It wasn’t exactly the start Waupaca football coach John Koronkiewicz was looking for.
After turning the ball over on its first two possessions, the Comets trailed Fox Valley Lutheran 8-0 in the season opener for both teams.
However, the Comets regrouped with touchdowns on four consecutive drives and handed the Foxes a 49-20 defeat Aug. 22 in a matchup of Eastern Valley Conference teams.
“The first game always starts with a big question mark,” Koronkiewicz said. “You’re not quite sure who you are, what you can do. You’re not quite sure of your special teams and how they’re going to respond. You don’t know if you’re guys are ready from a mental perspective, if they’re ready physically for the challenges they’ll face during a contest. You’re always a little concerned.”
Waupaca’s first drive ended with an interception and the second with a fumble. The Foxes converted their second drive into points, as Jordan VanCalster caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ethan Eisenmann with 6:01 to go in the first quarter. Eisenmann ran for the two-point conversion and the Foxes had an 8-0 lead.
“We were a little out of position and (FVL’s) no-huddle (offense) cost us early,” Koronkiewicz said. “As the game progressed, we began to settle in defensively and do a much nicer job of covering what they were really trying to do.”
Waupaca got on the board on its next drive, as Joe Ogden and Andrew Schuler-Jones hooked up for a 50-yard touchdown on third-and-19 with 2:18 to go in the opening quarter.
The Comets took the lead for good with Ogden’s 16-yard run with seven minutes to go in the first half to make it 14-8.
Waupaca added two more scores later in the half, as Walker Smith scored from 44 yards out with 4:52 remaining and Ogden threw a 45-yard TD pass to Brando Vasquez with 1:11 remaining to give the Comets a 28-8 lead at the break.
The Comets scored on its fourth drive in a row to start the second half. Ogden left the game with a cramp, but backup quarterback Smith scored from 16 yards out with 9:56 to go in the third quarter.
Smith found the end zone for a third time with 30 seconds to go in the quarter on a 15-yard run.
The Foxes weren’t finished, as Eisenmann threw touchdown passes of 5 and 9 yards to VanCalster in the fourth quarter.
Smith scored his fourth touchdown on a 47-yard run with 6:57 remaining in the game.
The Comets outgained the Comets 439-260. Although Eisenmann threw for 208 yards, Waupaca’s defense held the Foxes’ running game to 52 yards in 20 carries.
“Offensively, we did a little bit of everything,” Koronkiewicz said. “We had a lot of guys touch the ball, which is a little different from what we’ve done in the past. We had a lot of guys get in the end zone and a lot of guys make plays for us. Were there some misses in there? Sure, but that’s going to happen in every ballgame, particularly early in the season.
“You have to remember that this is a pretty inexperienced group out here,” he added. “For them to get on the board, I could see the whole team’s confidence come back. It was kind of a knock to the head when they put those eight points up. We don’t trail too much on this field. We were able to put some nice drives together and come up with some big plays. That’s what it takes.”
Smith finished with 147 yards on 17 carries, while Ogden completed eight of 11 passes for 169 yards.
“We need to develop these guys,” Koronkiewicz said. “There are a lot of guys that don’t have a whole lot of experience play, but I think they held up pretty well.”
The Comets will head to Ripon to take on the Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, Ripon dropped its opener to Winneconne, 35-8.
“It’s a good step forward,” said Koronkiewicz, who picked up career win No. 257. “What’s nice about it is you take a look at the work you’ve done in the last three weeks to get ready for your first game. You come out, find out it’s worth it and say, ‘OK, let’s go back to work Monday and see if we can get a little better.’”