Harn scores 3 touchdowns in opener
By Erik Buchinger
New London’s Makaio Harn found the end zone three times as the Bulldogs kicked off their season with a 48-0 win on a rainy night in Oconto Falls on Thursday, Aug. 17.
The junior running back rushed for 141 yards on 21 carries, and New London head coach Marc Marsh said Harn’s offseason work ethic was a factor in his season-opening performance.
“There’s not many kids in the state that work as hard as [Harn], so it’s nice to see kids come through and get results after their hard work,” Marsh said.
Harn said it is important to get off to a strong start early in the season.
“It feels wonderful because the years in the past, we got off to a rough start, and it brings us down the whole season,” Harn said. “This time we came up with a pretty good start, and I think it’s going to be a good confidence booster.”
New London’s senior quarterback Jack Noffke completed 3 of 4 passes for 86 yards, and all three completions went for touchdowns.
New London’s defense held Oconto Falls to 40 total yards and just seven yards in the first half.
“[The Bulldogs] were a little shaky at first, but then they came out and were ready to roll,” Marsh said. “It’s a good feeling, and it’s nice to be on the other side for a change.”
New London rebounded quickly following a slow start. The Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and failed to gain a first down on their first possession.
After New London punted, Oconto Falls connected on an 84-yard touchdown on a pass to Cliff Yuma in the middle of the field, but the play was brought back due to an illegal procedure penalty.
New London senior safety Brayden Kurth acknowledged he got beat on the play, which led to what would have given the Panthers an early lead if not for the penalty.
“I was reading my wide receiver, and I was trying to jump the route,” Kurth said. “I thought the quarterback was going to throw a laser, so I started creeping in, and he ended up lobbing it over the top. I got my butt burned.”
Kurth responded with an interception on the next play, which he said was identical to the previous play but to the other side.
“It was pretty big for me because I was the one that got scorched on that, so it was a really good correctional play for me,” Kurth said. “It was really big, and it set the tone for our offense.”
The interception came deep in Oconto Falls territory, and Harn scored the first of his three touchdowns from two yards out a few plays later.
“Makaio is a very dynamic player,” Marsh said. “He’s fearless, runs the ball hard off tackle, he’s got speed outside, good moves, good agility, and that is all a result of his hard work in the offseason.”
From that point on, it was all New London.
“Coming in, we had some butterflies, and it took a couple plays to get rid of those,” Harn said. “After that, I think we all came together and executed well after that.”
On New London’s second possession, Noffke found Kurth wide open in the end zone for a 20-yard score.
In addition to a touchdown and an interception, Kurth returned a punt 28 yards in the first half.
“Brayden is a tremendous athlete overall and just a fantastic football player. …He’s really important to us, and he sets the tone on both sides of the ball,” Marsh said.
The next Bulldog score came from Harn, who made several defenders miss and dove to the goal line for a 37-yard touchdown as the first quarter expired.
New London senior Reegan Franzmeier took a short slant 50 yards for another touchdown, and Harn added his third score from five yards out.
Prior to the end of the first half, Noffke floated a pass down the sideline toward junior Logan Locy, who made the catch for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 42-0 halftime lead.
New London coasted to a 48-0 victory with its reserves and a running clock in the second half.
Senior fullback Micah Backus scored the game’s final touchdown from six yards out.
“We got a win, which is what we wanted, and we came out healthy,” Marsh said. “It’s a great start to the year.”