LODI — With a berth in the WIAA Division 4 semifinals on the line, Jacob Heyroth wanted to make a statement.
The Lodi senior running back did just that, rushing for 385 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries to help lead the Blue Devils to a 35-0 win over Lake Mills in a state quarterfinal game on Friday night.
“It was a complete team effort,” Heyroth said. “We were ready to play, knew the first win wasn’t a fluke and got the job done.”
The top-seeded Blue Devils (12-0) punished Lake Mills (10-2) on the ground, outrushing the L-Cats 452-23, but the defense was just as critical. Lodi held Lake Mills to 103 total yards and scored 21 points off of four Lake Mills turnovers, including 14 in the second quarter.
Trailing 7-0, Lake Mills forced a Blue Devils fumble and recovered at its own 30. The L-Cats faced a fourth-and-2 at their own 47 and eschewed a punt, but senior quarterback Ben Dunkleberger’s pass fell incomplete and Lodi took over on downs.
It didn’t take long for the Blue Devils to capitalize, as Heyroth took a handoff on the next play, broke three tackles and raced down the sidelines 47 yards to make it 14-0 with 8:57 left in the first half. Lake Mills started with favorable field position in its ensuing drive, starting at its own 37. The L-Cats looked dead in the water but converted a third-and-15 with a 22-yard pass from Dunkleberger to freshman Adam Moen.
Lake Mills was unable to keep going, however, as Moen fumbled on the next play and Lodi took over at their own 32 and went to work with just under 6 minutes to play in the second quarter.
Lodi marched 68 yards, eventually punching in on a Heyroth 3-yard plunge with 13 seconds left in the half for a 21-0 lead. Heyroth converted four first downs on the drive, including a six-yard run on a fourth-and-1 from the L-Cats 11.
For Lodi coach Dave Puls, the strong close to the second quarter was critical.
“To get that ball and punch it in with 13 seconds left in the half was a big boost,” he said.
“We knew we needed to force them into turnovers and not have any of our own, but unfortunately we did have turnovers and it ended up costing us,” Lake Mills coach Dan Ferkovich added.
Leading 21-0, the Blue Devils defense came up big to start the second half, forcing the L-Cats into a three-and-out on their opening drive. Lodi drove into Lake Mills territory before stalling, but the Blue Devils’ punt pinned the L-Cats inside their own 20.
Lake Mills managed one first down before having to punt themselves, setting up the Blue Devils at their own 37. Lodi turned to Heyroth, utilizing the 6-foot-1, 193-pounder on every play, eventually scoring on a 5-yard plunge to make it 28-0 with 43 seconds left in the quarter.
“There’s two big keys: our offensive line and tight end, and our offensive blocking scheme,” Puls said. “Jacob is a phenomenal back, and you combine his athleticism, power, relentlessness and no fear attitude and put it behind those five or six guys, it’s a really nice situation.”
The Blue Devils defense continued to fluster the L-Cats, forcing a pair of three-and-outs and two interceptions, both by senior defensive back Dominic Scola, on the final four Lake Mills drives to close things out. Along with keeping Dunkleberger penned in, the Blue Devils really limited senior wide receiver Hayden Iverson.
The Blue Devils held the state leader in receiving touchdowns (27) to just three catches for 11 yards.
“We worked really hard in practice this week making sure we disguised our coverages,” said Scola, who shadowed Iverson for a majority of the game. “It wasn’t just me; our entire backfield helped us and getting pressure was big too.”
“They have great defensive backs who can double and bracket Hayden and that’s what you need to do to stop him,” Ferkovich added.
Lodi will now face the upstart Greendale Martin Luther after the sixth-seeded Spartans (8-3) earned a third straight road win by knocking off Two Rivers 31-23. While a second trip to Camp Randall in three years is on the line for the Blue Devils, Puls knows how to approach the importance of the game.
“I think we need to not hype it too much,” he said. “We have to do what we have to do and accept that somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose.”
LODI 35, LAKE MILLS 0
Lake Mills 0 0 0 0 — 0
Lodi 7 14 7 7 — 35
LO — Ben Rashid 1 run (Savannah Curtis kick)
LO — Jacob Heyroth 47 run (Savannah Curtis kick)
LO — Jacob Heyroth 3 run (Savannah Curtis kick)
LO — Jacob Heyroth 6 run (Savannah Curtis kick)
LO — Jacob Heyroth 60 run (Savannah Curtis kick)
First downs — LM 7, LO 18. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — LM 20-23, LO 55-452. Passing yards — LM 80, LO 29. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — LM 10-23-2, LO 3-3-0. Fumbles-lost — LM 1-1, LO 2-1. Penalties-yards — LM 2-20, LO 2-20.
Rushing: LM, Dunkleberger 16-17. LO, Heyroth 35-385.
Passing: LM, Dunkleberger 10-23-2-80. LO, McDonald 3-3-0-29.
Receiving: LM, Moen 5-50. LO, Crissinger 2-30.