Play makers shine in season opener
By Erik Buchinger
The Polar Bears made several big plays to beat Appleton West 24-9 in their season-opening win at the Banta Bowl on Friday, Aug. 18.
Head coach Tom Kolosso said he was proud of his players to start the season with a win against the Terrors, which he thinks is a top 10 team in Division 1.
“[Appleton West] has some guys that are just outstanding,” Kolosso said. “They’re going to be a very good team. I couldn’t be happier to get the win, and on our end, I still think some things need to improve, but I couldn’t be happier in week 1 right here.”
Hortonville was held to just six first downs in the game, but big plays were the difference, according to Kolosso.
“We need to be a lot more consistent and get first downs,” Kolosso said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball much better than that so a lot to clean up offensively, but we’ve got some weapons and you could see the play-making ability and the explosiveness.”
On the opening possession of the season, Hortonville faced a fourth-and-3 on its own 40-yard line when senior punter and linebacker Zach Hauser took a fake punt 25 yards to extend the drive.
“We didn’t go in knowing it was a fake, but I called it,” Hauser said. “I saw the overload to one side, and I knew I was tucking it and going. It was only fourth-and-3, and I knew I could get it.”
Kolosso said Hauser made a great call for the fake punt.
“[Hauser] took what they gave him, and he made a decision and took what was there,” Kolosso said. “That’s on him as a returning guy on that position and as a captain for us to take it upon himself and making a play. It really set the tone for the game. We go down and get points instead of turning it over to them, and that really got us off to
the start we needed.”
The possession ended with a 37-yard field goal to give the Polar Bears an early 3-0 advantage.
Appleton West quarterback Alec Goffard mishandled a low snap, and Hortonville senior defensive lineman Josh Werner dove for the loose ball and secured it for the Polar Bears.
A few plays later, Hortonville senior quarterback Cole Hyde found junior wide receiver Josh Giese, who made a leaping 19-yard touchdown in the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns.
In his first start at quarterback, Hyde completed 7 of 15 passes for 139 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Appleton West had its first scoring chance late in the first half but missed a field goal prior to halftime.
The Terrors drove down to Hortonville’s 10-yard line on their first possession of the third quarter, but the Polar Bear defense made a stop on fourth-and-1.
Defensively, Hortonville limited an offense that averaged more than 30 points per game last season. Kolosso said the game plan was to keep Goffard in the pocket to limit his play-making ability.
Goffard completed 6 of 16 passes for 72 yards and was replaced by Carson Hacker midway through the third quarter.
Running back Patrick Ourada rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last season but was limited to 40 yards on 15 rushes, just 2.7 yards per carry.
“We put a lot of work in the offseason, and we knew we had something to prove,” Hauser said. “The defense was really well put together tonight.”
A few plays after the fourth down stop, Giese caught a pass and broke free for an 88-yard touchdown.
“We had been practicing all week on their secondary,” Giese said. “We knew the look they were going to give us. The quarterback made a good throw, and the offensive line blocked for him, and we were able to go out and make a play.”
Giese caught five passes for 125 yards with two touchdowns.
“Giese ran a great route, and Hyde threw a great ball,” Kolosso said. “It was just a perfect comeback there. Giese is just so explosive he was able to take that one.”
Hortonville’s defense held Appleton West’s explosive offense scoreless until a field goal with 2:33 left in the third quarter to cut the lead 17-3.
The Polar Bears answered quickly with a 65-yard touchdown from junior Braden Vallafskey on a jet sweep.
“Braden played defense for us tonight, but we put him out there to run the jet, and he’s got some play making ability when he’s got the ball in his hands,” Kolosso said.
The fourth quarter was scoreless until Appleton West scored on a 63-yard pass but missed the extra point to make it a 24-9 game with 1:48 to go. Hortonville recovered the onside kick and made another stop on defense to secure the win.
“It feels great,” Kolosso said. “You want to win every week, but it’s such a process all offseason, and there’s such a build up to this first one. It just feels so good to get that first one and go 1-0 especially against such a quality team. You ask so much of these guys in the offseason, and they make such an investment and to come out here and have it pay off, it just feels really good.”
Hauser said it was good to get back on the field, and Hortonville had something to prove against good competition.
“It was a fun game with great competitors on the other side of the line,” Hauser said. “They were talking a lot of crap. We wanted to prove ourselves, and I think we proved that tonight.”