ENDING THE STREAK: Watertown-Mayer snaps 29-game losing streak with upset win over G-SL

GLENCOE – The victory formation has been a fairly regular occurrence in games that involved the Watertown-Mayer football team. It’s just been done by the other team.

For the first time since Sept. 1, 2017, it was W-M’s turn to cap off a game in victory formation as they snapped a 29-game losing streak with a 28-10 upset win over Glencoe-Silver Lake on the road Friday night.

“It’s been a long time coming here for a lot of our guys,” Royals coach Andrew Phillips said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s been a long time for Watertown-Mayer football. Tonight was that night. Everything came together for us.”

“Honestly, I’ve never been so excited in my life,” Wyatt McCabe added. “This was a huge win for us leading into the last few games of the year. I really can’t explain how excited I am.”

As the Royals stepped off the bus for the game, Phillips wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from his team.

“I told them when we got off the bus that I wasn’t real confident,” Phillips said. “They didn’t have a lot of fire, but they stepped up to the plate and rose to the challenge.”

Need a spark early on, W-M got just that. It was Connor Donovan who gave the Royals that spark and had a game to remember. In the first quarter, Donovan picked off G-SL’s Jacob Stifter and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to give W-M a 7-0 lead.

Donovan wasn’t done there. A 38-yard touchdown catch from sophomore Albert Rundell put the Royals up 14-0 midway through the second half.

“That’s what you need if you’re going to beat a team like G-SL,” Phillips said about Donovan stepping up. “You need a player to step up and be the man. Connor was that guy for us early on. The turnover was huge, but being able to turn it into points helps us even more. He was just a guy stepping up and making plays.”

W-M would take their two-score lead into halftime, but the Panthers wouldn’t go away easily. A 20-yard touchdown run by Beau Lepel on the opening drive by G-SL cut it to a one-score game. The Panthers would climb even closer on a 35-yard field goal by Dylan Silus.

With momentum switching over to the side of the Panthers, W-M needed to make a response.

“They scored and then we had a short offensive position, but then we get a stop,” Phillips said. “All of a sudden, the clock is winding down and we’re thinking we’re in this game still. That’s what the message was. We couldn’t stop.”

W-M got that response in one big play. A 75-yard touchdown run from McCabe put W-M back up two scores with a 21-10 lead with just over 30 seconds left in the third quarter.

“It was a great play,” McCabe said. “They had just scored and we needed to get some momentum back. Our offensive line ran it perfectly, creating a huge hole.”

“Anytime you score on a big play, those are big-time momentum swingers,” Phillips added. “The sideline was going crazy. You get a big run like that and you get everybody on the sideline jumping up and down. It gets everybody going. For us at that time, it made it an 11-point game which meant they had to score twice. That was a huge thing for us against any team, but especially against them.”

With a 21-10 lead with just over seven minutes left to play, Phillips had a decision to make. With W-M facing a third and long, the Royals elected to for the first down through the air instead of keeping the clock running with the ground game.

“I felt like we needed to try and keep the ball in our hands,” Phillips said. “It was a little bit of a gamble because an incomplete pass stops the clock.”

That gamble paid off in a big way as Rundell found his receiver for a first down to keep the drive alive. That big third-down conversion set up an eight-yard touchdown run by Cole Lange, sealing the win for the Royals.

“Albert stepped up tonight,” Phillips said. “He grew a lot tonight as a football player and a leader. Tonight was the first night I looked out there in the huddle and could tell who the guy in command was and it was him. He made big throws and big-time decisions with his feet.”

This his Phillips’ third season as head coach of the Royals. It was the first win for him and W-M. When he took over the program back in 2018, talks of a co-op were discussed due to low numbers. Talks of the co-op fell through, and W-M was left on their own to figure things out. That’s when Phillips told his players that the hard work they put in will pay off eventually.

“When I took over and the talk of the co-op fizzled over, I told the guys that we’re going to take this program back to being competitive and we’re going to do it with the guys right here,” Phillips said. “We are going to do it with our W-M kids. I knew it was going to be a lot of work and there were some long nights. I told them there were going to be memories made that they’ll never forget. Tonight was one of those. In 2020, these guys will remember this forever. We did it with our own kids and it was special.”

For the six seniors on the roster this year, the win meant just a little more than most. It was the first varsity win of their careers.

“It was a big thing, especially for our seniors,” Phillips said. “We have a small group of seniors and some of them have been there since they were freshmen. Some of them are brand new to football. They got a win. It’s the first win of their high school career. They’re never going to forget this night and that’s what high school football is about. They’ll remember it forever.”

Follow Herald Journal Sports Editor Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

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