Win and they’re in.
That’s the way the Beaver Dam football players looked at their Badger North Conference game against Sauk Prairie on Friday night.
And amid the rain and wind at H.H. Derleth Athletic Field, the Golden Beavers did just what they needed to: They used strong defense, a solid ground game and protected the football in the sloppy conditions to claim a 38-6 victory and their first postseason berth since 2011.
“Going into the new conference, one of the things we worried about early on is first impressions,” BD head coach Steve Kuenzi said. “We wanted to make a huge first impression in the Badger North Conference. It’s a conference that has had a lot of success with state champions over the years. We’re pretty excited. We realistically thought we could be a top-four team. We’re exactly where we thought we’d be at the beginning of the year.
“We’re in the playoffs.”
The last time BD made the playoffs, they went 7-2 in the regular season before getting past Hortonville 48-0 a Division 2 Level One game. The Beavers' run ended the following week, however, when DeForest handed BD a 35-0 loss.
The Beavers (4-4, 4-2 Badger North) haven’t had much success since then, so the importance of Friday night's win over Sauk (2-6, 1-5) was known by all on BD's roster.
“It’s going to be great playing in the playoffs for the first time since 2011,” defensive back Adam Bird said. “It’s been a while."
Bird had a solid first half with two interceptions, both leading to touchdowns.
“Anytime we get a turnover, it’s huge,” Kuenzi said. “Adam has done a great job all year long, just kind of getting a feel for the guys he’s covering. Once he gets it down, he’s pretty confident. He’s been vital to our defense.”
Bird’s first interception put the Beavers at the Sauk Prairie 39-yard line just 9 seconds into the second quarter. It led to an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kendric Jimenez to Marshall Goodrich with 10:58 left in the half to go up 14-0.
Bird's second interception put the Beavers at the Sauk Prairie 8-yard line with 3 minutes left in the half. Two plays later, running back Joel Riehbrandt scored his second TD of the night when he snuck around the edge on the right side for a 5-yard run with 2:17 left in the half to go up 21-0.
“I was really excited,” Bird said of his first-half interceptions. “I was really caught up in the moment.”
Sauk Prairie head coach Scott Schutt didn’t believe the rain had anything to do with quarterback Dawson Evert's turnovers.
“Both teams had to play in the rain,” Schutt said. "We just didn’t bring our game tonight."
Riehbrandt’s first score came with 1:01 left in the first quarter on a 2-yard run. That run gave BD all the momentum it needed in the first half, which ended with a 35-yard field goal by Kyle Gabel to put the Beavers up 24-0.
BD did have one hiccup that led to the Eagles' points. With 3:51 left in the third, Jimenez couldn’t handle a shotgun snap and Sauk Prairie linebacker Garrett Hertzfeld scooped it up and took it to the house. Fortunately for BD, though, a block in the back nullified the return and put Eagles back at the BD 35.
“It was blatantly a bad call. It was,” Schutt said. “Our kid stumbled for three steps and fell and they called him for a block in the back. I don’t know where they saw that. He ran into someone as he was falling. … He wasn’t going after anyone. He was falling down.
“It was tough. It seemed like every time we did make a play, it was called back. I guess we’ve got to teach them how to not commit penalties. I think the film will show what we have to learn from it.”
The Eagles did still manage to score on that drive, as Evert hit Elijah Jorgenson for a 5-yard TD pass that made it 24-6 before a failed two-point conversion attempt.
A few plays into the ensuing drive by BD, Blaiz Firari had a 32-yard run to put the Beavers at Sauk’s 3-yard line. Firari finished the job on the next snap with a 3-yard TD run to make it 31-6 with 1:23 to go.
Punctuating the scoring on the night was Max Wiersma, whose 63-yard interception return for a TD made it 38-6 with under a minute to go.
BD will have a hard test to end the season as they play Waunakee (8-0, 6-0), the third-ranked team in the large schools division of the Associated Press state poll.
For now, though, all that matters is that there will be another game after that one for the Golden Beavers.
“We are pretty confident," Bird said of the team's mindset after achieving what he called the Golden Beavers' "ultimate goal" of making the playoffs. “I think we made a statement today.”
BEAVER DAM 38, SAUK PRAIRIE 6
BD — Joel Riehbrandt 4 run (Kyle Gabel kick), 1:01, 1st
BD — Marshall Goodrich 11 pass from Kendric Jimenez (Kyle Gabel kick), 10:58, 2nd
BD — Joel Riehbrandt 5 run (Kyle Gabel kick), 2:17, 2nd
BD — Kyle Gabel 35 field goal, 00:00, 2nd
SP — Elijah Jorgenson 5 pass from Dawson Evert (run failed), 2:27, 3rd
BD — Blaiz Firari 3 run (Kyle Gabel kick), 1:23, 3rd
BD — Max Wiersma 63 INT return (Kyle Gabel kick), :50, 4th
First downs — SP 19, BD 28. Rushes-Yards — SP 21-14, BD 44-136. Passing (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — SP 13-27-3, BD 10-23-0. Passing yards — SP 115, BD 123. Fumbles-Lost — SP 1-1, BD 1-1. Penalties-Yards — SP 10-90, BD 10-130.
Rushing: SP — Dawson Evert 12-31. BD — Blaiz Firari 19-18, Joel Riehbrandt 12-48. Passing (Comp.-Att.-TD-INT, Yds): SP — Dawson Evert 13-37-1-3, 115. BD — Kendric Jimenez 9-22-1-0, 85. Dillon Livingston 1-1-0-0, 38. Receiving: SP — Parker Breunig 6-65, Elijah Jorgenson 3-40. BD — Dillon Livingston 4-70, Max Wiersma 2-42.