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An Epic Thriller

Much has been written about the game between Oconomowoc and Wisconsin Lutheran in their meeting on September 27, 2013. There was a featured story in the Saturday edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the day after the game as well as a story in the weekly Oconomowoc Enterprise newspaper the next Thursday. In 2017 Wissports named the game as the seventh best game in the 15 years the web page had been around (2002-2017). The Journal Sentinel reprinted their original story in 2017 as a reminder to readers of the epic battle. I’m going to cover this game but from several different directions as well covering a bit of Oconomowoc’s season.

The final score was 84-82, with the Oconomowoc Racoon’s (also known as the Cooney’s) over the Wisconsin Lutheran Vikings in an epic scoring barrage. There are two categories in the record book for total game points. The first is “Most Points Scored in a Game by One Team”. Most of the games were shutouts and big ones at that. All the games are also ones in which a team scored 100 points or more. In 1902 Stoughton beat Kewanee (IL) 145-0. Number two on this list is the 140-0, 1913 win by St, John’s Military Academy over St. Norbert’s College followed by the 138-0 win by Tomah over Elroy in 1908. The second category is “The Most Points Scored by 2-Teams in a Game”. The total of 166 points leads the record list and it's not close. The next highest scoring total for two teams in a game is 133 points, performed by Schofield D.C. Everest (73) vs. Wisconsin Rapids (63) in 1998. Two games tie for third with 132 total points. Milwaukee Bay View (74) beat Eastbrook/Hope School (53) in 2015 and Chippewa Falls (67) defeated Eau Claire Memorial (65) in 2018.

The game between Oconomowoc and Wisconsin Lutheran started slowly. With the score 8-7 at the end of the first quarter, no one could have suspected what was to happen. Both teams played to a draw, 0-0 for the first 10 minutes of that first quarter. Then the second quarter began and the scoring barrage kept up as there were eight scores between the two teams in that period. It was a battle of the two team’s quarterbacks. Lutheran’s Logan McShane ran for three touchdowns on runs of 6, 51 and 37 yards while the Racoon’s leader, Carson Larson, ran 51-yards for one score and passed for three with touchdowns of 54, 64 and 37 yards. The game was tied twice as well as the lead changing hands twice in that period. The eight scores came about every minute and a half. The first half ended 36-35 in favor of the Vikings and things were just getting started.

The next two quarters were equally frantic. The keys to the third period were a 39-yard interception return by Nick Gomez and an 87-yard kickoff return by Jarek Berg for the Cooney’s as they took a 63-58 lead as the fourth quarter started. Gomez’s interception helped put a two-score cushion between the two teams and from then on it was a battle to see who could outlast whom. In the end both Oconomowoc and Wisconsin Lutheran would score three times each in the fourth quarter. Big stats were being piled up on both sides as the two teams would end up with 1,247 total yards…708 by the Vikings and 539 by the Racoon’s. For Lutheran, Logan McShane would be 13-27-1-180-2 passing and 14-111-4 running. Terrance Ward led the Viking ground game with 265 yards on 23 carries and three scores. Anthony Carver caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

For the Racoon’s quarterback Carson Larson was the leader. This was by far the best game he ever had. He was 10-20-0-295-4 through the air and he ran the ball 14 times for 198 yards and four scores. That’s 493 yards and eight touchdowns that he was responsible for. Outstanding!! But to me, the biggest difference in this epic were the feet of receiver/kicker Casey Bednarski who despite suffering from leg cramps throughout the game, came up in a huge way when needed. Oconomowoc scored 12 touchdowns to 11 by Wisconsin Lutheran in the game. That’s a difference of one score. However, Bednarski made all 12 of his extra point attempts. Lutheran didn’t attempt an extra point kick, choosing to go for two points after each touchdown. They made eight of them, with Terrance Ward scoring three of them. Not only did Bednarski make all of his extra points but he placed 11 of his 13 kickoffs into the endzone making it harder for his opponent. He also punted three times for an average of 44.3 yards per kick. The Vikings had to go much further downfield to score which is how they were able to out gain the Racoon’s. Bednarski only caught two passes in the game but gained 131 yards including his second quarter 64-yard touchdown. The other reception went for 57 yards and set up a touchdown. In my estimation his performance was the biggest difference in the game despite the huge effort by Carson Larson.

To give up 80+ points in a regulation time game doesn’t say much for either teams defense but every stop became that much more important and Oconomowoc was able to come up with a few critical holds that did it for them. The win put Oconomowoc in the lead for the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference title with a 6-0 record while Lutheran dropped to 3-3. The Cooney’s would have their first undefeated regular season in 26-years and their first conference title in 11 years as they would end up posting an 11-1 season record. The Vikings would rebound from the loss and post a 7-4 season record. Coach Kirk DeNoyer directed WISCO for 20-years and posted a 194-47 record with one WISSA title in 1997 and four WIAA state titles in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2014 with two state runner-up postings. His teams won 15 conference titles. In 2013, the win by Oconomowoc was the first against Lutheran in 15 years. Oconomowoc played some other close games in 2013 as they were able to score 436 points on the season and gave up 300 points.

The win against Wisconsin Lutheran was the talk of the school for many weeks as the players were constantly stopped in the hallways to get a clap on the back and to discuss different aspects of the game. It was a battle those players will long remember.

The season before, Oconomowoc earned a 6-3 record but failed to make the playoffs. Having lost the team’s leading receivers, running back and defensive players from the 2012 squad the next year’s performance was unexpected. The 2013 11-1 record posted by Oconomowoc was the second-best season record for the Cooney’s. In 1987 they posted a 12-1 record as the team was the Division 1 runner-up, losing to Fond du Lac 3-0. Coach Ryan McMillen was in his fifth season heading up the program and earned the award as the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference Coach of the Year in 2013. He graduated a lot of seniors from the 2013 team and the Racoon’s slumped to a 1-8 record in 2014. McMillen and his coaching staff re-built the program and went on to post another 11-1 record in 2015 and finally an 8-2 showing in 2016 before moving on to Muskego as the school’s athletic director.

The 2013 team had many stars. Carson Larson earned the WLT Offensive Player of the Year, first team all-conference, South Central region POY and honorable mention All-State. His season passing stats were 110-199-4-2,082-26 while his rushing totals were 114-994-12. He passed for 4,776 yards and 50 touchdowns while rushing for 1,345 yards in his career. He was offered a scholarship to Minnesota State-Mankato. Casey Bednarski was the team’s leading receiver with 26 catches for an incredible 846 yards and 10 touchdowns. He kicked 53 extra points in 53 attempts and kicked 11 of 12 field goals. His punting on the season was an average of 41.8 in 24 kicks. Casey earned all-conference honors as both a wide receiver and placekicker. Defensive back Logan Ballering led the team with 106 tackles and three interceptions. Linebacker Nick Gomez was second in tackles with 89 and his only interception was in the Wisconsin Lutheran game. Both earned first team all-conference. Other first team all-conference members were offensive lineman Colin Valley and defensive back Dalton Dunham.

Just as the win against Wisconsin Lutheran was the talk of the school and the community, so was the season. A season that those players will long remember.

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