With one full extension of his right arm Friday night at Lussier Stadium, Jester Weah helped the Madison Memorial football team snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Trailing by two touchdowns late in the first half, Weah — a highly recruited senior wideout — reeled in a spectacular one-handed catch on a pass from Joe Ferguson for a 60-yard TD, starting a run of 17 unanswered points as Memorial rallied past host Madison La Follette for a 24-21 victory to spoil the Lancers’ Homecoming Night.
“I remember in the huddle Joe was like, ‘You gotta beat the DB on a slant. Do whatever you gotta do to get open,’ ” said Weah, whose team took the lead for good on a 30-yard field goal by junior Jeremy Gartland with 9 minutes, 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. “And I just went out there and listened to what he had to tell me.”
The victory clinched WIAA postseason consideration for the Spartans (4-3), who are seeking their first playoff berth since 2010 and travel to Beloit Memorial for another Big Eight Conference game next week.
La Follette (3-4) cashed in on a pair of short fields to open up a 14-0 first-quarter lead, with each drive ending on a rushing TD by senior Jermaine Richmond.
Memorial finally got on the board with 2:46 left in the second when Ferguson and Weah connected on a 5-yard, fourth-down TD hookup to cap a 15-play, 58-yard drive.
But Richmond provided an immediate answer, returning the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a TD to extend the Lancers’ advantage to 21-7.
“Boy, that was scary,” Memorial coach Mike Galindo said. “That was a lot of scary, and our boys really did respond well.”
Galindo’s group did exactly that three plays later when Weah — who is receiving interest from several Big Ten Conference schools, including the University of Wisconsin — came up with his highlight-reel grab to pull Memorial within a touchdown entering halftime.
Richmond went on to suffer a head injury early in the second half and sat out the majority of the final two quarters.
“Jermaine is a great asset to the team and a true force,” said La Follette coach Mike Harris, whose team will try to clinch playoff eligibility for the first time since 2007 next week at Middleton, “but we’ve been talking all across the board from Day 1 of our season that we wanted to have a team-homogeneous attitude.
“If somebody goes down, then the next person has to step in and fill and that’s what the players did.”
Memorial tied the game early in the third on a 62-yard TD run by junior RaQuan Cunnigan a play after junior Gavin Grant’s second interception of the game.
A long punt return by junior Daurice Fountain early in the fourth set up Gartland’s game-winning field goal. The Lancers drove to Memorial’s 29-yard line on their following drive, but the march ended when quarterback Troy Teigen was sacked on fourth down by fellow senior Aswan Thompson.
“We didn’t play really well in the first quarter and it looked like some of our guys were down,” said Ferguson, who was on crutches after the game due to a right ankle injury. “But we really stayed together as a family and came back.”
Mad. Memorial 0 14 7 3 — 24
Mad. La Follette 14 7 0 0 — 21
Madison La Follette — Richmond 17 run (Smith kick)
Madison La Follette — Richmond 4 run (Smith kick)
Madison Memorial — Ferguson 5 yard pass to Weah (Gartland kick)
Madison Memorial — Richmond 85 yard kick return (Smith kick)
Madison La Follette — Cunnigan 61 run (Gartland kick)
Madison Memorial — Ferguson 61 yard pass to Weah (Gartland kick)
Madison Memorial — FG Gartland 30
First downs — MM 11, ML 9. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — MM 39-173, ML 33-78. Passing yards — MM 140, ML 66. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — MM 13-24-1, ML 7-18-2. Fumbles-lost — MM 2-1, ML 3-1. Penalties-yards — MM 3-25, ML 7-55.
Rushing: MM — Cunnigan 21-127; ML — Richmond 10-37.
Passing: MM — Ferguson 13-24-1, 140; ML — Teigen 7-18-2, 66.
Receiving: MM — Weah 3-86; ML — Dobson 2-25.