Fans arriving a few minutes late for Waupaca’s Eastern Valley Conference football game with Little Chute probably had to look again while checking out the scoreboard.
Less than two minutes into the game, the Comets already had a 14-0 lead on the Mustangs. It didn’t get any better for the visitors, who came out on the short end of a 49-19 score Sept. 21 in Waupaca’s Homecoming game at Haberkorn Field.
Waupaca improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the EVC with the win, while Little Chute fell to 4-1 in league play and 4-1 overall.
It didn’t take long for Waupaca to find the end zone, as Josh Houtman returned the opening kickoff 94 yards and Sam Menzies scored from 2 yards out on the first play from scrimmage.
Things went downhill for Little Chute on its first drive, as Zander Neuville intercepted a Mitch Ciske pass and returned it 35 yards to give the Comets a two-score lead 1:28 into the game.
“You couldn’t ask for a better way to start a Homecoming game than to receive the kickoff and bring it down to the 2-yard-line and punch it in, then to have an interception on the first play and run it back for a touchdown,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “About a minute has gone by and we have a 14-0 lead.”
Menzies added a 1-yard TD run later in the quarter for Waupaca’s third score before tailback Beau Ash helped put the game out of reach with touchdown runs of 24, 36 and 86 yards that gave the Comets a 42-7 halftime lead.
Little Chute got on the board after Waupaca’s fourth touchdown on Shane Schwaller’s 4-yard run.
A running clock for most of the third quarter helped the Comets in the second half, but Ciske connected with Tyler Job for a 7-yard scoring pass to make it 42-19 late in the third quarter following an interception by Lucas Van Deurzen.
Waupaca added to its lead in the fourth quarter on Menzies’ 10-yard run, but the Mustangs wrapped up the scoring with Tyler Zak’s 8-yard run.
“You have to give credit to the kids on our football team for their focus this entire week,” Koronkiewicz said. “We had a great week of practice. Little Chute has a difficult offense to prepare for and you can see they have tremendous skilled athletes out there. I thought our guys did a great job taking away the deep ball and preventing the long play, which they have been able to do against most other teams. Defensively, we put enough pressure on their quarterback to make him rush. You couldn’t ask for a better ending to a great week.”
The Comets outgained the Mustangs 325-108 on the ground and 359-244 in total yardage. Ash and Menzies each hit the 100-yard mark with 193 and 132 yards, respectively.
“Good plays are the result of hard work and preparation,” Koronkiewicz said. “We ran the ball. We didn’t have to throw the football. I think we could’ve thrown the football if we had to, but give our guys credit up front. That’s a fine Little Chute defense and we were able to run our offense from an inside option play to a little off-tackle to outside. Things that we maybe haven’t done in the past with good success, we were able to do that this evening.”
Waupaca also qualified for the playoffs with three games to go in the regular season.
“You go into the season with hopes, dreams and, in our case, expectations,” Koronkiewicz said. “We expect our guys to play hard and show up for each and every contest. I think what’s happened is the guys we started with have become better football players. I’m not going to single anybody out because I think that’s true of most everybody on our football team, from the guys you see on the field to the guys standing on the sidelines.
“We’ve had guys that were injured, guys who were sick, guys who couldn’t play,” he added. “We lost our starting guard, Timmy Nelson, this past week. Somebody stepped in, took his place and did an outstanding job. That’s what we try to preach. We try to make everybody better football players. We’re going to maximize their potential because we know there are going to come times when you’re going to have to be called on to do a job. We expect you to a job regardless of what year you are or how much you’ve played in the past. We still expect you to be able to contribute to our football team.”
Waupaca will look for its sixth win at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at Appleton Xavier. The Hawks are 1-3 in the EVC and 1-4 overall and are coming off of a 42-31 loss to Winneconne, a team Waupaca defeated in the season opener.
“There’s a worry about the next game because Xavier is a good football team,” Koronkiewicz said. “They’ll fill the air with footballs against us. We’ll have to be able to go over there and be able to recover from the high of this and focus in again. Going on the road at Xavier will help. It’s a rivalry game. It’s always been an important game in the past and I don’t see that as any different. Xavier will be fighting for their playoff lives. It’ll be a great football game. We only have three regular-season games left. We want to enjoy every single moment and play as hard as we can in every single game.”
Koronkiewicz wants his players to relish the opportunity to play in big games such as the win over Little Chute.
“This is a big game because Little Chute is an outstanding football team,” he said. “They were undefeated. Their schedule is a little more lenient than ours is down the road, but it puts us in a position where we can fight and continue to fight for a conference championship.
“If you look at this game, we accomplished a lot of our goals,” he added. “We guaranteed ourselves a winning season, we made the playoffs again, we put ourselves in a position to maybe win a conference championship. We’re hoping for better things after that, but those are the initial goals that we’ve set for this football team. This is one we can enjoy.”