West Allis Central 0
Gromacki heads Crusaders defense with shutout
By Mark Hutchinson, Freeman Staff
WAUKESHA — Bill Young says his team is getting better. ... and healthier.
That presents a formidable challenge to upcoming opponents of the Catholic Memorial High School football team.
The Crusaders, who dominated Milwaukee Riverside in their season opener last week, shut out West Allis Central 35-0 on Thursday at Carroll University to run their record to 2-0 heading into next week’s Classic 8 Conference opener against Waukesha North.
“West Allis Central has tough kids, and (coach) Dax (Rodriguez) does a really good job with them, but we were a little bit better up front,” Young said. “This was a team we should have beaten, and we did, but we can always get better.
“I like how we’re playing, and we have a great chance to get three kids back next week.”
Young is optimistic that junior Nick Schulze, sophomore Josh Karfonta and senior Chris Rupel, who have been nursing injuries, will be back in the lineup when the Crusaders open Classic 8 Conference play against Waukesha North next week.
Senior defensive lineman Sam Gromacki, who helped spearhead the CMH defense’s shutout Thursday, likes the idea of having a complete lineup intact.
“That’s going to give us even more motivation going into our next game,” Gromacki said. The Crusaders were plenty motivated Thursday and seized control of the game in a hurry.
The CMH defense forced Central into a quick threeand- out, and the offense quickly took care of its business, too. Senior running back Tommy Garza ripped off runs of 10 and 24 yards, then junior quarterback Alex Bray hit senior wide receiver Robbie Gogin over the middle with a 34-yard touchdown pass at the 9minute, 36-second mark of the first quarter.
Garza, who rushed for a game-high 133 yards on 19 carries, liked the tone his team set.
“We played well,” Garza said. “Tony Balistreri and Bruce Mesa, and the other guys up front did a great job. We came out wanting to run the ball, and those guys made it happen.”
Young echoed Garza’s comments.
“Give our offensive line a lot of credit — Tony Balistreri, Bruce Mesa, Jake Strelka, Chandler Bargielski, Gabe Bautz and ‘Schmidty’ (Mike Schmidt),” Young said. “We’re going to have multiple running backs changing up and getting after it. Garza is a real steady hammer, a pounder guy. Jaylen Campbell has the ability to use his size, and Matt Lechner gives us some speed.”
After the Crusaders stonewalled the Bulldogs again, CMH embarked on a 10-play, 45-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Garza with 4:03 left in the opening quarter.
CMH accumulated 228 rushing yards on 38 carries, but was far from one-dimensional.
On the team’s first drive of the second quarter, Bray connected on three passes, including an 8-yard scoring strike to Gogin with 7:24 left in the first half.
Bray finished 13 for 18 for 166 yards and two scores.
“I like what we’re doing with Alex Bray and our receivers,” Young said. “(Offensive coordinator) Bobby Hall called a great game.
“But we have to keep everything in perspective. We have a long season ahead of us.”
Garza scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run and junior Matt Lechner added a 12-yard touchdown jaunt in the third quarter as the Crusaders extended their lead to 35-0 and set the continuous clock in motion.
The Crusaders’ seniors and their parents were recognized during a halftime ceremony that seemed a bit surreal to Garza and Gromacki.
“It’s definitely crazy being my last year,” Garza said. “I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.
“We have a great senior group that has stuck together since we were little kids and we get along so well. It’s great to be out there with them for one more year.”
“It’s a lot different being a senior, because all of the underclassmen are looking up to you to be one of the best players,” he said. “I like it. We have a really good senior class with a lot of leaders. We’re trying to set an example for the underclassmen.”
Gromacki also likes the way the Crusaders are pushing each other in practice.
“We always work ones versus ones in practice, so we get good work from our offensive line against our defense and viceversa,” Gromacki said. “It’s great that we work hard against each other to make both our offense and defense better.”
The players are getting the idea, Young said.
“There’s an old adage in football: ‘Run the football and stop the run,’” the coach said. “Offensively, you want to be able to say you can run the ball in all kids of weather. If your defense stops the run, it makes teams onedimensional.
“We’re built for that. We just have to keep working on it.”
Photo credits: Top - Catholic Memorial senior Tommy Garza runs up the sidelines as West Allis Central sophomore Xavier Mullins moves in during Thursday’s game at Carroll University. Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Bottom - Memorial senior Mike Schmidt runs along the sideline trailed by West Allis Central junior C.J. Edwards during Thursday’s game at Carroll University. Charles Auer/Freeman Staff