Oct. 23—MENOMONIE — A six-point lead heading into halftime would have been fine. But a two-score advantage sounded even better.
Monona Grove had finally broken through the Menomonie defense with 3:58 left to go in the second quarter, cutting the Mustangs' advantage to 12-6 in their first-round playoff matchup on Friday. But with less than four minutes remaining until the break, the Mustangs orchestrated a championship-caliber, 63-yard scoring drive to swing momentum in back in their favor.
The tide never turned again.
Reed Styer threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Smith to put the Mustangs up by 13 just before halftime, and Menomonie pulled away from there for a 33-6 victory over Monona Grove. The win punched the Mustangs' ticket to the second round of the Division 2 playoffs.
"I think that (drive) was huge," Monona Grove coach Brandon Beckwith said. "We had kind of weathered a storm, going down 12-0 and scoring. Obviously if we can keep them out of the end zone before half, I think our morale is even better and we know we can play with them. But when they score on you before half, it's deflating. Going into half, that really took the momentum."
The Mustangs went 63 yards on 10 plays after being scored upon, with Styer completing three straight passes with time winding down to cap the drive. He hit Smith from the 11-yard line for the score with 13 ticks left on the clock.
"That (drive) was huge," Menomonie coach Mike Sinz said. "Lucas Smith is such a playmaker for us. He's put in so much time and it's good to see a kid like that make a big play because of the time he's put in. He's a playmaker, and when the ball's up in the air we trust him to come down with it."
Menomonie (9-1) scored 21 unanswered points starting with Styer's touchdown pass to Smith. The defense was sharp the rest of the way, and the Mustangs' punishing rushing attack helped them maintain control throughout the second half.
Nick Haviland ran for a pair of scores for Big Rivers co-champion Menomonie, and Styer finished with two touchdowns through the air. Defensively, the Mustangs limited the Silver Eagles (6-4) to 187 yards of offense. Charlie Morning and Smith both had interceptions for Menomonie.
"We were happy with how the defense flew around to the ball," Sinz said. "Monona Grove's a really good football team. They hit us on a few passes and a few (run-pass options). A good football team is going to make plays like that, and they did. But overall our defense played pretty dang well."
Monona Grove's hopes of a comeback took a fatal blow in the third quarter, when quarterback Casey Marron was injured on a sack. He had thrown for 125 yards and a touchdown to that point, and the Silver Eagles couldn't find much of a rhythm in his absence.
"Menomonie does what it does really well," Beckwith said. "You know what you're going to get from them, but you still have to stop it. Defensively, they are super solid and just get after you."
The Mustangs ran out to a 12-0 lead in the first half on Haviland's first touchdown and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Styer to Sam Anderson. Haviland and Steele Schaefer added rushing touchdowns in the second half.
Second-seeded Menomonie will host third-seeded DeForest in Level 2 next Friday in Menomonie. The Norskies beat a Big Rivers team in Level 1, prevailing 35-14 over New Richmond.
Menomonie 33, Monona Grove 6
MEN: Nick Haviland 30 run (kick failed), 10:21.
MEN: Sam Anderson 25 pass from Reed Styer (run failed), 7:44.
MG: Grant Dahlhauser 7 pass from Casey Marron (kick failed), 3:58.
MEN: Lucas Smith 11 pass from Styer (Treysen Witt kick), 0:13.
MEN: Haviland 1 run (Witt kick), 7:21.
MEN: Steele Schaefer 4 run (Witt kick), 10:29.
Team & Individual Statistics
RUSHING (att-yds): Monona Grove (21-47): Markale Curry 11-68, Grant Dalhauser 1-7, Ty Hoier 1-4, Max Loeder 2-4, Casey Marron 3-(-14), Kody Cummings 3-(-22). Menomonie (49-247): Haviland 8-71, Parker Schultz 15-70, Schaefer 12-65, Jack Drout 3-19, Gavin Exner 3-19, Wyatt Winsand 3-15, Cody Dahms 2-3, Styer 1-(-13).
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): Monona Grove: Marron 12-22-1-125, Cummings 3-6-0-15, Tyler Dahlhauser 0-2-0-0. Menomonie: Styer 5-10-0-81.
RECEIVING (rec-yds): Monona Grove: G. Dahlhauser 4-58, T. Dahlhauser 4-32, Hoier 3-23, Cuinn Larsh 1-20, Brady Voss 3-7. Menomonie: Isiah Birt 2-34, Anderson 1-25, Smith 2-22.