By Dan Truttschel-Sports Correspondent
The difference between ecstasy and agony was as slim as it could be Friday night for the Wilmot football team.
And, unfortunately for the Panthers, they experienced the bad emotion of the two.
Host Waterford finally broke a scoreless tie on its first play of the second overtime to send the Panthers to a heartbreaking 7-0 Southern Lakes Conference loss.
Wilmot fell to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the SLC, while Waterford improved to 2-2 and 1-1. Both teams are locked in a four-way tie for second with Burlington and Union Grove behind current unbeatens Badger and Elkhorn.
The loss Friday was a tough one to take, Wilmot coach Mike Greinke said.
“It was tough, no doubt about it,” he said. “We had a million opportunities to score and win the game in regula-tion. It’s frustrating because I really do feel we were the better team that night.”
Waterford quarterback Dylan Maleki hit teammate Calvin Jaski for the game-winning touchdown on the opening play of the second overtime.
The 25-yard pass narrowly found its target through three Wilmot defenders.
Wilmot moved the football from the 25 to the 9-yard line on its possession, but the drive ended when Waterford’s Ryan Ratkovec intercepted Wilmot quarterback Michael Lindeman to give the Wolverines the win.
Lindeman helped the Pan-thers to just their sixth first down of the night when he connected on an 18-yard pass to Ethan Scott on third down and 12.
The Wilmot defense, which came up big all night, held Waterford and forced the second overtime on a big fourth-down stop by linebacker Garrett Bogucki.
Greinke decided to send the defense right back out to start the second overtime, with the hope it could build from its momentum.
“I felt that was the direction to go,” he said. “I think our kids (on the touchdown) were looking to get the (interception) there. If we had been a little more patient, that doesn’t happen.”
Defenses slug it out
Until Waterford’s score, both defenses exchanged big-time blows to keep the game even.
The Panthers had golden opportunities to find the end zone at the end of each half.
Bryce Kothe’s 23-yard punt return helped set up a drive late in the second quarter. Wilmot moved the football to the Waterford 9-yard line, but the drive stalled when a field-goal attempt was wide left with 1:14 left.
The Panthers’ best shot in the second half came on their second possession when they marched to the Wolverines’ 10-yard line. But the drive again stalled on a Waterford sack and an incomplete pass on fourth down.
Waterford looked like it may finally find the end zone in the waning moments of the game, as it moved the ball to the Wilmot 25. But Wilmot’s Zach Dodge recorded one of his two quarterback sacks as time expired.
“The defense played out-standing,” Greinke said. “There’s no doubt our kids get fired up to play the ‘big three,’ Burlington, Badger, Waterford.
“Obviously, it all starts with Dodge. He is playing outstanding and is definitely one of the best defensive tackles I’ve ever coached in my career.”
The Panthers managed just 82 total yards, including 50 passing and 32 rushing on 27 attempts. Dodge had a team-high 14 yards rushing on three carries, while Cameron Loveless had two receptions for 20 yards and Scott had two for 17.
Senior Dalton Heckel also had two sacks and combined with Dodge for six tackles for a loss.
Needing to bounce back
Wilmot looks to rebound Friday night at home against Elkhorn. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Elks pulled off a stun-ning 14-13 win last week over visiting Delavan-Darien and will be brimming with confidence.
“Elkhorn always gets really fired up to play us for some reason,” Greinke said. “Every year we play them, they play us tough. They’re playing good ball.”
Greinke is excited to get his team home and back in front of a friendly crowd.
“We’ve been on the road for three weeks,” he said. “It’s nice to be coming home to play a game, finally. That’s going to be a big positive for us.”