A fumble here, an interception or bobbled kick return there.
It all adds up. Just ask the Waupaca and Amherst football teams.
Waupaca turned the ball over five times – all on second-half fumbles – and saw its season end with a 17-10 loss to Marinette Friday, Oct. 28, in a Division 3 Level 2 playoff game.
Meanwhile, Amherst took advantage of Bonduel’s six miscues – three fumbles and three interceptions – the following day in a 45-14 Division 5 win over the Bears.
Waupaca ended its season with an 8-3 mark, while the Falcons will host defending Division 5 champion Brillion at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in Level 3. Brillion eliminated Tigerton/Marion 44-9 Oct. 28.
Marinette 17, Waupaca 10
MARINETTE – The Comets will not get another crack at defending Division 3 state champion West De Pere this weekend, but the Marines will.
“You don’t realize in the game of football with the tournament series the way it is, the end is sudden,” coach John Koronkiewicz said after watching his team’s last-second effort come up short.
“It’s a crash, it’s a train wreck,” he said. “It’s difficult for our seniors who walk off the field for the last time. I took a little longer out on the field because I wanted to say to those seniors, ‘Thank you for what they’ve done for our program, thanks for the effort that they’ve given us, thanks for the success.’ It’s hard to say goodbye to guys you’ve been around the last three years on varsity.”
The Marines opened the scoring with Kyle Johnson’s 59-yard pass to Charlie Klumb with 2:50 remaining in the first quarter.
Waupaca responded with a pair of scores in the second quarter. Bjorn Asher kicked a 26-yard field goal with 10:44 remaining in the first half, while Sam Menzies found the end zone from 2 yards out on a quarterback keeper with 2:07 to go.
Asher’s extra point turned out to be the Comets’ final score of the season.
The Comets took a 10-7 halftime lead and held the Marines to only 16 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Waupaca also outgained the home team 176-83, but that all changed in the second half.
Waupaca recovered Marinette’s fumble on the second-half kickoff, but turned the ball over after the Austin Biehl recovered the Comets’ first fumble at the Waupaca 33-yard line.
The Marines didn’t score off of the miscue, but the momentum started to change.
“We had a turnover to start the second half and that was big,” Koronkiewicz said. “That was probably a turning point in the game. We take that in and go up 17-7, then they have to change what they’re going to really do from an offensive standpoint. We just didn’t get it in. From there, the tide began to turn.”
Four more Comet fumbles in the fourth quarter led to the only points in the second half.
Calvin Michiels forced a fumble that teammate Landon Derginer recovered at the Waupaca 30-yard line. Four plays later, Jaden Boivin scored from 2 yards out with 8:01 to go in the game and the Marines had the lead for good.
Kyle Messer recovered another fumble after Michelis sacked Menzies at the Waupaca 15-yard line to set up Brandon Beaudo’s 31-yard field goal with 6:46 remaining.
The Comets weren’t finished, however.
Menzies hooked up with Nate Jenson on a fourth-and-1 play in Marinette territory, but Marinette’s Austin Belonga recovered another fumble. Waupaca threatened again with a 38-yard completion from Menzies to Asher, but Waupaca coughed the ball up on the next play.
The Comets got the ball back at midfield with 33 seconds left. Menzies hit Jenson with a 30-yard pass, but his pass into the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.
“A couple of turnovers on our part, you can’t do that,” Koronkiewicz said. “A couple penalties hurt us at inopportune times, but there’s no quit in our guys. We had a chance to score two touchdowns in the last six minutes that could’ve put us ahead or tied the ballgame. We were that close.”
The Marines ran for 141 yards in the second half.
“It wasn’t anything fancy, really,” Koronkiewicz said. “It was pretty good, executed football. They got after it at the line of scrimmage. It was an off-tackle play and their running back was cutting back quick. Our guys overpursued a couple of times and cut back against the grain. It wasn’t an inside trap or a guard pulling or anything like that. It was an overaggressiveness on the part of our backside linemen and linebackers that gave them a cutback lane.”
Despite the five fumbles, the Comet defense helped give Waupaca a chance at the end, according to Koronkiewicz.
“Our defense played pretty well,” he said. “We miss a tackle on the first touchdown and it turns into a big gain. That was a big score because anytime you score first, it takes some of the pressure off.”
Waupaca outgained the Marines 161-157 on the ground and 152-78 through the air.
“It was a very physical contest and we knew coming in that Marinette was a physical football team,” Koronkiewicz said. “We saw that based on what they did to (Appleton) Xavier last week. Our team is pretty physical team as well. They just happened to come out on top tonight. We play again and maybe it’s a different story. That’s what you have to believe, anyway.”
The Comets fell in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year, but managed to share the Eastern Valley Conference championship with Xavier.
“I probably carry it longer than some of the guys, but they can look back and say, ‘We won a conference championship,'” Koronkiewicz said. “That’s not something we take very lightly. We worked our tails off in order to achieve that. It’s not the ending you want, but you have to feel that you can play with anybody. We do.
“It’s a credit to the guys we have,” he added. “It’s tough to do that time after time after time, but our guys play hard to the very end. We instill that in them. They play with great heart and great character. That’s all you can really ask of a football team.”
Amherst 45, Bonduel 14
BONDUEL – A two-point conversion turned out to be the difference the first time Amherst and Bonduel met in the regular-season finale, with Amherst getting a 15-14 win and a share of the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference championship.
The rematch was a different story, however, as the Falcons led 21-0 at halftime and added three more unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter and improved to 10-1 on the season.
Four of Bonduel’s six turnovers resulted in Amherst touchdowns, including a fumble on the opening kickoff. The Falcons recovered and scored on Chris Zblewski’s 14-yard pass to Garth Groshek.
Amherst added to its lead in the second quarter with Willie Doll’s 3-yard run and Zblewski’s 24-yard pass to Max Strand.
“I didn’t expect that to happen,” Amherst coach Mark Lusic said of his team’s effort in the first half. “The turnover was big and getting a touchdown right off the bat, especially on the road, was key for us.”
Doll made it 28-0 by returning the second-half kickoff 79 yards, while Zblewski added 15- and 8-yard scoring runs in the third quarter.
“We went with our hands team (on the kickoff) and I just told Willie to get what he could,” Lusic said. “That’s Willie. He ripped one off and it’s the second time he’s returned one against them. That really took the wind out of their sails.”
Jacob DeBauch threw a 30-yard pass to Andrew Lamers to put the Bears on the board in the fourth quarter.
Doll countered with a 30-yard field goal and Bonduel finished the scoring with Hunter Vanderlinden’s 7-yard run.
Doll ran for 103 yards and caught two passes for 41 yards.
“We definitely have some big-play guys who can turn a 2-yard gain into a 15- or 20-yarder,” Lusic said.
The win over the Bears came a week after Lusic, a former assistant coach in Waupaca, coached the Falcons to their first-ever football playoff win, a 48-13 Level 1 victory over Laconia. His staff includes former Waupaca assistant coaches Doug Spadoni and Rudy Pate and a number of former Comet players, including Bennett Hansen, Eli Martens, Rory Chapman, Cody Kimball and Wes Austin.
“This is only my second year here, so I don’t know that past,” Lusic said. “I’m just trying to move into the future. The kids are excited and the town’s excited. Our kids were ready to go and get all the credit. They play hard and put the time in. You can see it in their eyes. We’re getting closer.”
Lusic headed to Clintonville the night before his game to watch Brillion knock off Tigerton/Marion.
“They’re good,” he said of the 10-1 Lions. We know we’ve got our hands full. We’ll enjoy this tonight and move on.”
Brillion 44, Tigerton/Marion 9
CLINTONVILLE – Tanner Behnke ran for 222 yards and Blake Klessig threw three touchdowns in the Lions’ win over the Thundercatz.
Brillion’s defense also shut down Tigerton/Marion’s offense, holding the Thundercatz to 29 passing yards. Adam Mielke ran for 112 yards that included an 18-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Cole Dreghal also booted a 30-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half.
Brillion wasn’t finished in the half, however, as Klessig hit Matt Lorenz for a 20-yard touchdown with 2.4 seconds on the clock that gave the Lions a 24-3 halftime lead.
The Lions outgained the Thundercatz 518-184.
“We had some chances early in the first half, but we didn’t execute good enough against a quality team,” coach Mark Fredy said. “We played well at times, but the big plays hurt us. They had great team speed on offense, which lends itself to big plays. They had numerous people on defense getting to the ball quick. They were the better team overall and the Thundercatz gave everything they had.
“I was extremely proud of the effort,” he said. “This team never quit at all this season. We ended the season 8-3 overall and have a lot to be proud of. Our seniors – Brady Detert, Zach Zimmerman, Adam Mielke, Gunner Kopitzke, Austin Vos, Freeman Beechy, Isaiah Nordeng, Michael Wegner, Billy Koepke and Andy Schley – will be missed. They had a great four years playing some quality football.”