Greendale and Milwaukee Pius entered Friday night’s matchup undefeated after both teams dominated the opposition in their first two games.
But this contest showed the two might be farther apart than most observers thought. The Panthers pummeled the visiting Popes, 45-6, on a rainy, chilly evening that featured countless dropped passes and seven combined turnovers.
Despite fumbling on the opening kickoff and their first two plays from scrimmage, the Panthers drew first blood when junior Frankie Rutkowski connected on a 21-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
After Pius fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Greendale sophomore quarterback Josh Ringelberg connected with sophomore wideout Cody Kmetz on a 22-yard touchdown pass to close out the first quarter. The pair connected again from 12 yards out later in the second quarter to give the Panthers a 17-0 lead.
“Josh has a tremendous understanding of the offense,” Greendale head coach Rob Stoltz said. “The quarterback, in our offense, has one of the most difficult jobs on the field. He has to have complete command of the offense, and I was incredibly proud of the way he played tonight.”
Ringelberg finished with 334 all-purpose yards, three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns.
But Pius didn’t go quietly in a game that potentially could have been much closer than the final score indicated. Pius junior defensive back Christian Garcia picked off his first of two interceptions with two minutes remaining in the half. The Popes offense sputtered, setting up a 3rd-and-26 from the Greendale 29-yard line, but after a dizzying scramble, senior quarterback Connor Senger hit senior wideout Darius Nance for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 8 seconds left.
The Popes received the ball to start the second half and drove to Greendale’s 20-yard line but fumbled after converting a fourth down.
“That hurt us,” Pius head coach George Machado said. “We talked to the kids, and really I give Greendale all the credit. They were much more physical than we were. We’re a finesse team. That’s great if you’re going to a wedding dance, but if you’re going to a street brawl, you better bring some physical attitude to the game, and we just really didn’t. I was disappointed in how passive we were.”
From there, the Panthers blew the door open, scoring four unanswered touchdowns, including two rushing and one passing from Ringelberg. The Panthers, who improved to 3-0, have defeated their opponents by an average score of 42-7.
“It was absolutely closer than it looked,” Stoltz said. “They score right at the end of the half, they had the momentum, and they’re going down the field. If they score there, this could be an entirely different game.”
For Pius, who had been equally dominant heading into Friday, the road won’t get much easier next week when the Popes host undefeated Wauwatosa West.
“The fact that we were 2-0 is going to help us rebound,” Machado said. “If we were 0-2 and then got our butt kicked like this, then I’d really be in trouble. We just have to bounce back. It’s a tough conference, and I don’t think the score was really indicative of how the game really looked. We had opportunities that we just let slip away.”
The Panthers will attempt to stay perfect at Pewaukee.
“Any time you add a program like Pius to your conference, your conference becomes better,” Stoltz said. “That’s a great program. I don’t think there’s any question that it raises the level of competition, and any time you do that, you make yourselves better. It’s a very competitive conference.”