The yards were there for the Little Chute football team. The points, however, were not.
Little Chute outgained Waupaca 214-167, but the Comets used a bend-but-don’t-break defense and short field to pick up a 16-2 Eastern Valley Conference win.
The victory, Waupaca’s seventh in as many games and sixth in the EVC, sets up a showdown with unbeaten Appleton Xavier, at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at Haberkorn Field.
After outscoring their last three opponents 125-0, the Comets had their hands full with the Mustangs, which is exactly what coach John Koronkiewicz expected.
“This was a hard-fought contest, he said. “Little Chute has very talented young men that play extremely hard. They’ve been very difficult to run the football against all year long. I think they have the lowest per-yard average as a defensive team and it’s hard to move those guys out of there at times. To play a team like Little Chute on the road and come out with a 16-2 win, you can be happy.”
Nate Jenson came up with the game’s only score of the first half, as he capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive in the first quarter with a 1-yard quarterback keeper. Zander Neuville gave the Comets a 14-0 win in the third quarter on a 3-yard run to finish a 44-yard drive, but the Mustangs got on the board later in the quarter with a safety, the first points scored against the Comets in almost a month.
Waupaca tacked on a safety of their own late in the game after the Mustangs recovered a blocked Little Chute punt in their end zone.
Little Chute’s defense held Waupaca to 99 yards on the ground and 68 through the air. The Mustangs ran for only 60 yards, but Sam Merryfield had 154 passing yards.
“Our defense played superbly and didn’t give up any points,” Koronkiewicz said. “They bent a little at times, but made some great plays when they needed to.”
The Mustangs had their chances, especially in the first half. After Jenson’s touchdown gave the Comets the early lead, Little Chute drove to the Waupaca 7-yard line. However, a pair of penalties and a rushing play that went for negative yards forced the Mustangs to punt on third-and-goal from the Comet 37.
The Mustangs were at the Comet 7-yard line on their next drive as well, but Waupaca’s Zander Neuville had a pair of tackles for losses and Little Chute turned the ball over on downs on the 13.
The Mustangs got on the board in the third quarter, as Mike Ehlke tackled Jenson end the end zone for a safety.
Neuville led the Comets in rushing with 51 yards, while Brando Vasquez caught two passes for 60 yards, including one that set up Waupaca’s first touchdown.
The Waupaca/Xavier winner will be in the driver’s seat for a conference championship. The Hawks improved to 7-0 overall and 6-0 in league play Oct. 4 with a 42-0 win over Xavier. Waupaca will close out the regular season Friday, Oct. 18, in Appleton against Fox Valley Lutheran, while the Hawks will host Berlin.