WAUNAKEE — Tyler Reynolds knew he would have to help control the ball to keep Watertown and its high-powered passing offense off the field as much as possible Saturday afternoon.
With a little help from his friends on the Waunakee offensive line, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior running back proved up to the challenge.
“I think I’ve got the best offensive line in the state, to be honest,” said Reynolds, who ran for 281 yards and three touchdowns as three-time defending champion Waunakee rolled to a convincing 55-27 victory over the Goslings in a WIAA Division 2 state quarterfinal football game.
“Coming into the game, we try to establish the run. I think we did that.”
Waunakee (11-0) advanced to meet Whitefish Bay (10-1) in a state semifinal next weekend. The Warriors extended their winning streak to 47 games, one shy of Manitowoc’s state record.
With much of the pregame attention centered on Watertown quarterback Tarek Yaeggi, who had passed for 3,044 yards and 38 TDs entering the game, Reynolds and his backfield teammates combined to run for 399 yards and six TDs to steal the spotlight.
Will Decorah connected with Willie Freimuth for a 49-yard touchdown pass to stake Waunakee to a 7-0 lead with 3 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first quarter. Watertown then went three-and-out to set up Troy Laufenberg’s 1-yard TD for a 14-0 lead.
“We knew if we were going to win we were going to have to put it on the line and we delivered,” Waunakee offensive lineman Dean Helt said. “We came out and punched it up the gut and made a huge statement.”
After another Watertown three-and-out, the Warriors needed only 13 seconds to make it 21-0 on Will Helbing’s 86-yard TD run on the ensuing play from scrimmage.
“We needed to manage the clock and running the ball was going to do that, score some points and keep their offense off the field,” Waunakee coach Pat Rice said.
The Goslings (9-2) trailed 28-0 before battling back pull within 28-14 at halftime on Jarod Peirick’s 2-yard TD run and Yaeggi’s 8-yard TD pass to Aaron Krumbier.
But Waunakee took the second-half kickoff and used three plays and 60 seconds to drive 78 yards, capped by Reynolds’ 28-yard TD scamper for a 35-14 lead.
“We thought we had them worn down a little bit,” said Yaeggi, who completed 20 of 47 passes for 220 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. “But they came out after halftime and had the same energy they did in the first half and they were able to shut us down. Not many teams were able to do that.”
“He’s a beast. I’ve said it all season,” Decorah said after Reynolds ran for 134 yards on nine carries with two TDs in the third quarter alone. “He works harder than anybody I know.”
Dalton Kind’s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter gave the Warriors a 49-14 lead and a running clock.
“It’s unreal how far the defense has come since the beginning of the season,” Decorah said. “To see where they have come from is unbelievable. Every single guy out there has bought into the program and every single out there plays for each other. That’s what it’s all about.”