Football: Witt-Birn comes up short against Manawa

Chargers earn No. 6 seed for playoffs
Molly Gretzlock

WITTENBERG — The Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School football team ended the regular season hosting Manawa, hoping to bounce back from a tough road loss. Instead, Manawa came up with a big fourth quarter to defeat the Chargers 28-15 in a Central Wisconsin Conference-Large Division matchup, spoiling Witt-Birn’s homecoming.

“Mental and physical errors are what cost us the game, we played a good team and got beat by a good team,” Witt-Birn coach Bernard Holsey said. “We will come back next week and learn from our mistakes in order to get ready for playoffs.”

The Chargers finished the season with a 6-3 overall record and a 3-3 mark in the CWC-Large to take fourth. Witt-Birn earned a No. 6 seed in Division 5, and will travel to take on third-seeded Chilton on Friday at 7 p.m.

The Chargers opened up the scoring in the first quarter, with junior Austin Gibson scoring on a run from six yards out.

The Wolves answered with a touchdown their next drive, but missed the extra point.

On the kickoff after the touchdown, Manawa attempted and recovered an onside kick, setting the visitors up near midfield. But Witt-Birn’s defense held, eventually taking over on downs.

The second quarter continued the defensive battle, with both teams coming up with clutch defensive plays.

The Chargers picked off three passes in the first half, two of which came for sophomore Kaden Schmidt and the other from Ben Wesoloski.

Witt-Birn carried its 7-6 lead into halftime.

As the second half started, both defenses stayed strong in defending their end zones, coming up with more big plays to stop drives.

With the Chargers still up a point in the fourth quarter, the Wolves mounted a drive led by quarterback Mason Wiesner, who picked up 28 yards to put the ball inside the 20-yard line.

The Charger defense came up big again, stopping the drive and forcing a field goal attempt with just over six minutes left. The field goal was no good, but the Chargers were called for a crucial roughing the kicker penalty, setting up a first-and-goal at the 10.

Wiesner soon scored the go-ahead touchdown and the Wolves converted the two-point conversion to make it 14-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, disaster struck for the Chargers when the ball bounced off a front line Charger and was recovered by the Wolves at the Witt-Birn 45. That set up another Wolves’ touchdown to go ahead 21-7 with under four minutes to play in the game.

The Chargers’ offense was unable to get a first down and turned the ball over to Manawa at midfield. Manawa took advantage, mounting another scoring drive to go up by 21.

The Chargers were able to score one last time with 12 seconds left to play, with senior Jacob Groshek scoring on a run from three yards out.

The Chargers finished the game with 98 rushing yards. Senior Logan Balliett finished the game completing 9-of-15 passes for 65 yards.

“The turning point in the game came down to them (Manawa) being able to make plays when it mattered and we just came up short on our end,” said Balliett.

Senior Simon Stewart came up with some clutch tackles on the defensive end for Witt-Birn.

“I was just doing my job in order for our team to be successful,” said Stewart.

Manawa 6 0 0 22

Wittenberg-Birnamwood 7 0 0 8

First quarter

WB: Austin Gibson 6-yard run (Simon Stewart kick)

M: Jackson Jaeger 10-yard run (kick no good)

Fourth quarter

M: Mason Wiesner 3-yard run (Jaeger run)

M: Riley Krenke 21-yard pass from Wiesner (Wiesner kick)

M: Krenke 7-yard pass from Wiesner (Wiesner kick)

WB: Jacob Groshek 3-yard run (Jack Fraaza pass from Simon Stewart)