Brooks and Kiermas

Horicon/Hustisford junior running back CJ Brooks tries to avoid a tackle attempt by Pardeeville's Kyler Kiermas in the first half of a Trailways Large Conference game at Bob Bostad Field in Pardeeville on Friday.

PARDEEVILLE — A pair of fourth-quarter defensive stands proved to be the difference as Pardeeville came up with just enough big plays to hold on for an exciting 16-15 victory over Horicon/Hustisford on Friday night in a Trailways Large Conference game at a rain-soaked Bob Bostad Field.

With the win, Pardeeville (6-2 overall, 4-1 in conference) can earn a share of the league title with a victory over Markesan next week in the regular-season finale. Horicon/Hustisford (5-2, 3-2) can still finish as high as second in the conference with a win over Dodgeland next week.

“Horicon/Hustisford is a very good team. They can stretch you out and pass it,” Pardeeville head coach Tyler Johnson said. “We were pretty physical up front. Defensively, both teams played pretty well, but I think we just got after it a little bit. We made a couple TFLs (tackles for loss) that made a big difference in the game.”

Pardeeville scored the winning points early in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-15 at the Horicon/Hustisford 18-yard line, quarterback Jacob Schommer threw a high pass to the left corner of the end zone and senior receiver Nick Cerro outjumped the defender to pull down the score.

Cerro’s TD trimmed Horicon/Hustisford’s lead to 15-14 with 11:06 left in the game and set up a huge two-point conversion try for Pardeeville. After Pardeeville’s first touchdown of the game back in the first quarter, senior running back Chase Balzer took a direct snap and plunged into the end zone for the two-point conversion. Balzer again took the direct snap on conversion following Cerro’s touchdown, but this time faked a run up the middle before pulling up to throw a pop pass to sophomore tight end James Trahms, who was wide open in the middle of the end zone to give Pardeeville a 16-15 lead.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Horicon/Hustisford put together a promising drive, getting down to the Pardeeville 30, but that fizzled out when a fourth-down pass by senior quarterback Hunter Nehls fell incomplete.

Horicon/Hustisford got the ball back for one last shot at a winning score at its own 40-yard line with 2:58 left to play. It advanced to the Pardeeville 26 before Schommer sacked Nehls for a loss of 11 yards on second down with 55 seconds left. After Nehls’ third-down pass attempt went incomplete, Horicon/Hustisford faced a fourth-and-16 from the Pardeeville 37, and it decided to try a 53-yard field goal from senior kicker Nick Bloedel with 43 seconds left. The low, line-drive kick came up short, allowing Pardeeville to celebrate the victory.

The game didn’t start well for the Bulldogs. It took just two plays for Horicon/Hustisford to get the scoring started. On the play, Nehls threw a lateral pass to his left to running back CJ Brooks, who was split out wide. Brooks caught the ball and turned to throw a strike down the middle of the field to wide receiver Dylan Schmitt, who got behind the defense for a 75-yard touchdown to give his team a 7-0 lead.

After Pardeeville punted, Horicon/Hustisford looked to add to its lead, but instead it was the Bulldogs that got on the scoreboard when senior cornerback Ryan Lindert intercepted a pass that sailed high from Nehls. Lindert then zipped 20 yards down the right sideline into the end zone. Balzer ran in the two-point conversion to give Pardeeville an 8-7 lead with 8:09 left in the first quarter.

The score looked like it might remain at 8-7 heading into the half, but Horicon/Hustisford needed less than a minute to go 63 yards for the go-ahead score when Nehls hit Schmitt on a 29-yard scoring strike with 17 seconds left in the half. The same two players hooked up on the two-point conversion to make it 15-8 at the break.

Horicon/Hustisford head coach Shannon Mueller was disappointed to see his team come out on the losing end, even though it finished with 296 yards of total offense compared to just 113 yards for Pardeeville.

“They wanted it more than us. We lost the game for ourselves,” Mueller said. “We can’t give up a pick-six to start the game. We gave up two two-point conversions that obviously were huge. We knew they were coming, but we didn’t execute it.”

And while Pardeeville’s defense did give up some big plays, it played much better in the second half, when the Bulldogs held Horicon/Hustisford scoreless.

“We gave up two deep balls and that’s how they scored their points,” Johnson said. “We got to clean that up. Credit to them; they made some plays and threw some stuff at us, but we were resilient.”