Whitnall coach Rob Le Boeuf and Cudahy coach Ryan Serfort both preached to their teams to put the mistakes behind them and play in the moment.
After allowing a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Falcons did just that on defense to slam the door on the Packers' next three drives, including the final possession of the game to earn the 36-35 nonconference victory.
“The kids haven’t been in these situations before, and at the end of the game, they were able to think on their feet and make adjustments to come away with the big stops that won us the game,” LeBoeuf said of his young defense.
The defense did force two turnovers for the Falcons (1-1), who helped get senior quarterback Luke Mentkowski his first win as a starting signal caller.
He too overcame some adversity, throwing four interceptions in the game but also completed 16 of 24 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for a score.
“Turnovers are going to happen,” Mentkowski said. “You have to let them go and you have a new down to look toward.
“The defense came out very focused at the end of the game. We have to come out like that for the entire game. That got our fans into it and our sideline. It was a like a 12th man out there.”
After watching the Packers (0-2) score to make it a 35-30 game with 11 minutes, 55 seconds left in the game, Mentkowski engineered an 11-play, 71-yard drive, getting some help from senior running back Travis Karweik. Karweik carried five times on the drive and finished the game with 179 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns.
Mentkowski finished things off with a five-yard scamper with 8:02 left in the game, putting the Falcons (1-1) up by a point.
“Our offense is pedal to the metal,” LeBoeuf said. “We’re going to make mistakes and throw interceptions, but that’s part of the game.
“This was his second start at quarterback, and the game is a little fast for him right now, but you can see it starting to slow down.”
Cudahy’s final two possessions started at midfield. The first with 3:15 left in the game looked like it delivered the go-ahead score, but Jeff Hauenstein’s 49-yard run was called back because of a holding penalty.
“Our message to the kids was that we shot ourselves in the foot a number of times,” Serfort said. “We had a lot of penalties and mental errors. We’re going to work on improving the focus of this team. We’ll keep getting better.”
Angel Rameriz made his first start at quarterback for the Packers and showed why the coaching staff gave him a chance under center, with Hauenstein to halfback this week. The 5-foot-7, 140-pounder completed 12 of 17 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Hauenstein had 137 yards on 11 carries and two rushing scores.
“Last week when he came in, he gave us a spark,” Serfort said. “This game showed why we felt he was the right guy to go to that gives us the best chance to win now.
“He’s going to be a good one. It is a matter of him continuing to learn. This is only his third week playing quarterback. He’s a coachable kid and the guys rally around him.
Both teams have another Woodland Conference crossover game in Week 3 before starting conference play in Week 4.
“We keep getting better each week,” Leboeuf said of his team, which ended a five-game losing streak. “We play the best teams around, and I want it that way because when we get in a game like this against a school our size we find out if we can deal with adversity.”