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Once again, New Berlin Eisenhower asserts its dominance in the Woodland Conference with a perfect regular season

By Curt Hogg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/12/18, 3:45PM CDT

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New Berlin Eisenhower claimed its second straight Woodland Conference championship by defeating Shorewood/Messmer, 55-20, on Thursday night in the conference title game. 

Here are five things we learned.

Eisenhower is built to reload

After going to the Division 3 state championship game, the Lions lost at least seven starters on both sides of the ball.

Some thought that they would lose a step in 2019 without that same level of varsity experience.

So far, they have been just as dominant.

En route to a second straight undefeated regular season, the Lions’ closest win this year was a 13-point victory on the road against state-ranked Greendale.

“I’m just super proud,” Eisenhower head coach Matt Kern said. “I think the outside world assumed we were going to take a step back from last year, and I know these guys were motivated to get back to that point and to do this again. Winning this conference two years in a row is no easy task.”

The key to the Lions repeating in 2018 despite losing well over half of their top contributors from a year ago was a strong feeder system from the lower levels.

“One thing that we’ve tried to do here is build up the cultures of the sub-levels,” Kern said. “We really got the opportunity to get a lot of kids that you’re seeing on the field this year a ton of reps last year. They had great seasons at the sub-levels, and it’s very rewarding to see them do that here.”

If that pattern continues, it won’t be long before you see Eisenhower back in the conference title game.

Seifert looking strong

The one thing that eluded the Lions for the first month of the season was consistent play from quarterback Gabe Seifert.

He seems to have remedied that.

The sophomore has gotten better and better with experience. After completing just 11 of 32 passes for one touchdown and one interception in his first four games as the starter, Seifert has now posted a passer rating above 100 in each of the last five weeks.

Thursday night was Seifert’s best showing yet, as he completed all seven of his passing attempts for 105 yards and three scores.

Hand-in-hand with Seifert’s development has been an offensive surge from Eisenhower.

The Lions averaged 27 points per game through their first five contests, but have since put up 51.5 points per week.

With the offensive line consistently getting to the second level of the Shorewood/Messmer defense, Eli Hoelke joined in on the act on Thursday night, finishing with 142 yards of total offense and three scores.

“I was feeling great just getting that offense going again,” Hoelke said. “I trust that offensive line, that they’re going to get that last push. It’s great to have that feeling again.”

Senior running back Jack Himmelspach got the scoring underway with touchdown runs of 5 and 25 yards in the first quarter, the second of which involved the senior running past a trio of tacklers up the middle near the line of scrimmage.

Seifert threw a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 43-yard strike to Ben Buechel with 18 seconds left in the half. On the play, Seifert eluded the Greyhounds pass rush, rolled to his left, spotted Buechel open on the other seam and unloaded a strike for an early knockout punch.

The score gave the Lions a 28-6 lead going into the half, allowing them to cruise to the win.

A postseason focus for Ike

It was a common theme for Eisenhower in the immediate aftermath of hoisting the trophy, which should come as no surprise.

Playoffs.

The Lions, at 9-0 and as the No. 2-ranked team in Division 3, have earned their spot at the table in the conversation for the top seeds when postseason play begins next Friday.

Following the win over the Greyhounds, Kern had a statement to make.

“I would expect that we’ve earned a top seed,” he said. “At this point, nothing’s given to you...I hope we get rewarded with a top seed. I think these guys deserve some more home games.”

Play-makers on both sides of the ball

Eisenhower’s strength is still its defense, as we were reminded on Friday.

The front seven, led by standout Mark Shields, is tough against the run and even more dangerous in obvious passing downs.

On the back end, defensive backs Jake Schara and Max Lewis are play-makers, as Schara showed with a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown that sent the game to a running clock in the third quarter.

“We work so hard on it in practice,” Schara said of his team’s defense. “It’s our main goal. We know this defense is the best in the conference, and we just play smart and know our assignments.”

Eisenhower’s strength is still its defense, as we were reminded on Friday.

The front seven, led by standout Mark Shields, is tough against the run and even more dangerous in obvious passing downs.

On the back end, defensive backs Jake Schara and Max Lewis are play-makers, as Schara showed with a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown that sent the game to a running clock in the third quarter.

“We work so hard on it in practice,” Schara said of his team’s defense. “It’s our main goal. We know this defense is the best in the conference, and we just play smart and know our assignments.”

More to come from the Greyhounds

Shorewood/Messmer, in its first trip to the Woodland championship game, has no reason to hang its head over the loss.

In 2013, when Greendale won the inaugural conference title match, the Greyhounds were playing in the Metro Classic Conference with Division 4 and 5 teams. A year ago, they went 3-5 in Woodland play and missed the playoffs.

In head coach Tony Davis’ first season, Messwood seems to have found a recipe for success.

A conference championship eluded them this season, but that’s not all the Greyhounds are playing for now as they enter the playoffs as a 7-2 team next week.