Christmas is more than two months away yet, but the Freedom Irish are already in a giving mood.
Waupaca took advantage of a high punt snap and a missed extra point in a 14-13 win over the Irish Friday, Oct. 14. The win gave the Comets a share of the Eastern Valley Conference championship with Appleton Xavier, a 15-9 winner over Little Chute. Both teams finished 7-1 in league play.
Both teams scored once in the first quarter. Waupaca’s Sam Menzies found the end zone from 2 yards out with 4:26 remaining in the quarter to cap an eight-play, 44-yard drive. The Irish answered on its next drive, as Andrew Philibeck threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Craig Schommer with 1:19 to play.
Nick Greely kept a Freedom drive alive in the second quarter with a 47-yard run on fourth-and-1 before Bo Casper scored from 3 yards out to give the Irish a 13-7 lead. However, Nathan Peters missed the extra-point try and Freedom had to settle for a six-point halftime lead.
Freedom’s defense held the Comet rushing game to 39 yards in the first half, including minus-8 yards in the second half.
Any momentum the Irish brought into the second half didn’t last long, as Waupaca’s Ajay Johnson recovered a loose ball at the Freedom 1-yard line in the third quarter after a snap sailed above the punter’s head. Menzies took it in from a yard out and Bjorn Asher kicked what turned out to be the game-winning extra point with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Freedom outgained the Comets 124-69 on the ground and 65-51 through the air.
“It says a lot for the kids who played before and a lot for the guys that we have in our program now,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “We talked at halftime about what kind of championship character we could bring forth in the second half. You saw the level of intensity go up in the second half. I think our guys played with a lot of emotion and heart. That can get you a long way in football.”
Menzies was Waupaca’s leading rusher with 43 yards, while Greely finished with 80 for the Irish.
“We knew they’re a good football team,” Koronkiewicz said. “All you have to do is take a look at their record, how they’ve played during the course of the season and their athletes.”
Waupaca now turns its attention to the playoffs. The Comets will host Sheboygan Falls at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at Haberkorn Field. Tickets are $4 for adults and students.
It’s the 21st consecutive playoff appearances for the Comets.
“We’re not always the biggest or strongest guys out there, but we play with a great deal of determination,” Koronkiewicz said. “When push comes to shove, that goes a long way.”