Greendale - Going into Friday night, the Greendale and Pius XI football teams were both unbeaten after dominating the opposition in their first two games.
The contest that night, though, showed the two might be further 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.
The victory improved Greendale to 3-0 on the season and set up a showdown for first place at 7 p.m. Sept. 14, when the Panthers travel to Pewaukee, which is also 3-0.
Greendale has now outscored its foes by 125-21 so far this season, but the Pirates have been every bit as strong, outscoring their three opponents 84-6, including a 27-0 triumph over New Berlin Eisenhower last week.
Against Pius on Friday, the Panthers had to overcome some early miscues.
They fumbled on the opening kickoff and on their first two plays from scrimmage, but 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.
Pius fighting for win
Pius didn't go quietly in a game that could have been much closer than the final score indicated.
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 third-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 eight 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.
"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."
Stoltz was happy to have Pius joining the Woodland this season.
"Any time you add a program like Pius to your conference, your conference becomes better," he 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."
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