Everyone experiences misfortune, but the true winners are those who learn from it.
The last time the Greendale football team played a game, it let a 17-0 halftime lead slip away and eventually lost to Monona Grove in the WIAA Division 3 state championship contest.
Nine months later, that game was on the minds of the Panthers as they took the field trailing Cedarburg 21-14 with the ball on their own 1-yard line and just 6 minutes, 56 seconds left.
"We know what it's like to blow a lead," quarterback Josh Ringelberg said. "(We did it) last year in the state championship game. We knew what it felt like, we remembered that, and we just used that as motivation to keep pulling us down the whole field."
Before it was all said and done, Greendale would have a 28-27 win in a thrilling opening to the 2014 prep football season, stopping Cedarburg on a 2-point conversion in overtime to seal victory.
Greendale goes 99 yards
The Panthers drove those 99 yards in 10 plays as Ringelberg hit 5 of 6 passes for 48 yards and ran nine yards for the score. Josh Michaels hit the extra point to tie the game at 21-21 with 3:25 remaining.
The game eventually went into overtime, and the Panthers scored on a 21-yard strike from Ringelberg to Michaels, who then kicked the extra point for a 28-21 lead.
Cedarburg also scored on a 15-yard burst by Jonathan Stiever, but the Bulldogs opted to go for two points and Greendale stopped them to preserve the triumph at Gavinski Field.
"We have a lot of guys with a lot of experience returning," head coach Rob Stoltz said. "We may be smallish in some spots, but we're a tough group. We are mentally and physically really tough. Those guys get after it. They got after it all offseason too."
Cedarburg had dominated the third quarter and had scored on drives of 80 and 67 yards to wipe out a 14-6 halftime deficit and take a 21-14 lead into the fourth period.
The Bulldogs had the ball back at the start of that quarter but stalled at the Cedarburg 49. Stiever got off a beautiful punt that rolled to the 1-yard line.
Ringelberg completed a pair of passes to Michaels and one each to Tristian Pipp, Ty Ramirez and Angel Ramirez to take Greendale downfield.
Angel Ramirez made a huge running play when he started to his right, found traffic, cut back to his left, dodged a few tacklers and rambled down the sideline 35 yards to the Cedarburg 9.
From there, Ringelberg burst up the middle for the score, and Michaels hit the extra point to tie the game at 21-21.
Cedarburg moved from its 22 to the Greendale 45, but on fourth down, Jack Ringelberg intercepted a Mike Mojica pass.
The Panthers, helped by a 20-yard run from Josh Ringelberg, reached the Bulldogs' 27, but a final pass to Tay Kimmins fell incomplete as regulation ended.
Michaels scores TD
Greendale had the ball first in the overtime from the 25-yard line, and on fourth down, Josh Ringelberg found Michaels open in the middle for the 21-yard touchdown.
"We ran a post across the middle, and Josh threw a great pass," Michaels said. "I was open and ran it in for the touchdown."
Ringelberg said, "I saw my read, threw him the ball, and he caught it a few yards short (of the end zone). He made the rest of the yards on that."
The Bulldogs then took possession from the 25, and Stiever ran for a first down at the 13. Just two plays later, he ran in from 15 yards for the touchdown.
Head coach Brian Leair decided to go for the two points and the victory, but the Greendale defense swallowed up Stiever, and the Panthers prevailed.
"I felt confident we could get it," Leair said. "They're a good team, we're at their place. We just came up a little bit short."
The game began with interceptions by both Cedarburg's Matt Hokanson and Greendale's Ty Ramirez.
After the Ramirez interception, Greendale moved 91 yards in 11 plays, highlighted by a 25-yard run from Angel Ramirez and a 19-yard pass from Ringelberg to Kimmins. Ringelberg tallied on a 1-yard run, and Michaels connected on the extra point.
Mojica found Stiever with a 61-yard scoring pass early in the second period, but a bad snap ruined the conversion, and the Panthers were still up 7-6.
Greendale then went 80 yards in 10 plays as Ringelberg connected with Jack Ringelberg for 17 yards on a screen pass and later found Ty Ramirez for a 23-yard score. The extra point made it 14-6.
Cedarburg went on a 17-play march but was stopped at the Greendale 5 with 15 seconds remaining in the half.
Bulldogs grind it out
The Bulldogs then came out with two grinding drives in the third period. Alex Shebesta was a workhorse, carrying 13 times for 74 yards in that period, and he finished with 29 attempts for 168 yards.
Stiever tallied on a 10-yard sweep and Mojica bulled over from 1 yard for the two scores, which put the Bulldogs up 21-14 heading into the fourth.
Greendale, though, answered with the 99-yard march.
Ringelberg completed 14 of 26 passes for 156 yards and ran 13 times for 90 more yards. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more. Angel Ramirez added 113 yards on 12 carries.
"You put the ball in your playmakers' hands," Stoltz said. "It wasn't (Ringelberg's) 'A' game tonight, but he made the plays when he had to. What else can you ask for in an All-State quarterback?"