October 1, 2021 – Jackson, WI – The Kettle Moraine Lutheran Chargers are set for the annual homecoming game; this year hosting the Berlin Indians in an important East Central Conference showdown.
Kettle Moraine Lutheran enters the game with a 2-4 overall record and a 1-3 record in conference play, including a 21-14 loss in its last game to Sheboygan Falls.
All of the Chargers losses this season have been one-score games; losing each by a touchdown or less, which explains how the Chargers have more points scored by them (92) than have had scored against them (71), namely with help from a 44-7 blowout win over Ripon also on the books.
The Chargers are in “must-win mode,” as a minimum of five wins are required to qualify for the WIAA State Playoffs, with their first hurdle being a Berlin team they took care of handily last season with a 28-3 victory.
As for Berlin, the Indians enter the game with a 5-1 overall record and 3-1 conference record. The Indians are coming to KML riding a huge wave of momentum, as they got a 28-25 overtime win against Kewaskum in their previous game, thus qualifying for a playoff berth in the process.
This game will be a battle pitting Berlin and its top-ranked scoring offense in the East Central Conference against a Kettle Moraine Lutheran defense that hasn’t allowed more than 22 points this season and held opponents to an average of 15.2 points per game, thanks in long part due to a strong tackling presence, with the Chargers having 399 total tackles this season.
It’s a fortunate thing for the Chargers they tackle so well defensively, as Berlin comes in as not only the aforementioned best scoring offense, but also the best running football team in the East Central Conference, with 1905 rushing yards (317.5 yards per game) on 320 carries, and 20 rushing touchdowns.
However, one glaring issue for Berlin is the Indians have also lost 8 fumbles, which is double what the rest of the teams in the conference have lost combined.
Berlin is led on the ground by senior Cade Martin who has 103 rushing attempts for 678 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns and junior Cole Buttke who has 91 rushing attempts for 608 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns.
In comparison, the Chargers’ leading runner is senior Brandon Kabelowsky, who has 66 rushing attempts for 437 rushing yards (6.6 yards per carry across 5 games played) and 4 rushing touchdowns.
Although Berlin prefers to run the ball, they have also been effective passing the ball as evident by senior quarterback Hunter Boegh, who is 28 of 62 through the air (45.2%) for 606 passing yards (fourth in the conference), 7 touchdowns (third in the conference) and 3 interceptions.
Meanwhile, KML have been shuffling between senior Jake Freeman and junior Matthew Thistle at the quarterback position this season.
Freeman has been the starting and primary quarterback in the Chargers run-focused offense, going 22 out of 64 (34.4% completion) for 277 passing yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, while Thistle has gone 9 of 18 in the air (50% completion) for 129 passing yards, with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
KML Head Coach David Kren said despite the uniqueness of the atmosphere, especially for the fans at homecoming games, the team “treats it like any other game,” but added “it’s nice for those who have graduated to come back and support (KML) their school.”
Although not trying to look too far past this game, coach Kren did not deny the playoffs were definitely on their minds, especially since the Chargers have all their losses in close games. “We put ourselves in the position of needing to win. Something we plan on doing, but I told the guys we can’t win the last three without taking care of this one first,” Kren said.
Coach Kren does have confidence in his team being able to match well against Berlin, namely due their best unit being the defense which has been stout this season and the Chargers have had great offensive success against Berlin in the last few years.
However, Kren did say one big challenge they must overcome is not being able to play a complete game. “We need to handle adversity better. We have been ahead or tied (at halftime) in all our games this season and have lost 4 games by 7 points or less. Our halftime adjustments need to be executed better and need to cash in on our possessions in the red zone,” he said.
The game is set for October 1, 2021 at KML’s Chargers’ Coliseum with a 7 p.m. kickoff.