On paper, Friday’s football game between Waupaca and Ripon looked like a matchup of Eastern Valley Conference contenders.
When the dust had settled, however, it was clear that Waupaca had the upper hand.
The Comets improved to 4-1 with a 30-12 win over the Tigers, the only EVC team to beat Waupaca last year. Ripon fell to 4-1 and became the fourth straight undefeated conference team to fall to the Comets.
Ripon took a 6-0 lead into the second quarter despite not running a single play on offense in the first period.
Waupaca took the opening kickoff and used its rushing game to drive down the field, but Ben Wetzel stripped the ball from Beau Ash and returned it 76 yards for the game’s first score.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “We get the ball and drive methodically down the field. It looks like we’re going in to score right off the bat and we turn the ball over and it turns into a touchdown for Ripon. We get the ball back, we do the same thing, but we just don’t get it in the end zone. We had the ball on offense for an entire quarter, didn’t get any points out of it and we’re down 6-0.
“If you’re moving the ball, you can feel a little better about what’s happening,” he added. “It’d been a different story if we had been struggling on offense.”
Waupaca took the lead for good with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns. Zach Nellis scored from 8 yards out and Bjorn Asher added the extra point. Quarterback Harley Anderson then connected with Nate Jenson on a 28-yard pass on the final play of the first half.
“He literally went up and outfought the kid for the football,” Koronkiewicz said. “It was a great play. It was a game-changer.”
Waupaca added to its lead in the third quarter on Ash’s 20-yard run and Dustin McDaniel sacked Ripon quarterback Michael Polcyn in the end zone for a safety.
Anderson capped the scoring for Waupaca with a 4-yard run to make it 30-6 in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers weren’t finished, as Polcyn threw a screen pass to Jared Langenhorst that turned out to be a 61-yard touchdown.
“A team like Ripon, it doesn’t take long,” Koronkiewicz said. “One big play and they’re back in it.”
The Comets outgained the Tigers 208-52 on the ground and 145-86 through the air. Waupaca also held the Tigers to six first downs.
Field conditions also came into play, according to Koronkiewicz.
“It looked fine until you get out there and walk on it,” he said. “With all the rain we’ve had in the last couple of days, there’s a lot of moisture on the field and it’s a little cooler. Once it cools down, you’re not sweating quite as much and the ball doesn’t stick to your arm like it does. It’s a lot easier for it to slip out.”
The Comets can wrap up a spot in the playoffs with a win Friday at Clintonville.
“That’s what you want to do is get into the playoffs and see what happens after that,” Koronkiewicz said.
The Truckers will bring a 2-3 overall record and a 2-2 mark into the game. Waupaca will then wrap up conference play against Berlin and Fox Valley Lutheran, who have yet to win this season.
“It took awhile, but if you watch now, you can tell, even in practice, that we conduct ourselves different,” Koronkiewicz said. “It’s a lot more fun. You can see the guys are into the contest and ready to play. As a coach, it’s very gratifying when you see that happen. Hopefully, that’s why you play the game.”