MONROE — For the second week in a row the Cheesemakers lost a game with tagline: A tale of two halves.
One week after giving up a second half lead to Milton, Monroe allowed 35-unanswered points and lost to Watertown in Week Four, 41-14.
“There were plenty of opportunities where we beat ourselves tonight and not the other way around. We didn’t put enough pressure on them and at times we made mistakes that we shouldn’t have,” Monroe head coach Toby Golembiewski said. “We just get off schedule with penalties, fumbles, turnovers. You start getting off schedule and you start doing things where you become a little bit more predictable and it just gets harder and harder.”
Monroe had 296 yards of offense in the game, but just 102 in the second half. Watertown finished the game with 343 yards of offense — including 196 in the second half. Two of those scoring drives total all of 11 yards after turnovers by the Cheesemakers deep inside their own territory in the fourth quarter.
“On offense we just clicked on things and in the second half we did not,” Monroe junior quarterback Alex Witt said.
Watertown (3-1, 2-0 Badger South), a pass-heavy team, rolled into T.R. Holyoke Field beaming with confidence after a 56-0 win at Fort Atkinson in Week Three. But the Cheesemakers’ defense held their own in the first half, much like their game against Milton.
The first big spark came on a fourth-down stand inside the 5-yard line by the Cheesemakers defense in the first quarter when senior linebacker Jacob Amacher picked off a pass on fourth down at the Monroe 2. A possession later, Monroe again forced a turnover on downs, this time it was senior safety Anthany Hernandez who popped the wide receive on a hook pattern a yard short of the sticks.
With the game still scoreless, the Goslings appeared to be on the move. Watertown quarterback Ethan Pauly completed passes of nine, 20 and four yards on three straight plays to give the Goslings hope inside the red zone. But then Monroe sophomore defensive back Tyler Matley jumped a route and intercepted a pass at the Cheesemakers’ 2, which prompted a big 33-yard return.
“Anytime that can happen, anytime a kid can make a big play, that has a great way of sparking the team. No matter how tired you are, that always seems to find a way to create momentum and create extra energy,” Golembiewski said.
Invigorated from the big play, the offense kept the momentum going. After a pair of fullback dives by Ethan Kleckler, junior running back Nick Bansley took a handoff up the left side and then cut back to his right before dashing to the end zone on a 56-yard touchdown scamper with 8:43 remaining in the second.
“That was a big play by Matley. He was in good position and picked it off. He’s got good athletic ability and made moves down the field. (Bansley’s) really good at making people miss. When we’ve got blocks, we’ve got good athletes out in space. If the blocking doesn’t happen, then that stuff can’t happen,” Witt said.
The Goslings scored two possessions later but botched the point after attempt and Monroe held a 7-6 lead. On the Cheesemakers next possession, Bansley busted up the left side 50 yards before running out of steam. Bansley had 118 yards on four touches in the half.
“He’s a pretty nifty looking runner,” Golembiewski said of Bansley. “He and Jordan (Montgomery) are a pretty good combination. And, you know, they block well for each other. It works out pretty well having those guys out there together.”
The drive stalled and Monroe failed to convert on fourth-and-10 from the 25 with just 33 seconds left before the half. But the Cheesemakers looked energized to open the second half and put Watertown on its heals right away.
On a third-and-8 from their own 38, Monroe quarterback Alex Witt rolled to his left and then launched a deep pass to Bansley on a post that was good for 33 yards.
“Nick has great hands and he was out there — he gets himself open. Alex did a great job going to left. I would have been disappointed if he had dropped it, because we would have been in good shape on the run,” Golembiewski said. “But you know what, that’s fine with me — they are making plays. We did a good job there, it was protected well.”
The big play put the Cheesemakers deep into Watertown territory, and four plays later Klecker drove it in from a yard out to make it 14-6.
“I wish we could have gotten a couple scores more. Getting 40 put on you is never good. If it was going to be a loss I thought we could hold it a little tighter than that. It turns out it wasn’t,” Golembiewski said.
That’s when the good fortune for Monroe ended. Watertown would go on to score on each of its next five drives as the energy level of the Cheesemakers ran on empty. Many of the Cheesemakers starters play both offense and defense, and like Milton the week before, the team was noticeably gassed in the second half.
“We ran out of physical juice and mental juice,” Golembiewski said.
Two of the Goslings’ scores were from short yardage. Bansley muffed a punt that was recovered at the Monroe 6 and Watertown scored three plays later that made it 34-14 with 9:37 left in the fourth quarter and a Cheesemakers turnover on downs at their own five on the next possession set Watertown up for its final score.
Pauly had 265 yards passing and two scores and added another 30 yards on the ground with two scores. Bansley finished with 140 yards on eight carries and Kleckler added 90 yards on 17 carries.
The Cheesemakers must now prepare to continue the gauntlet three-game stretch, which has Monroe traveling to Stoughton (4-0, 2-0) for Week 5 and then to No. 8 Monona Grove (4-0, 4-0) in Week 6.
“Our chances of making the playoffs are really slim now with the losses of this week and last week because MG is pretty good and Stoughton and Oregon are pretty good. If we want to make playoffs we are going to have to beat at least one of those teams and win out,” Witt said. “It’s a challenge coming up. We just have to keep our heads up and keep grinding and focusing and do what we do — but do it better.”