T.J. Watt wanted a prize his brothers never had -- and he took it upon himself to go get it.
The Pewaukee two-way standout put his fingerprints all over the Pirates' 38-24 win over Greendale on Friday, helping PHS defeat the Panthers for the first time since joining the Woodland Conference. Watt scored three touchdowns, ran for 90 yards, forced a fumble, returned an interception to the Greendale 14-yard line and ran a fake punt 16 yards on 4th and 8 to essentially ice the Woodland West Division victory in a battle of undefeated teams.
"Nobody else in Pewaukee history has beaten Greendale," Watt said. "None of my brothers could do it. I'm happy because we could do it as a team. We had good blocking, good defense, and it all came together and we had a great game."
Watt, who will follow in the footsteps of brothers J.J. and Derek and play for the University of Wisconsin next year -- as a tight end -- had his best game at quarterback thus far for the Pirates (4-0). His 14-yard run on the first series of the third quarter tied the game at 17-17, and on the ensuing Greendale series, he intercepted quarterback Josh Ringelberg from the defensive end position and scampered from the Pewaukee 46 to the Greendale 14.
Three plays later, Pewaukee had its first lead of the game. Though the Panthers would re-tie the score on a sparkling 47-yard connection between Ringelberg and Mitchell Brees with 2:47 left in the third, Watt capped a 14-play, time-consuming (6:54) drive with another touchdown.
"He came to me and said, 'I want to be the quarterback' (before the season), and I think we kind of found out why tonight," said first-year Pewaukee coach Justin Friske. "He played better than he's played in any game up to this point. The plays he made on defense and offense showed what type of athlete he is. Without him, we're certainly a different team, but that's not to short all the other guys that played because we had a complete team effort tonight."
Included in that stable was David Girmscheid, who rushed for 179 runs and delivered the dagger touchdown with 1:42 to go on a 15-yard run. That score came on the ninth play of a drive that was kept alive when Watt rolled out on a rugby punt and kept it on 4th and 8 from the Greendale 28, picking up twice as many yards as necessary.
"He's phenomenal," Greendale coach Rob Stoltz said of Watt. "Everything you want in a senior leader. He did his name proud, that's for sure. He's the best player in the conference, and that was made pretty clear tonight, making plays in every facet of the game. He's a special player and we did not do nearly enough to stop him."
Greendale looked like the aggressor early, scoring less than 1:30 into the game on a Jake Zywicki 47-yard run for touchdown. Though Pewaukee answered immediately with an 80-yard kickoff return for TD by Ryan Stepanovich, the Panthers recovered a fumble to kill a Pewaukee drive and built a lead as large as 17-7. Brees caught another long ball -- this one from 65 yards -- to give his team a 14-7 lead.
Zywicki had 115 yards on the ground in the first half alone, but he was held to 19 in the second half. Meanwhile, Pewaukee kept piecing together long scoring drives.
"We just didn’t have an answer for it on defense," Stoltz said. "Whether it was the scheme or execution of it, we just didn't come to play on defense today, and it was unfortunate because our defense is a lot better than that. They're running their base wing-T stuff and we just did not execute."
Friske thought his team simply looked more composed in the second half.
"It was really a matter of us settling down and saying, 'Pewaukee football, let's go,' and the kids responded," he said. "We run the football. It's what we do. We're not going to be real fancy looking I suppose, but we do a lot of different things inside the tackles that can be confusing for a defense. I thought in the second half, our nerves were a lot better."
Greendale (3-1) will still be heavily favored to reach the playoffs, even if it lost a foothold in the chase for the Woodland West title.
"We've talked about complacency for a few weeks now. ... I don't know if we were complacent this week or as a coaching staff we didn't do a good enough job making sure everyone understands their assignment in all facets of the game."