REEDSBURG — It’s not easy to come back against the defense and running game of the Reedsburg football team.
Sauk Prairie gave it a shot Friday night, but couldn’t erase a 22-8 halftime deficit as Reedsburg held off the previously unbeaten Eagles for a 22-14 win.
"With the way both teams play — run the football and manage the clock — we new it would be a limited possession game," Sauk Prairie coach Clay Iverson said. "Holding them to no points was big in the second half and I was proud of our kids effort and courage to give us a chance in the last minutes."
Both Badger North Conference rivals have lived off their defense early in 2019. They did so again early Friday, going into the second quarter in a scoreless tie.
Reedsburg (3-1, 1-1 Badger North) was the first to break through, taking a 6-0 lead on Casey Campbell's 1-yard touchdown run with 11 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the first half. After Sauk Prairie (3-1, 1-1) roughed the kicker on the extra point attempt, Lee ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
It took one play from scrimmage for Sauk Prairie to answer. Reedsburg’s kickoff went out of bounds, then junior running back Tyler Uselman broke free down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run with 10:54 to go. Quarterback Parker Breunig ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8.
"Parker is such a good football player, and a better teammate," Iverson said. "He does so much for us on defense and then to move from running back to quarterback in a brand new offense in week two of the season is amazing. The way he gets better is by coming to practice and working really hard every day."
The Beavers responded with a big play of their own. Campbell gave Reedsburg new life by converting on fourth-and-inches, then Lee got loose down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown run that gave the Beavers a 14-8 lead with 8:25 to play.
The gashing runs continued on the ensuing possession, as Breunig broke several tackles on a 43-yard scramble to the Reedsburg 27-yard line. But the drive stalled there and the Beavers eventually regained possession at their own 28-yard line after a turnover on downs.
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The Beavers marched down the field, nearly running the final 6:28 off the clock. Lee ran for a 14-yard first down, then completed a 45-yard would-be touchdown pass to Danny Kast that was negated by a holding penalty.
The Beavers regrouped, as Lee found Campbell for a 20-yard completion to convert on third-and-16. Reedsburg reached the red zone when Sauk Prairie nearly forced a turnover, appearing to recover a fumble before the play was called dead.
The Beavers backed themselves up with three penalties, eventually facing first-and-25 from the 35-yard line. But a pass interference penalty made it manageable, and Lee found Kast for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 2.1 seconds remaining. Lee ran in the two-point conversion to give Reedsburg a 22-8 halftime lead.
Sauk Prairie wasn’t done, as Brooks Leister’s 3-yard touchdown run pulled the Eagles within 22-14 with 5:17 to play in the third quarter.
But the Eagles got just two more cracks at it, as Reedsburg ran down the clock and played solid defense. Sauk Prairie’s Marcus Hankins came up with a key tackle on a fourth-and-2 to give Eagles possession at their own 31-yard line with 6:45 remaining.
Reedsburg’s defense held, forcing a three-and-out before the offense ran the final 4:58 off the clock.
The Beavers will look to move above .500 in Badger North play when they visit Mount Horeb/Barneveld next Friday, while the Eagles will return home for back-to-back games against DeForest and Waunakee.
"We have a lot of respect for whoever we play but really focus on us getting better in all three phases," Iverson said of how the Eagles will approach this tough stretch of their schedule. "We will worry about our record at the end of the year. If you start getting caught up in the scoreboard either way midseason, you can stop getting better. Our goal is to get better everyday."