Homestead quarterback Eric Zoeller was a little wistful as he looked upfield towards the north scoreboard at Germantown on the muddy, warm evening of Sept. 9.
Because for the time being he knew "The Battle of Mequon Road," as everyone knows the football rivalry, was now no more.
It was moments after the final Homestead-Germantown game anyone would likely play in or see for quite some time, a game that ended in a 21-3 Highlanders win.
Zoeller, who has played in three of those contests in the past two seasons, was feeling a bit sad for the future football players at both schools.
"I think it's really unfortunate," he said, "because this game is as fun as it gets. It's a bad feeling that guys (at both schools) can't play in this game anymore. Maybe we'll get lucky and get a (state) playoff game."
Zoeller made the most of his opportunities with 114 yards rushing on 12 carries and two first half TDs.
It's the last game in a storied rivalry because conference realignment in the fall of 2017 will take Germantown to the Greater Metro Conference, and Homestead will be part of a new 10-team North Shore Conference, that will leave virtually no options, even for old times' sake, for a nonconference game.
"I wish we could still be a part of it," said Germantown coach Jake Davis, who won two of these games and lost one as a player for Homestead from 1999-2001. "Hopefully, we'll have a chance at seeing them again."
Because though Homestead had a 21-3 lead at the half, the Highlanders were never allowed to feel comfortable, though they improved to 2-0 in the North Shore and 3-1 overall.
The Warhawks (1-1 in North Shore play and 1-3 overall) dominated most of the first quarter but could not take advantage. The Warhawks advanced to the Highlanders 25 on the first series only to have Homestead outside linebacker Mike Bruner sack quarterback Collin Sathe on fourth down.
On the Warhawks' second series, a 4th and 7 pass from Sathe was hurried and off the mark at the Highlanders 22, and on their third series, a fourth-down pass was completed at the Homestead 29, about a half-yard short of the first down.
Two plays later, Homestead back Bradley Woldt broke through a pile at the line of scrimmage and outraced the defense for a 70-yard TD run that gave Homestead the lead for good at the 1:47 mark of the first quarter
"We had to finish drives tonight and we weren't able to," said Davis. "We did a lot of good things tonight, but to not finish really hurt us quite a bit. You just can't make mistakes like that in a game like this."
Homestead coach Dave Keel was pleased with his team's resilience.
"That first quarter said a lot about our guys' character," he said. "They never gave up, and our defense really stepped up and played tough at times."
On the next series, Zoeller called his own number from 5 yards out for a 14-0 lead with 8:59 left in the half. After a Germantown three and out, Homestead gave itself substantial breathing room in a way that says a lot about how Homestead has won five WIAA state titles since 1999.
Facing a 4th and 1 on the Germantown 36, the Highlanders lined up twice, only to call two time outs because Keel didn't like what he saw either time.
Those were good decisions. Zoeller subsequently went off on another option play, breaking to his left and outracing the Germantown defense 36 yards to the end zone for a 21-0 lead with 4:09 left in the half.
"We knew it was a big game,"said Zoeller. "We came out kind of slow (offensively), but then we were able to pop things. We knew it was only a matter of time."
Germantown cashed in a 37-yard Jack Brzakala field goal that made it 21-3 in the final moments of the half. Austin Mozdzen recovered a well executed pooch kick to open the second half at the Homestead 32, but the Germantown drive died at the Homestead 12.
"They surprised us that that kickoff," said Keel. "Fortunately, our defense was able to recover."
Sathe, who was under a fierce rush all night, was 10 of 26 passing for 126 yards, while Mozdzen and Waymon McNeal had 69 yards rushing apiece.
"We wanted to pitch a shutout in the second half, and we did," said Davis."We made some progress tonight, and we still have a lot of football left to play."
Homestead also got 133 yards rushing on 20 tries out of Woldt, who also executed a nifty fake punt late in the game to secure a first down on a fourth and short.
In short, it was a typical Homestead-Germantown football team, only without the dramatic finish.
"I know everyone would have loved a 21-20 kind of finish," said Keel, "but we're quite happy with that 21-3 final."
Bruner, like everyone else, is sad that the rivalry has to finish.
"It was a nice ending to things (in the rivalry)," he said. "We fought hard and deserved everything we got out of this game. This rivalry has been going on a long time and for us to win the last one really says a lot."