WAUKESHA — After an uncharacteristically quick exit from last year’s playoffs, the Lodi football team’s senior class came back on a mission to get back to Camp Randall Stadium this season.
Those seniors came up with the big plays Friday night as the Blue Devils’ completed a successful quest to return to Madison with a 17-0 shutout over Greendale Martin Luther in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal game at Waukesha North High School.
“They put it on their goal list and said this isn’t happening to us next year,” Lodi coach Dave Puls said. “They really felt they had the kids to do it and they just kept believing.”
Senior running back Jacob Heyroth continued his strong showing the playoffs, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries and helped spark the Blue Devils’ push in the second half. Trailing 10-0 at the break, Martin Luther (8-5) started with favorable field position to begin the second half, starting at their own 45-yard line.
Lodi’s defense had other ideas, however, as the Blue Devils’ unit forced a quick three-and-out before Heyroth did his magic. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder fielded the ensuing punt on a bounce, cut up field and bounced to the outside, racing down the Spartans sideline 80 yards to the house for a 17-0 lead with 9 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
“It changed the tone right away coming out and that was good,” Heyroth said. “We knew they don’t cover the outside on special teams, so I took a few steps in, bounced it out and knew I was gone.”
With a comfortable lead, the Blue Devils defense went back to work. Lodi (13-0) forced a pair of punts on the next two Martin Luther drives before coming up with another turnover. Pinned at their own 7 to start the fourth quarter, the Spartans began to click and dug out of the hole, picking up a pair of first downs, eventually getting to their own 41.
The Blue Devils again had other plans as junior defensive back Owen Jelinek pounced on a fumble by junior running back Darios Crawley-Reid at the Martin Luther 48 with 7:55 remaining.
Lodi was unable to cash in on the opportunity, eventually turning the ball over on downs at the Spartans 24 with 4:21 left. In desperate need of a score, Martin Luther advanced inside the Blue Devils’ red zone only to turn the ball over a fourth time.
Facing a fourth-and-4, senior linebacker Max Barreau pressured Martin Luther junior quarterback Nik Mueller and forced a poor throw that was intercepted by senior linebacker Kade Crissinger, sealing the win.
“Our defense played outstanding,” Puls said. “They bent a little bit here and there, but they didn’t give up the big play.”
The Blue Devils defense came up with a pair of big plays of their own in the form of two interceptions by Crissinger in the first half.
GALLERY: Lodi vs. Greendale Martin Luther Division 4 state semifinal football
Photos from the Lodi football team taking on Greendale Martin Luther in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal on Friday, Nov. 10 at Waukesha North High School. The Blue Devils forced four turnovers and rolled to a 17-0 win over the Spartans to punch their ticket to the state title for the second time in three years. With the win, unbeaten Lodi (13-0) will face defending state champion St. Croix Central (12-1).
After taking a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter, Crissinger picked off Mueller on the ensuing Spartans drive to set up the Blue Devils at the Martin Luther 32. Lodi cashed on the opportunity as senior kicker Savannah Curtis nailed a 32-yard field goal with 2:55 left in the half to go up 10-0.
Looking to cut into its deficit before getting the ball to start the second half, Martin Luther gave the Blue Devils the ball right back on another Mueller interception. Crissinger was the man on the spot as the Spartans tried the same play as before, but failed to trick the 6-3, 210-pound defensive lineman.
“I watched so much film this week that I knew the routes they were running and knew it was going to be there,” Crissinger said.
Along with the four turnovers, the Blue Devils defense did a fantastic job of shutting down Crawley-Reid. Lodi kept the explosive running back to just 78 yards on 22 carries. The rest of the Martin Luther team failed to gain positive yardage on the ground.
“He broke a lot of tackles early but we knew he was still a human being,” Puls said. “We needed to be technically sound when we tackle and keeping him shut down really helped us.”
The unbeaten Blue Devils will face another tough task next week against defending state champion St. Croix Central. The Panthers (12-1) rolled past Freedom 42-21 and their dominant ground game will be tough to stop.
“We’re going to have to play the best game we’ve had all year and that might not even be enough against these guys, but we’re going to go down there and hopefully compete,” Puls said.
LODI 17, GREENDALE MARTIN LUTHER 0
Greendale Martin Luther 0 0 0 0 — 0
Lodi 0 10 7 0 — 17
LO — Jacob Heyroth 19 run (Savannah Curtis kick)
LO — Savannah Curtis 32 FG
LO — Jacob Heyroth 80 punt return (Savannah Curtis kick)
First downs — GML 10, LO 9. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — GML 23-73, LO 41-183. Passing yards — GML 135, LO 31. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — GML 14-25-3, LO 5-10-0. Fumbles-lost — GML 1-1, LO 1-0. Penalties-yards — GML 2-18, LO 4-25.
Rushing: GML, Crawley-Reid 22-78. LO, Heyroth 28-139.
Passing: GML, Mueller 14-25-3-135. LO, McDonald 5-10-0-31.
Receiving: GML, Bry. Kulinski 5-59. LO, Rashid 2-13.