NEW BERLIN — Undefeated New Berlin Eisenhower shook off pair of early mistakes and returned to form the rest of the way for a 24-7 victory over Grafton in a Division 3 second-round playoff game on Friday night.
Eisenhower had an early 57-yard touchdown wiped out by a penalty, followed by a fumble that set up the tying score, but bounced back to score the final 17 points.
“That’s a championship-level program,” said Grafton coach Jim Norris. “They make a mistake, and they tighten up and figure it out. That’s a key characteristic of a championship team.”
The Lions (11-0) will face Woodland Conference rival Greendale (10-1) in a third-round game next Friday. Greendale advanced with a 31-21 victory over Plymouth. Greendale’s only loss was to Eisenhower, 20-7, in the fourth week of the season.
Sophomore quarterback Gabe Seifert had a pair of touchdowns for the Lions. Senior Jack Himmelspach carried 24 times for 108 yards and one touchdown, and also caught a touchdown pass.
”I think we played well,” Himmelspach said. “I think it was a tough fight, and we responded well.”
Eisenhower, which lost in last year’s Division 3 state title game, took a 7-0 lead on it second possession with a 65-yard scoring drive. The Lions drove to the 11-yard line, but an illegal procedure penalty and sack pushed them back. Seifert then hit Himmelspach with a swing pass, who eluded a defender in the backfield and then took it 22 yards up the left side for the score.
On their next possession, the Lions had a 57-yard scoring run by Himmelspach wiped out by a holding penalty and then turned it over on an errant pitch, recovered by the Black Hawks.
Grafton capitalized with a 49-yard touchdown march, capped by Brady Ward’s 11-yard scoring pass to Bryson Clauge.
The Lions answered with a 45-yard drive, culminating in Evan Lalor’s 35-yard field goal to make it 10-7 with 6:49 left in the half.
After forcing a three-and-out on Grafton’s next series, Seifert hit Samuel Tausz with a 45-yard touchdown pass up the left side to extend the lead to 17-7 at the half.
“Sam Tausz ran a great route,” said Seifert, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 129 yards. “He gave his guy a good stick and he was wide open. I just had to get him the ball.”
The Black Hawks (6-5) drove to the Lions 26 midway through the third quarter, but were stopped on fourth-and-2.
The Lions made it a three-score game with a 64-yard touchdown drive that spanned gobbled up the final 2:43 of the third quarter and first 4:19 of the final period. Himmelspach’s 3-yard touchdown run made it 24-7.
Grafton moved to the Eisenhower 20 midway through the fourth quarter, but stalled with two incompletions and a fourth-down sack.
“Our defense over the course of the year has been really good,” said defensive lineman Mark Shields, who had 2 1/2 sacks. “We just stuck to what we’ve been doing the whole year and it’s been working.”
Aided by a roughing the punter call that resulted in a first down, the Lions ground out the final 6:08.
“We knew they were going to be tough, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, and we had to stay patient and make a few plays and fortunately we were able to do that,” Eisenhower coach Matt Kern said. “I think the way our guys the handled the game getting tied there, and losing a touchdown on a penalty, I thought the way we handled it was a big positive.”