In the playoffs no one can be taken lightly.
So the Menomonie football team came play from the opening kickoff,, leaving no doubt it was a top seed.
The Mustangs scored twice before Lakeland Union ran an offensive play as Menomonie dominated in a 52-8 Division 3 opening round victory over the Thunderbirds at Don and Nona Williams Stadium in Menomonie on Friday.
“You can’t take anything lightly, so we didn’t take this game lightly,” Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda said of the win. “The kids came in and were ready to play and we stayed healthy.”
Menomonie advances to play fourth-seeded New Richmond which defeated No. 5 Mosinee 41-12 on Friday.
The Mustangs jumped out to a 32-0 lead by the time the first quarter expired and the offense scored on each of its six drives in the first half.
“The kids really came to play. We got an early lead, stepped on the gas, and that’s what you want to have happen in a game like this,” LaBuda said.
Lakeland looked to pull off a surprise on the opening kickoff in a game they were overmatched in. An onside kick was recovered by Menomonie’s Kaleb Miller.
A fumbled snap on the first offensive play and then a penalty set the Mustangs back on their first possession. Facing third-and-13 quarterback Tyler Werner found receiver Davis Barthen wide open along the right sideline and Barthen made his way down the 1-yard line. Will Ockler finished the drive two plays later to give Menomonie a 6-0 lead with a little more than two minutes time off the clock.
Showing they could play the same trickery the Mustangs tried and succeeded on an onside kick of their own. Werner completed a 13-yard pass to Jaylen Wright and the Zach DeMarce added a 21-yard carry to the Lakeland 1-yard line. He scored two plays later as Menomonie led 12-0 with still more than eight minute to play in the first.
The Menomonie defense finally got its chance to shine forcing a three-and-out on Lakeland’s first drive. After a punt, two plays in Werner found Ockler in the flat and he scampered 39 yards for another score.
“Tyler has continued to come on as the year has gone on and as he’s gotten experience,” LaBuda said of Werner. “He was really totally unexperienced coming into the year and he’s just progressed more and more as the year’s gone on.”
Menomonie forced a fumble on Lakeland next possession and on the ensuing drive DeMarce had a 17-yard run and then Werner found Kaden Kado for 23 yards before DeMarce finished the drive with his second touchdown run of the first quarter.
To cap a dominant first quarter on both side of the ball Dylan Boecker had a pick-six as Menomonie went ahead 32-0 with still 38 seconds left in the first quarter. The interception came on a halfback pass intended for the quarterback leaking into the flat opposite of where the running play was headed.
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Ockler added his third touchdown of the game and Caleb Hueman also found the end zone as Menomonie led 46-0 at halftime.
Menomonie saw participation from a host of players in the second half as LaBuda said a total of 76 players saw action as everyone who was healthy and able to play saw the field.
Parker Schultz scored the final touchdown for the Mustangs with six minutes left in the third quarter. Schultz began the play running left until he found a cutback lane and made his way all the way back the right sideline as he went 30 yards for score.
The Menomonie defense held Lakeland off the scoreboard as long as they could, including forcing a fumble as the Thunderbird quarterback fumbled reaching for the goal line giving the ball back to the Mustangs.
Lakeland finally found the scoreboard with 40 seconds to play as quarterback Michael Ouimette found receiver Cody Wolfe for a 10-yard score.
Werner was a perfect 6-of-6 for 154 yards and one touchdown.
DeMarce led the rushing attack with 10 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Ockler found the end zone three times in the contest. Schultz racked up 50 yards in second half action. DeVauntaye Parker totaled 40 yards on four attempts.
Barthen led the receivers with 55 yard on just one reception. Franklin caught three passes for 45 yards.
Menomonie totaled 373 yards of offense, with 313 coming in the first half.
Ockler and DeMarce each added sacks on defense.
Ouimette ran the ball for 100 yards on 23 carries for Lakeland. Erik Albertus added 18 attempts for 72 yards.
LaBuda was pleased he was able to get playing time for everyone and the team remained healthy. He said New Richmond will provide a much tougher challenge next week and the Tigers have their full attention in a season where they almost beat Big Rivers co-champion River Falls early in the season.
“I just thought we did a lot of good things tonight that I was happy with,” LaBuda said. “We just got to keep building off of that. Every round gets tougher.”