Though his team wound up on the wrong end of the 40-14 score in its Midwest Classic showdown with Lake Country Lutheran on Sept. 23, University School of Milwaukee football coach Brian Sommers is going to take a glass-half-full approach to things and hope for the best.
Because his tidy and tight-knit 23-man squad still has a lot to play for and strong hopes for the future.
"They're a really good team," said Wildcat coach Brian Sommers. "It's just that our lack of depth on special teams really hurts sometimes. We're suiting our 23, and they have about 50 kids that they can bring out."
The loss was the first of the year for USM (5-1), while Lake Country stayed unbeaten at 6-0.
The Wildcats have a chance to get back on track when they host a good Brookfield Academy team (5-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in USM's homecoming contest. Sommers said the rest of the schedule is filled with games that are very winnable and noted Lake Country still has some landmines left on its slate but that the Wildcats will have to take care of business.
To finish the regular season and head into the WIAA state playoffs at 7-2, or better, 8-1, would do wonders for seeding because he thinks his team can be a factor in the state Division 5 playoffs. A win over Academy would clinch a state playoff berth for USM.
"It's kind of funny," he said. "This is the smallest we've been (since he's been there) in terms of numbers, but as I've told the guys, I think this is the most talent that we've had, too, since I've been here. They're also a fun group, and they get along so well. We have a lot of strength on the front line, and that always helps, too."
That size, though small in number, is of major impact. It includes senior NCAA D1 prospect, 6-5, 275-pound Michael Balistreri and 6-3, 325 junior lineman Declan Eaton, who also fills in at kicker when the Wildcats' regular kicker, top flight senior soccer player Xavier Davis, has a game, like he did on Sept. 23. The other key man of size is 6-0, 260 senior Marquan Limehouse.
Key skill position players for the Wildcats this fall have been junior quarterback David Hutton (56 percent completion rate and seven TDs), junior running back Will Kennedy (seven yards a carry and seven TDs) and junior back Justin Tremmel (seven yards a carry and four TDs). Sophomore receiver Tripp Grebe has had a sensational year with 25 grabs for 452 yards (18 yards a catch) with four TDs.
Sommers will look to employ this talent to great effect in the all-important stretch run.
The Wildcats hung in there as well as they could against Lutheran on Sept. 23. The Lightning scored first to make it 7-0, but then Tremmel found the end zone from 7 yards out to tie the score at 7-7, but that euphoria lasted only a few seconds as Lutheran returned the subsequent kickoff for the go-ahead score.
It was 21-7 at the quarter before USM made another push as Hutton hit Tremmel on a 48-yard TD pass. But that would prove to be the high point of the evening as Lutheran scored the last 19 points of the game.
"We really weren't as disciplined in the first half as we should have been, and we had two special teams blunders that really hurt us," Sommers said, "but they're just a very good team. Lake Country has had a heck of a run the last five years or so. They routinely go deep in the state playoffs, but we're young and fast, and we'll find a way to get there."
Lake Country had 339 total yards to USM's 209. Hutton passed for 120 yards, while Kennedy had a stout all-around game, rushing for 56 yards on 13 tries and recording 16 total tackles.