LAKE MILLS — Lodi football coach Dave Puls just wanted his team to have a shot at the end of Friday’s rematch with Lake Mills.
The visiting Blue Devils didn’t need a shot at the end, instead withstanding the L-Cats’ best shot as senior Riley Faust made a game-ending interception as time expired to finish off a 17-14 win in a WIAA Division 4 Level 1 playoff game at Campus Field.
With the win, sixth-seeded Lodi (8-2) advances to play second-seeded Edgerton in next week’s second round. The Crimson Tide rolled past Wautoma, 42-18.
“We wanted to have a chance at the end, we had it and our guys came up big,” Puls said. “We gave them a couple extra lives, unfortunately, because we were foolish with the way we played, but we did enough to take care of business.”
One of those extra lives came when the Blue Devils were unable to run out the clock leading 17-7 and punted into the end zone with 3 minutes, 54 seconds left. After the L-Cats (7-3) converted on third-and-10 with a 37-yard pass from Adam Moen to Hunter Buechel, Lodi gave Lake Mills another extra life when a defensive pass interference on fourth-and-10 gave the L-Cats a first down at the Blue Devils’ 17-yard line.
The next play, Buechel hauled in a jump ball touchdown pass to make it 17-14 with 2:43 remaining. Lodi recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran the clock under 30 seconds before failing to convert on fourth-and-4 to turn the ball over on downs back to Lake Mills at the L-Cats’ 34 with 17 seconds remaining.
Needing some big yardage fast, Moen threw a pass up for Buechel, but Faust came down with it with 8 seconds left. The interception was wiped out, however, by offsetting penalties. Lake Mills went right back to Buechel on the ensuing play and again Faust came down with a pick as time expired to end it.
“It reset and they lined up in the same formation,” Faust said. “I saw the ball come to his hands the whole time, tracked it down and tried to get my hands on it.”
Along with sealing the victory, Faust put the Blue Devils up for good with his 28-yard touchdown catch with 6:32 left in regulation. Lodi began the drive at its own 20 and pushed down to the Lake Mills 30, thanks in part to a 32-yard run by junior Colton Nicolay, before the Blue Devils faced a fourth-and-7 from the Lake Mils 28.
Opting to go for it, sophomore Quinn Faust rolled out to his left, and lofted a pass to older brother Riley, who made the catch and ran in for the touchdown to make it 17-7. Quinn Faust, who threw for 58 yards and the score on 3-of-8 passing, wasn’t the only sophomore to step up in the second half.
Sophomore Garrett Edge rushed for 31 yards, providing a nice change of pace with his 6-foot-1, 192-pound frame.
“He hits the hole and he just pounds it, and we need that once in a while. We don’t need a lot of flash and dance; we just need to pound it,” Puls said.
While Edge provided the ground-and-pound, it was Nicolay that used his speed to rush for 116 yards on 19 carries, including the opening touchdown on a 31-yard run in the first quarter. Lodi took a 10-0 lead into the break behind its defense, which kept Lake Mills without a first down and to just 17 total yards in the first half.
The L-Cats got going to start the second half as they scored on their opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Moen with 9:13 left to make it 10-7. However, they struggled to get much else going the rest of the game. Lodi held Lake Mills to just 185 total yards, including 14 yards rushing on 14 carries, and prevented the L-Cats from making any big plays, unlike the teams’ first meeting, a 25-14 Lake Mills victory.
“It was great; our linebackers did a great job,” Riley Faust said. “(Austin) Soehle did a great job. He spied him every play, made hits on him every play and didn’t let him get up.”
Lodi won the turnover battle after picking off Moen three times, something Puls noted was a major factor. That will be key next week when Lodi hits the road again, but Puls said that isn’t deterring the defending WIAA Division 4 state champions.
“It’s the most scrappy group of kids I’ve been around for a long time,” he said. “Other teams might be better, but these guys are so scrappy and resilient, they never give up. We’ll obviously be the underdog again, but we’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
L — Colton Nicolay 31 run (Austin Soehle kick)
L — FG Austin Soehle 37
LM — Adam Moen 1 run (Adam Mitchell kick)
L — Riley Faust 28 pass from Quinn Faust (Austin Soehle kick)
LM — Hunter Buechel 17 pass from Adam Moen
First downs — L 13, LM 6. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — L 51-159, LM 14-14. Passing yards — L 93, LM 169. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — L 7-13-0, LM 9-33-3. Fumbles-lost — L 1-1, LM 1-0. Penalties-yards — L 4-45, LM 2-16.
Rushing: L, Nicolay 19-116. LM, Moen 13-18.
Passing: L, Q. Faust 3-9-0-53. LM, Moen 9-33-3-169.
Receiving: L, R. Faust 5-69. LM, Buechel 4-114.