The state high school football playoffs won’t begin for another two weeks, but the Waupaca Comets already know they’re in after Friday’s 21-0 win over Clintonville.
The Truckers, on the other hand, have some work to do before getting their invitation.
Waupaca won its fifth game in a row after dropping the season opener to Appleton Xavier, while the Clintonville fell to 2-2 in Eastern Valley Conference play and 2-4 overall and probably have to win its three remaining games to get a postseason bid. Waupaca is 5-1 in league play and 5-1 overall, while Xavier remained in first place with a win at Ripon.
“It’s gratifying because now we’re in the playoffs and we can look forward to the excitement of the playoffs,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “That’s what you hope for when you begin the season.”
Although the Comets kept a team out of the end zone for the second time in four games, Clintonville was able to stay in the game thanks to Waupaca’s 12 penalties for 120 yards.
“For a while, I thought we were the Green Bay Packers,” Koronkiewicz said, referring to the Packers’ team-record 18 penalties against Chicago.
“It was one flag after another,” he said. “Anytime you get those, you understand why the Packers had such a problem. You have that many flags, it takes you out of your rhythm, it takes you out of plays that you normally call in a situation. Whether they’re all legit, you have to take a look at the film. That’s an area where we have to be a little more disciplined.”
Quarterback Harley Anderson gave the Comets a 14-0 lead with a 29-yard touchdown run with 5:09 remaining in the first half and a 4-yard run in the third quarter.
Beau Ash set up Waupaca’s final score in the fourth quarter with a 76-yard run to the Trucker 1-yard line. Casey Nicewander scored on the next play.
“It was nice to see Beau break a long one,” Koronkiewicz said. “They haven’t come very often so far. It was nice to see Casey finally get a TD because he deserves it. He’s the guy in the front blocking all the time.
“We gave up the one big play (a 57-yard pass from Ben Klein to Mike Hogen), but that was it,” he added. “We put all kinds of pressure on their quarterback. I give their quarterback a lot of credit for standing in there. He took some hits.”
A steady rain resulted in a slippery field, but the only turnovers in the game were Clintonville’s interception and fumble.
“The weather changed and the temperature dropped,” Koronkiewicz said. “That’s why we decided to go (into Clintonville High School) at halftime, just to warm the guys up. That helped.”
The Comets also played without three starters: Zach Nellis, Nate Jenson and Dustin McDaniel. Nellis and Jenson were nursing ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively, while McDaniel served a one-game suspension for his flagrant hit the previous week against Ripon.
“Ethan Kanaman, for his first playing time of the year, did a wonderful job,” Koronkiewicz said. “He’s worked hard for us all year and finally had an opportunity to have extended play. I know he was happy to be out there. As a player, you always want to be on the field. Josh Timm stepped in for Zach at inside linebacker, played very well and probably deserves a little more playing time because he’s earned it. Kevin Moe stepped in for Nate and made a couple of nice catches.”
While the Comet offense put three scores on the board, the defense held Clintonville’s Joe Hauser, who came into the game as the EVC’s second-leading rusher, to eight carries for 13 yards.
“I thought Clintonville played hard the entire contest,” Koronkiewicz said. “I didn’t see anybody hang their head out there on their part. As a result, they were in the contest until we finally got that third score, which had been so elusive.”
Besides having a 14-2 advantage in first downs and sacking Klein six times, Waupaca also outrushed the Truckers 322 to minus-50 and had a 310-44 advantage in total yards. Ash finished with 163 yards on 25 carries.
“We struggled offensively tonight,” Clintonville coach Bob Petermann said. “We could not open the holes for our backs to get through and passing wise, we didn’t pick up Waupaca’s blitzes very well. We will learn from this, fine-tune a few things and move on.”
Waupaca will host Berlin at 7 p.m. Friday at Haberkorn Field for the Comets’ annual Homecoming game. The Comets will bring a five-game winning streak into the game, while the Indians are the last EVC team still looking for its first win of the season.
“You have to remember the last four weeks have been pretty high-pressure games for us,” Koronkiewicz said. “It’s hard to sustain that kind of effort week in and week out.
“We always say it’s the most important game of the year,” he said. “We look forward to Homecoming. It’s a hectic week with all the activities that go on, but it’s also a fun atmosphere because your alumni comes home and we’re proud of our tradition as far as what we’ve been able to do on Homecoming. Hopefully, that’ll continue.”