WISCONSIN RAPIDS — A bad first half proved too much for the Fond du Lac High School football team to overcome in a 35-28 loss to Wisconsin Rapids Friday in the Valley Football Association opener for both teams.
Despite being up 27-7 at the half, the Raiders had to hold off the Cardinals late in the game.
John Gaskell, who finished with 98 yards receiving, caught touchdown passes of 2 and 8 yards to give the Cardinals signs of life in the second half.
“We had a great second half,” Cardinals coach Mike Gnewuch said. “We didn’t change a thing in the second half, we just executed much better. I loved the fight our guys had the whole game, but a couple big plays killed us. We gave up 13 points on errors tonight.”
Gaskell’s second touchdown, at the 8:20 mark of the fourth quarter, closed the gap to 35-28.
Fond du Lac’s last drive push Rapids deep in its territory and had a fourth and six situation with 20 seconds to play. Rapids junior Tyler Wendt broke up a pass in the end zone to seal the game by getting the ball back to the Raiders’ offense.
After sputtering with the ball during Week 1, the Raiders got four touchdowns from fullback Ryan Duxbury.
Duxbury, a junior scored on runs of 1, 17 and 55 yards, the last coming late in the third quarter to get the Raiders to 35 points, racked up 185 yards on 25 carries. Wisconsin Rapids rolled up 288 yards on the ground. Rapids got another 70 yards from senior quarterback Simon Stevenoski, who scored on a 50-yard run in the first quarter that put Rapids up 13-0.
“Last week was my first varsity game and I was nervous and didn’t fully believe in our system,” Stevenoski said. “Coach (Tony Biolo) told me to trust in the system and it would work, and it did. The key jumped on Ryan and he sold it like he had the ball and I went around the end for the long touchdown run.”
Stevenoski’s touchdown was set up by an onside kick after Duxbury’s first score.
“Coach (Nic) Sydrowicz works hard on special teams and he knew we had a chance to make it work,” Biolo said. “That’s our bloop kick and coach Nic does a great job preparing the boys to make plays like that.”
The Raiders went to the air to stretch the lead to 19-0 when co-quarterback Jared Halbur lofted a 13-yard pass to Logan Boettcher. Halbur completed five of nine passes for 65 yards to help kick start the offense.
“Our offense came together well tonight,” Biolo said. “This group is going to improve a lot each game because they’re new to this level and that is exciting.”