Highlanders claim state berth on blustery November night


Annie Brown

The Highlanders beat the Kettle Moraine Lasers Friday night 29-10.

In the stands, there is an eerie quiet. The wind whips around the student section, chilling spectators to the bone and creating a vacuum of noise inaccessible to bleachers just feet to the left. Still, students chant, stomp, and cheer:
On the field, the sound of the students’ chant is deafening. The air has brought all the sound onto this stage, the Arrowhead High School football stadium, and by trying to make themselves heard in the echo of the stands, the students produce a level of noise rarely heard at any home game, let alone a neutral site over 25 miles away.
However, Homestead’s student section is not the only one caught in the freezing wind. On the other end of the stands, Kettle Moraine’s bleachers pound just as loudly. Players on the sideline bear earwitness to the cacophonous war between two schools, hundreds vying on an icy November night to make their cheers and jeers heard.
At first, Kettle Moraine has everything to celebrate. With a second drive touchdown, they lit up the scoreboard 7-0 only minutes into the first quarter. Homestead responded with a 2-pt conversion after a touchdown, but the 8-7 lead was short-lived; the Lasers put up a short field goal to remain up 10-8 at the half.
In spite of their early deficit, there is more in store for the Highlanders after the second half. As white feathers from down coats float like flurries over the student section, Sal Balistrieri, junior quarterback, leads an 80-yard drive ending in a five-yard touchdown from Joe Ollman, senior running back. Homestead registers 15-10 on the board, and the crowd can sense a momentum shift: the Highlanders have a chance.
As it turns out, the Highlanders had more than just a chance. Balistreri rushed for his own touchdown in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 22-10, and by the time Ollman ran for the final touchdown of the night with fewer than three minutes remaining, spirits were impossibly high. The bitter cold that had plagued the sideline for most of the game was no longer a concern as players grinning and embraced each other on the sidelines.
“This is it!” Their voices were almost giddy as the clock ticked down below two minutes. “We did it!”
For Sean McByrd, freshman cornerback, a State berth in his first season is a dream come true, as he explained to us shortly before the victory.

After the game, students in the stands broke the quiet that had surrounded them the entire game and joined their classmates to raucously celebrate the Level 4 Championship and the ultimate chance to win the Division II State Championships in Madison.
Tyler Miller, senior running back, commented on the victory, which, for senior players, is a return to the journey they made as freshmen.

The Highlanders will face off against the Waunakee Warriors next Friday, Nov. 19 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc. for the WIAA Division II State Championship final at 1 p.m.