What a difference a week makes.
Seven days after giving up 43 points in a loss to Freedom, the Waupaca football team held Winneconne to 53 yards of offense and three first downs Sept. 12 and picked up a 21-14 Eastern Valley Conference win over the Wolves.
The Comets took a 21-0 lead into halftime after Walker Smith and Joe Ogden scored from 11 and 2 yards out, respectively, in the first quarter and Ogden added another 2-yard run in the second quarter.
A pair of fourth-quarter defensive touchdowns helped keep the Wolves in the game, however. Zachary Henderson stripped the ball from Smith and returned it 95 yards for Winneconne’s first score, while Jake Vanden Heuvel picked off an Ogden pass and returned it 85 yards for another score with 1:06 remaining.
Waupaca recovered the onside kick and was able to run out the clock.
“Every game in our conference schedule is tough,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “Everybody we play puts a quality football club on the field. You have to be able to step up each and every week.”
Waupaca’s defense kept Winneconne’s offense out of the end zone and held the Wolves’ featured running back, Ben Davis, to 13 yards on 16 carries.
“Hats off to our defense,” Koronkiewicz said. “I thought our defense played superbly. They did what they needed to do for us to be successful. It was very physical. Both teams hit very hard.”
The Comets relied on its running game, especially Smith, who carried the ball 25 times for a game-high 143 yards.
“I said, ‘Walker, you might get the ball 35 times tonight,'” Koronkiewicz said.
Waupaca outgained the Wolves, the defending Division 4 state champion, 174-41 on the ground and 76-12 through the air.
“We didn’t throw the ball very often,” Koronkiewicz said. “Next week, maybe we’ll have to. We were moving the ball on the ground. That’s what we wanted to do.
Waupaca improved to 3-1 in the EVC and 3-1 overall, while Winneconne fell to 1-2 in conference play and 1-3 overall.
“This is a big win for us because it gets us three wins,” Koronkiewicz said. “We’re searching for that fourth and perhaps that fifth to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. That’s what high school football is really all about. Winneconne proved last year that you just have to get into the playoffs and see what happens after that.”
Waupaca will head to Luxemburg Friday, Sept. 19, for the team’s nonconference game with Luxemburg-Casco. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.