The Waupaca Comets have something to play for in the regular-season finale.
Waupaca can wrap up at least a share of the Eastern Valley Conference Friday, Oct. 14, with a win at Freedom. Both teams have already qualified for the playoffs, but Waupaca heads into the contest with a 6-1 mark in league games. Appleton Xavier heads into its finale with Little Chute with a 6-1 record in conference games.
Waupaca rebounded from a loss to Fox Valley Lutheran with a 46-0 win over Ripon Friday, Oct. 7, at Haberkorn Field.
The Comets scored in each quarter while holding the winless Tigers to 23 rushing yards in 34 attempts in the Comets’ first game since dropping a 21-10 decision to Fox Valley Lutheran.
“Last week was a disappointing loss (at FVL) and sometimes it’s hard to come back from a disappointing loss, just like it’s hard to come back from a big win,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “There was a concern coming into this. I thought we had lost a little of our mojo and we were trying to get it back today. I think the kids responded pretty well.”
Quarterback Sam Menzies put the Comets on the board with a 45-yard run in the first quarter. Beau Ash added 3- and 5-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter as the Comets took a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Tigers came close to scoring twice in the first half, but came up empty each time.
“If you’re a team that can start well and score early, especially if you’re a team that hasn’t had that much success, that can carry you for a while,” Koronkiewicz said. “It was only a matter of time before our guys were going to be better football players than the guys on the other side of the field.
“Ripon went to things that they hadn’t shown in the previous two weeks,” he added. “They spread out and threw the ball, but if you watched our films the last few weeks, I can understand why you would do that. We took some things away from them in the second half and made it a lot harder for them to throw the football.”
Ash found the end zone for the third time with a 3-yard run in the third quarter, while Bjorn Asher added a 22-yard field goal.
Waupaca added two more scores in the fourth quarter on Menzies’ 15-yard TD throw to Alex Hoffman and Justin Johnson’s 35-yard fumble recovery.
Waupaca outgained the Tigers 368-163. Menzies led Waupaca’s ground game with 121 yards in 14 carries, while Ash added 117 yards on 22 rushes.
“I told the guys, ‘You get to enjoy this one tonight,'” Koronkiewicz said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to look forward to Freedom because a win there gives us a conference championship. That’s a goal coming into the season, to be able to say you were No. 1 at the end.”
The Irish are 5-2 in the EVC and 5-3 overall after struggling the last several seasons.
“The change started last year and this year is just a continuation,” Koronkiewicz said. “They have very good skill people on the offensive side and their defense is very physical. They’ve only given up about 80 points in the regular season and that’s tops in our league. We pride ourselves on defense, they pride themselves on defense. It’ll be a hard-hitting contest. I think the game’ll be very close. It’ll come down to who makes that extra one or two plays and that’ll determine the outcome. We want it to be a defensive game and we’ll figure out a way to put some points on the board.”
Level 1 playoff games are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21, or Saturday, Oct. 22.
“The season is running out here and we don’t want to put our pads away,” Koronkiewicz said. “Let’s hope that we get to a point where we’re playing pretty good football again.”