Anything can happen if there’s only one second on the clock.
Winneconne’s football team learned that lesson the hard way.
Waupaca quarterback Sam Menzies turned a broken play with one second to go in the first half into a 67-yard touchdown run to give the Comets a 20-6 halftime lead. The Comets went on to hand the Wolves a 27-12 loss Aug. 24 in the season opener for both teams.
“We were trying to manage the clock, see if we can move the ball and see if we can put ourselves in position and maybe take a shot and score,” said coach John Koronkiewicz, who called two time outs in the half’s final 10 seconds.
The half could have ended with Waupaca leading 13-6, but the officials put one second on the clock because the clock did not stop and kept running after the previous play.
That one second was all the Comets needed.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Sam because that was a broken play,” Koronkiewicz said. “All of a sudden, he took off, got a couple of downfield blocks and turned in a great play. It probably was the difference in the game.”
After the Comet defense held Winneconne on its opening drive, Josh Houtman put the Comets in business with a punt return inside the Winneconne 30-yard line. Menzies capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak, but the Wolves blocked Nate Nelson’s extra point.
Menzies added another 1-yard TD run midway through the second quarter to give Waupaca a 13-0 lead, but Winneconne responded on their next drive with Dylan Hecker’s 44-yard scoring pass to Riley Kallas.
That touchdown gave the Wolves plenty of momentum, according to Koronkiewicz.
“They played very well in the second quarter,” he said. With their offense and their quarterback, he’s such a gifted athlete back there. When you spread people out, you’re going to give up some plays.”
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the Wolves made it a one-score game with another long touchdown pass in the fourth. Hecker left the game with cramps, but backup quarterback Mitchel Fenrich connected with Kallas for a 38-yarder with 8:13 to go in the game.
The Comets weren’t finished, however, as Menzies threw a 21-yard TD pass to Bryce Neidert with under two minutes remaining to seal the win.
“It’s not like our kids were out of position, they really weren’t,” Koronkiewicz said. “The quarterback scrambled a couple times and bought additional time. When you’re trying to guard a guy for four, five, six seconds, that’s awfully hard to do. Our guys were almost there, but he threw a strike, they made nice catches and it turned into points for them.
“That kind of offense is pretty difficult to defend,” he added. “You have to have athletes on the perimeter and I think our guys were tested. For the most part, they responded pretty well. We sputtered in the first half, except for the first drive. I thought we executed much better offensively in the second half. We just had a breakdown or two, a turnover when we didn’t need it. Defensively, we came up with a couple of big plays. Every extra point was important and we blocked a couple of them.”
The gametime temperature was still in the 80s, which affected the players, Koronkiewicz said.
“Both teams played extremely hard in this kind of weather,” he said. “It’s probably more humid now than it was earlier in the day. You play a lot of snaps in a physical contest and that takes a lot out of your body. To our credit, our guys hung in there.”
The Comets outgained the Wolves 219-108 on the ground, but Winneconne had a 202-66 advantage through the air.
Waupaca’s defense intercepted three passes, but the offense coughed the ball up twice on fumbles.
“Turnovers do make a difference,” Koronkiewicz said. “If you force a team to throw, hopefully you get one of those now and then and we did. Playing anybody in our league on the road is particularly tough. Winneconne has a nice team. If they continue to play that way, they’re going to have some success.”
Waupaca will suit up at Haberkorn Field for the first time this season, as the Comets host Shawano at 7 tonight (Thursday, Aug. 30) in a nonconference matchup. Shawano fell to Hortonville 21-0 in its opener.
“They run the same kind of offense we saw tonight,” Koronkiewicz said. “A lot of teams are going to that and that’s what you’re seeing in college. Quite frankly, it’s hard to run the football against a lot of good teams now. (Winneconne) didn’t run it particularly well against us and we didn’t run it particularly well against them. We did enough to keep the chains moving and take some time off the clock.
“You have one less day to prepare, but the good thing is Shawano will run a similar offense to what we’ve seen,” he said. “You have one less day to get over your bumps and bruises and there’ll be a lot of them because this was a physical contest. We’ll go right at it and be ready to play.”
The Comets and Hawks will hit the field the same time the Green Bay Packers will wrap up the preseason against Kansas City.
Koronkiewicz hopes that won’t keep fans away.
“The Packers aren’t going to play anybody that’s going to be any good for them,” he said. “You might as well come out and see the Comets play.”