By Mitchell A. Skurzewski
For Wausau Pilot & Review
WAUSAU – It was a historic season for the Wausau West football team, tough players who earned a shared conference title for the first time since 1993.
And that makes Friday night’s loss and performance at Thom Field on Friday night hurt even more. The Warriors, who fumbled four times and had five total turnovers, were upset 29-7 by Neenah in a WIAA Division 1 Level 1 matchup – abruptly halting No. 2 seed Wausau West’s season.
“You just can’t make that many mistakes in a playoff game,” Warriors head coach Jason Foster said. “We didn’t play Warrior football. This is not how we drew it up and I didn’t expect to be giving a postgame speech after a 29-7 game. We had a great week of practice and were prepared. We just didn’t control some things that we could control. It’s a tough way to end a special year.”
Wausau West’s turnover problem started on the game’s opening play, with a fumble. Another theme in this game: Jase Jenkins. Jenkins scored quickly after the fumble giving the Rockets a 7-0 lead. Jenkins was everywhere, scoring three total touchdowns, snaring an interception and collecting a sack as Neenah dominated the first half. West had four first half turnovers and led 19-0 at halftime.
“I am super proud of the effort and how physical we were tonight right from the start,” said Steve Jung, Neenah’s head coach and former head coach at Wausau East. “We caused turnovers and really just made a statement in the first half.”
There were fleeting moments where it looked as if the Warriors were going to get back into the game. West was on the doorstep of cutting the Rockets’ 13-0 lead in half at the 5-yard line, but quarterback Jack Berens fumbled the snap and Neenah recovered.
After halftime, Wausau West stopped the Rockets 3-and-out on their first possession and Berens scored on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal to get the Warriors within 19-7. But West never could gain traction and never could connect on a momentum-changing play.
Jenkins added another touchdown in response to the Warriors score to essentially wrap up the game for the Rockets.
“What I like about Jase is, not only is he a special player, but he has a motor and he is going 100 percent all-out, all the time,”Jung said.
Added Jenkins: “All credit to the coaches, my offensive line, they were great. Our coaches, defensively coach (Nick) Braemer and offensive line coach (TJ) Severson had the guys ready tonight.”
While it was a stinging loss after such a strong regular season, Foster said this team will look back and be proud of a 8-2 season with plenty of accomplishments.
“I think we are going to be super proud of what we did this year,” Foster said. “Ultimately one team wins a state title in each division and everyone else is going to lose that last game. We had to learn how to win in the regular season and now the next progression is winning in the playoffs, which are different. We have a nice young group and these 18 seniors laid the groundwork and the foundation for the program to build on moving forward.”
Neenah 29, Wausau West 7
Neenah 7 12 7 3 – 29Wausau West 0 0 7 0 – 7