list of goals," Eisenhower coach Matt Kern said. "Greendale has a great program, and they've been the class of this conference."
With running back Joey Scaffidi sidelined due to an ankle injury he suffered on Sept. 16 against New Berlin West, Jayden Olson and Jake Belongia carried the offensive load for Eisenhower.
Greendale continued to have problems on offense.
Quarterback Clay Kujawa completed 24 of 41 pass attempts for 271 yards, and Zach Harrison (120 yards) and Tommy Kujawa (112 yards) each topped 100 yards receiving, but Greendale's offense was held under 20 points for the fourth time this season.
"The first game was phenomenal," coach Rob Stoltz said, referring to a 45-40 triumph over Menomonie. "We've had glimpses since then, but it is a broken record. We're changing things up in practice and getting different people involved, but ultimately, we are not clicking offensively. Our defense is clicking. We need to do a lot better job offensively."
Mistakes hurt early
After the Lions went three-and-out on their opening drive, Greendale's Mitchell Gnadt muffed a punt that Eisenhower's Brett Angiolo recovered at the Panthers' 23-yard line.
The Lions (5-2, 4-1 Woodland) gained just 4 yards in three plays, but Bryce Wesling drilled a 36-yard field goal to put Eisenhower up, 3-0.
On Greendale's ensuing possession after the field goal, Tommy Kujawa fumbled after a 27-yard catch and run that Peter Katris recovered for Eisenhower at its own 49-yard line. The Lions drove to set up another field-goal attempt for Wesling, but he missed just short from 47 yards out after a false-start penalty pushed the try back 5 yards.
Not only was Scaffidi sidelined, but Eisenhower was working with a new left guard after Devyn Schlicht broke his leg last week. The Lions struggled to block for Olson and Belongia and protect quarterback Bryce Miller early, but they eventually got rolling late in the second quarter.
The Lions started to run the ball effectively on a 10-play, 68-yard drive that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by Devin Colburn, which gave Eisenhower a 10-0 lead with 3:14 left in the first half.
Greendale (5-2, 3-2) found a spark offensively late in the second quarter when Clay Kujawa used a pump fake to free Harrison for a 70-yard touchdown with 2:13 to play in the half that pulled the Panthers to within 10-7 at the break.
The Eisenhower defense held the Panthers to just 46 yards in the third quarter, which allowed the offense to put the game away with an early fourth-quarter drive.
On a 3rd and 16, Miller avoided a sack and scrambled for a 23-yard touchdown to put the Lions in front, 17-7, with 9:42 left.
Greendale moved the ball to the Eisenhower 49-yard line with 5:48 to play, but Boden Saikie broke up a Kujawa pass on fourth down.
The Panthers got the ball back with 3:19 on the clock and drove to the 16-yard line of the Lions. With 8 seconds left, Stoltz elected to try a 36-yard field goal. Sean Sanchez missed the kick, which allowed Eisenhower to take a knee to end the game.
Olson carried the ball 21 times for 102 yards, while Belongia gained 61 yards on 10 attempts.
With Wauwatosa West upsetting Pewaukee on Friday, the Lions finished at 4-1 in the Woodland West and in a first-place tie with Pewaukee, but the Lions will be seeded second for the Woodland East crossover games.
Eisenhower, which has locked up a playoff spot for the second consecutive season, will face Woodland East champion Greenfield on Friday, Oct. 7, and close the regular season at second-place Shorewood/Messmer on Oct. 14.
Whitnall is next
For the first time since 2012, Greendale did not at least tie for first place in the Woodland West. The Panthers took third in the division at 3-2 and will take on Whitnall (Oct. 7 at home) and South Milwaukee (Oct. 14 on the road) before the playoffs.
"We have to get back to work," Stoltz said. "Emotionally, we have to flush it, but we have to look back and see what we need to do to improve. We're not where we need to be. It is not close. This is not acceptable."