WATERFORD — As Adam Bakken rounded up his jubilant Waterford High School football players Friday night, he gave them something to think about.
“If the team that played in the second half keeps showing up, you guys are going to be playing for a long time this season,” Bakken said.
The team Bakken was referring to was the one that outscored Burlington 28-0 in the second half and rolled to a 42-14 Southern Lakes Conference victory at Waterford. It was the first regular-season loss for Burlington (4-1, 2-1 SLC) since Sept. 15, 2017, when Waterford beat the Demons on this same field.
Waterford, which lost to Franklin 24-0 in the season opener, has now won four straight and has set itself up well. The Wolverines (4-1, 3-0 SLC) need to win only one more game to qualify for the WIAA Division 2 playoffs and none of the teams remaining on their schedule has ever defeated a Bakken-coached team.
“We didn’t change anything,” Bakken said when asked what was said at halftime, when the score was tied 14-14. “The bottom line was they were challenged to come out and play in the second half. I thought Burlington played very well from the line of scrimmage in the first half and that clearly wasn’t the case in the second half. I thought the kids responded.
“They’re a veteran experienced group with real good size, they’re really good kids and they took over the game.”
The Wolverines simply went after Burlington, which was clearly getting worn out as the second half wore on. Tanner Keller, the leading rusher in Racine County, rushed for 196 yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in the second half, on 22 carries.
And then there was quarterback Joe Schauer, who figured prominently in Waterford’s offense. Giving the usually run-heavy Waterford offense a passing dimension, he completed seven of 11 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s something I talked about all summer,” Bakken said. “We have to be more balanced and we are right now. The last game, he was eight for 14 for 150 yards against Wilmot. He’s completing passes that are open and he’s doing a great job.”
There was also a Burlington defense that contained standout Burlington receiver Nick Webley better than any team has so far. While Webley caught a season-high 10 passes for 98 yards, he was held without a receiving touchdown for the first time this season.
“They double-teamed me,” Webley said. “They pressed the corner and had a safety shaded over on top of me, which kind of took away the short and deep passing game,
“To counter that, we kind of moved me around on offense, but Waterford did a good job of defending.”
Waterford scored the first touchdown on a 52-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Miller, but Burlington came back strong.
First, Dalton Damon threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Zasada, then Webley scored on a 40-yard run as the Demons took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
But it was all Waterford for the rest of the game.
Keller scored his first touchdown midway through the second quarter to tie the score and then added scoring runs of 1, 6 and 37 yards in the second half. Miller closed out the scoring with a 5-yard run.
It was a disappointing night for the Demons, who were trying to open a season with five victories for the first time since 1995.
Keller was one of the biggest reasons why. Asked about Keller, Burlington coach Steve Tenhagen said, “We bottled him up and contained him for awhile and then all of a sudden, he pops one. He did a great job. We’re going to go back to the film because we missed a ton of tackles. But a lot of it was on him, too. There were times when we had players who were unblocked at the point of attack and he just made us miss. He’s a special player.”
Just as Waterford is a special team.
“We’re pretty confident, but we’re not going to take anyone lightly,” Schauer said. “We’re still going to come out there and play the game that we know we can play.”
Waterford discovered just how well it can play in the second half Friday night.