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The Auburndale defense, led by Brent Lau (51) and Jesse Fowler (55), swarm a Markesan ball carrier during the first half of the Apaches’ 26-12 win in a WIAA Division 6 Level 1 playoff game Friday night at Auburndale High School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/For Zaleski Sports))

By Paul Lecker For Zaleski Sports

AUBURNDALE – The Auburndale football team had a goal heading into this season to be able to play a home playoff game.

That was secured with a 7-2 record and a No. 4 seed in the WIAA Division 6 playoff field. This week, the goal was changed to winning that game, and the Apaches did just that on Friday night.

Auburndale scored a pair of defensive touchdowns and pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Markesan 26-12 at Thorpe Field at Auburndale High School in a WIAA Division 6 Level 1 playoff game.

Auburndale (8-2) moves on to a Level 2 game next Friday, Nov. 1, at No. 1 seed and undefeated Abbotsford (10-0). The Falcons survived with a 48-41 win over Crivitz in their playoff opener Friday.

Brent Lau returned a fumble 26 yards for a score on the third play of the game and Cooper Weinfurter took an interception back 37 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter for an Auburndale defense that was stout throughout the game.

“We were pretty solid with our game plan and pretty confident coming into the game,” Auburndale coach Jay Anderson said. “That doesn’t mean that we weren’t nervous about it all week. We had all of our bases covered defensively. It kind of came along as we hoped and our guys made plays. We were really aggressive.”

After Lau’s score early, Auburndale’s offense could not do anything. The Apaches failed to gain a first down in the first half. Their seven offensive possessions ended with five punts, a lost fumble, and the end of the half.

Markesan didn’t do much better until the second quarter. After the fumble recovery by Caleb Jahnke following a high snap at the Auburndale 23, the Hornets reached the Apaches’ 6 before turning the ball over on downs.

On its final possession of the half, Markesan went 50 yards in five plays for a touchdown. John Bartaszewicz scored from the 2 with 24 seconds to go before halftime, but the Hornets missed the extra point kick and Auburndale took a 7-6 lead into halftime.

Auburndale finally got its offense going in the third quarter. The Apaches secured their first first down with about 8 minutes to go in the quarter and a 60-yard drive ended with a missed field goal.

Markesan turned the ball over on downs at the 37 and Auburndale took to the air. Weinfurter threw passes of 9 yards to Fletcher Raab, and 32 and 17 yards to Hunter Wright, the second pass to Wright resulting in a touchdown, and the Apaches led 14-6 with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter.

“We knew we had to loosen them up,” Anderson said. “We talked at halftime about getting them off us a little bit. We had to make a play like that. That No. 50 for them (Bryce) Friday is going to North Dakota State. He’s tough. We saw on film, we knew he was going to be a handful, and when you have a guy in the center of the defense like him, everyone else on your defense can be aggressive.”

Auburndale picked off passes on three consecutive attempts by Markesan quarterback Hayden Quade in the fourth quarter. The second one was Weinfurter’s 37-yard touchdown off a tipped ball with 9:32 to go in the game, putting the Apaches up 20-6.

Hunter Godard had the first pick and Weinfurter snagged another one for the Apaches’ defense that forced five turnovers in all.

Auburndale put together a 61-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Kyle Peterson with 1:06 left.

Markesan scored on its first play of the ensuing drive on a hook-and-ladder play. Quade threw 17 yards to Josh Boening, who pitched the ball to Max Stellmacher and he ran the final 54 yards for the touchdown with 47 seconds to go.

“I think we have a lot of heart, a lot of perseverance and these really guys really compete,” Anderson said. “They’ve done that since I came back to coach.”

Apaches 26, Hornets 12 Markesan 0 6 0 6 – 12 Auburndale 7 0 7 12 – 26 First Quarter A – Brent Lau 26 fumble return (Hunter Wright kick), 10:40. Second Quarter M – John Bartaszewicz 6 run (kick missed), 0:24. Third Quarter A – Wright 17 pass from Cooper Weinfurter (Wright kick), 1:02. Fourth Quarter A – Weinfurter 37 interception return (kick missed), 9:32. A – Kyle Peterson 1 run (kick blocked), 1:06. M – Max Stellmacher 56 pass from Hayden Quade (pass failed), 0:47. Team Statistics First downs: Markesan 5; Auburndale 7. Rushing (att-yards): M 40-88; A 37-78. Passing (comp-att-yards-int): M 7-15-140-3; A 6-19-101-1. Total yards: M 228; A 179. Penalties (no.-yards): M 7-55; A none. Fumbles (total-lost): M 4-2; A 3-2. Punting (no.-avg.): M 6-31.5; A 6-32.8. Individual Statistics Rushing: M, John Bartaszewicz 15-42, Hayden Quade 17-24, Max Stellmacher 8-22. A, Kyle Peterson 21-49, Dylan Paun 8-18, Cooper Weinfurter 8-11. Passing: M, Quade 7-14-140-3, Stellmacher 0-1-0-0. A, Weinfurter 6-19-101-1. Receiving: M, Stellmacher 4-72, Ethan Augustynowicz 1-34, Josh Boening 1-13, Cayden Plagenz 1-7. A, Hunter Wright 5-92, Fletcher Raab 1-9. Fumble recoveries (defense): M, Caleb Jahnke, Gavin Gilberson. A, Brent Lau 2. Interceptions (defense): M, Jahnke. A, Weinfurter 2, Hunter Godard. Punting: M, Stellmacher 6-31.5. A, Schuyler Gilhausen 6-32.8. Records: Markesan 5-4; Auburndale 8-2.

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