The Fond du Lac football team was having a tough enough time hanging with Oshkosh North on Friday night, when a bizarre play ended the first half and essentially ended the Cardinals’ playoff hopes.
The Spartans’ 31-15 win on a picturesque night at Fruth Field spoiled Fondy’s homecoming.
Fondy drops to 2-4 overall and 1-4 in The Valley, eliminating the Cardinals from WIAA playoff contention.
North led 10-7 with 1:55 left in the first half after Turner Geisthardt snuck a 42-yard field goal just over the crossbar. That was still enough time for the visitors to score two more touchdowns.
The first was a Nate Neveau sneak after a Cooper Radtke interception put North at the Fondy 26. Neveau had the next touchdown too, but this was more unconventional.
Another interception gave North the ball at Fondy’s 49. Neveau threw a Hail Mary pass that was intercepted by a Fondy cornerback. As the Cardinal returned the ball up the field he got close to midfield when he was tackled and the ball popped loose. Neveau was there to scoop it up and nobody was in his way as he sprinted 48 yards for a touchdown.
“I’ve never seen a quarterback throw a pick and recover a fumble and return it for a touchdown. Obviously that’s a huge momentum turn for us,” North coach Chris Kujawa said. “And it probably changed their game plan a little bit.”
Fondy coach Mike Gnewuch said he had never seen anything like it either.
“Just crazy, and when I saw that No. 7 had the ball, I knew that we were in trouble,” Gnewuch said.
That was certainly a memorable play, but a bigger problem for Fondy was its inability to move the ball offensively outside of its first drive.
The opening possession went 17 plays for 77 yards and was finished with a George McEnroe touchdown run. Fondy’s other four first-half possessions were two three-and-outs and two four-play possessions ended by interceptions.
“The first drive of the game I thought we came out nicely and then we fell asleep on both sides of the ball,” Gnewuch said.
With a Division 1AA recruit at the strong-side end and a 320-pound lane plugger in the middle, North made McEnroe work for all 97 yards he got. The senior tailback also had a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Andy Mathews, who left the game with an injury, and Hunter Schmitz combined to go 16-for-38 passing for 217 yards and four picks.
“Their defense played well,” Gnewuch added. “We had a lot of missed assignments, but you have to give credit to them.”
Kujawa said it was the first time all season his defense played well as a unit.
One of the few positives for Fondy to take away was the play of the defense in the second half. After the Spartans gashed Fondy’s defense with sweep plays to the edge of the field, Fondy made adjustments and held North to 36 yards on 13 rushes in the second half.
“They changed up their blocking scheme from what they had done, so we switched to a different defense to get a little more edge support,” Gnewuch said. “Once we got that we were better inside and out.”