The offense of the Greendale football team gets plenty of recognition, and for good reason, but the Panther defense stepped forward in a big way in the season opener against Cedarburg on Aug. 22.
In the second half, that defense forced the Bulldogs into four turnovers, each of which the offense eagerly converted into touchdowns to rally the Panthers from a 21-17 halftime deficit and send them on their way to a 51-33 triumph at Gavinski Field.
Quarterback Josh Ringelberg made the most of the opportunities, throwing for four touchdowns to finish his night with six scoring tosses.
"I think Cedarburg usually feels pretty good when it's up at halftime, because (the Bulldogs) wear the other team down with that (running) style of offense," Greendale head coach Rob Stoltz said. "Our kids just made plays; they really made plays."
Cedarburg held the four-point lead and had the ball to open the second half, but on the fourth play, the Bulldogs fumbled, with linebacker Tristian Pipp recovering for the Panthers on the Cedarburg 11.
On the third play, Ringelberg tossed an inside shovel pass to wide receiver Nate Miller for a seven-yard score. Frankie Rutkowski's extra point kick was good, giving Greendale a 24-21 lead with 9 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third.
On Cedarburg's next possession, the Panthers again forced a fumble, this time recovered by tackle Jake Haumschild at the Bulldogs' 38.
Greendale scored in seven plays, with Ringelberg finding Miller wide open in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 31-21.
The Bulldogs answered with an 80-yard march, including passes from quarterback Mike Mojica to wide receiver Jonathan Stiever of 36 and 32 yards and a four-yard touchdown run from Hudson Walton. The kick was no good, but Cedarburg was back within 31-26 with 2:36 left in the third period.
Long touchdown pass
The Greendale offense then took center stage as Ringelberg lofted a pass to receiver Cody Kmetz that went for a 67-yard touchdown. The point after by Rutkowski made it 38-27.
The play was similar to two first-half plays in which Ringelberg threw to Kmetz for a 44-yard score and to fellow receiver Mitchell Brees for a 60-yard touchdown.
Kmetz finished the night with three catches for 117 yards and three touchdowns, while Brees had the one reception for 60 and a score.
"I think we have two of the best receivers in the state in Kmetz and Brees," said Ringelberg, who threw for 221 yards on the night. "They (the Bulldogs) were pressing them both, and you can't do that against them. They were getting off the press so easily and they were there all day."
The Panther defense then went back to work as free safety Jack Ringelberg picked off a Mojica pass on a deflection to set Greendale up at the Cedarburg 13 late in the third quarter.
Ringelberg then found Kmetz open in the end zone for a six-yard score, and the kick made it 45-27.
Just for good measure, Brees made an interception on Cedarburg's next possession, and that led to an eight-yard touchdown run by Ringelberg for a 51-27 advantage.
"We turned the ball over," Cedarburg head coach Brian Leair said, "and we put our defense in really tough spots. They (the Panthers) were on a short field with their scores. They're a good team, and they capitalized, as simple as that."
Ringelberg, after going just two for eight passing in the first half, completed seven of nine after halftime for 117 yards and the four scores.
"I think I just settled in and got more pass protection from our line after that first part of the game," he said.
Greendale had started the game quickly, scoring on its first two possessions. Rutkowski connected on a 24-yard field goal, then Ringelberg hit Kmetz for a 44-yard touchdown down the left side of the field.
Cedarburg responded with a grinding 87-yard march that was capped by a one-yard plunge from Walton, who finished with 133 yards on the ground.
The Bulldogs added two more scores in the second quarter on catches of 15 and five yards by Stiever, who collected 140 yards for the game.
Stiever also caught a two-point conversion after the second score to put the Bulldogs up 21-10 with 1:34 left in the half.
"(In the second period), we had some miscues on offense with snapping when it wasn't supposed to be snapped, fumbled snaps and penalties," Stoltz said.
Ringelberg started the comeback with the stunning 60-yard scoring bomb to Brees, and Rutkowski's kick pulled the Panthers within 21-17 at the half.
That set up the second-half heroics from Ringelberg, his receivers and the swarming Panther defense.
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