Apparently, 70 yards of offense is enough to win football games.
That’s all Appleton Xavier could muster Saturday, Oct. 30, as the Hawks ended Waupaca’s season by defeating the Comets 7-0 in a Division 3 Level 2 playoff matchup in Appleton.
It was the second time Xavier topped the Comets this season. The Hawks handed Waupaca a 21-14 loss in the season opener.
“All you could ask for was a great contest between two teams that are obviously pretty talented, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “We slugged it out and they just got one more than we did.”
The game’s only score came at the midway point of the third quarter, as A.J. DeBruin recovered Harley Anderson’s fumble at the Waupaca 34-yard line.
A personal foul on the Comets kept the drive alive and the Hawks eventually scored on Grant Thayer’s 1-yard quarterback keeper.
“We had a couple of penalties at the wrong time and too many turnovers,” Koronkiewicz said. “The first one in the third quarter was a critical turnover. We lost our field position because of it. We gave up a run, got a penalty and put them in a position to score. We made them work for it, but they still got it in the end zone. That takes the monkey off their back and puts it on ours.”
Both teams struggled moving the ball, especially in the first half. Waupaca had 73 yards on the ground at the break, but Xavier managed only 44 and had only three running plays in the second quarter.
“We moved the ball and had a couple of chances, but just couldn’t get it in the end zone,” Koronkiewicz said.
Xavier had 184 rushing yards in the first meeting, but was held to 67 in the playoff game.
“Our defense matured during the season,” Koronkiewicz said. “That first game, they were pretty green. Guys recognized what they were doing, responded very well with a couple of adjustments and kept them off balance. We ran multiple defenses this time where we were lucky to run one the first time.
“Defensively, it was an outstanding effort,” he added. “Offensively, we lack that one big playmaker, the guy who can take it to the house. We just didn’t have it this year.”
Waupaca moved the ball at times in the second half, but Jimmy Schmidt and Jack Klister picked off passes in the fourth quarter to end drives.
The Comets had 160 yards of offense, including 84 on the ground and 76 through the air.
“You can’t fault our effort on the offensive side of the ball,” Koronkiewicz said. “Our offensive line did a pretty good job at times. We moved the ball at times, but it was tough going for both teams.”
“The seniors especially take a game like this awfully hard,” he said. “Their football career for the most part if over. They’ve been with us for four years and they’ve given great effort. They’ve been part of a winning program. Sometimes, as an underclassman, you don’t appreciate it, but you have to. It’s a disappointing way to lose your season, but there’s only one time when this doesn’t happen and that’s when you walk off the field at Madison with a state championship in your hand. That’s the goal for everybody and that’ll be our goal next season.”
The Hawks improved to 11-0 on the season and will play New Richmond at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, in Chippewa Falls in the next round of the playoffs. Waupaca ended its season at 9-2.
“We won nine games during the season,” Koronkiewicz said. “We just happened to lose to the same team twice. If that’s the case, they were the better team this year.”
Northland Pines 6
The Comets rolled up 503 yards of offense, including 194 rushing yards from Beau Ash, Tuesday, Oct. 26, in a Level 1 win over the Eagles at Haberkorn Field.
“I think we set the tone right from the very beginning,” Koronkiewicz said. “We took away what they wanted to do best and that’s run the football. Our guys did a nice job as far as taking that away. We were able to run the football, which is a good sign since we didn’t run it very well the last time we played.”
Ash put the Comets on the board with a 36-yard run in the first quarter. Anderson added runs of 28 an 19 yards in the second quarter and also connected with Nate Jenson for a 17-yard touchdown pass to give the Comets a 27-0 halftime lead.
Sean Nelson added touchdown runs of 9 and 5 yards in the second half, while Jesse Nelson scored from 24 yards out.
The Eagles’ score came on Austin Ramesh’s 73-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of guys made a lot of different contributions,” Koronkiewicz said. “It’s fun for everybody to play. Sean Nelson came in right away at the beginning of the ballgame and did a nice job. He’s a senior and he deserves some recognition out there.”
The Comets outgained the Eagles 465-82 on the ground and held Ramesh, who came into the game as the state’s 15th-leading rusher, to 79 yards.
“We didn’t throw the ball tonight, but we didn’t have to,” Koronkiewicz said.
A brisk wind blowing throughout the game was a factor.
“Tonight was going to be an offensive line night and a defensive line night,” Koronkiewicz said. “With the wind the way it was, you have to be able to move the ball on the ground. The guys up front deserve a lot of the credit for what happened here tonight. They opened up some nice holes for all of our running backs. Our running backs had space for the first time in a long time. If they get out in space, everybody becomes much more dangerous.”