Three minutes, 59 seconds. Seventy-five yards. Fondy touchdown.
That’s how the Mike Gnewuch/Steve Jorgensen era of Fond du Lac High School football began on Friday night.
Gnewuch is the head coach and runs the defense which pitched a shutout in the first half. Jorgensen is the associate head coach who coordinates the offense, which scored each time it had the ball in the first 24 minutes.
Both units struggled at times in the second half, but there was enough good things in the Cardinals’ 35-27 victory to lift Fondy fans’ spirits for the rest of the season.
“There were some rough spots in the second half,” Gnewuch said, pointing out three fumbles on offense and missed assignments on defense. “The good news is we were able to pull out a victory. Come Monday it’s 1-0 and that’s all that anybody sees.”
Fondy’s first drive was precision at its best. Of the 10 plays only one went for less than 5 yards. The drive featured three complete passes from senior quarterback Andy Mathews to senior receiver John Gaskell, and senior running back George McEnroe capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run.
More of the same on the next drive, and Mathews threw to Gaskell on a crossing route for an 18-yard strike. Gaskell got the ball again on an end around for a 58-yard score with about 3 minutes to play and the Cardinals led 21-0 at the break.
“It was good,” Mathews said about the machine-like first half. “We can still improve on it. We scored every possession, but I missed a couple throws deep. I want to get those back and put them in there next time. Overall it was good.”
McEnroe added two more 1-yard TD runs in the fourth quarter and finished as the game’s leading rusher with 23 carries for 152 yards. Mathews went 6-for-12 for 51 yards and ran for 68 more, including a 33-yarder to clinch the game in the final 2 minutes.
“The guys up front did a great job; they pushed everyone off the ball,” Mathews said. “The backs ran really hard. Receivers caught great balls and ran great routes. The defense stuck them when they had to.”
The defense, which returned only two full-time players from last season, was a concern of Gnewuch’s entering the season. It did bow its collective neck after Kaukauna scored on consecutive possessions to open the second half. A Fondy fumble and a three-and-out gave the Ghosts a good deal of momentum. Facing a third-and-6 near midfield, though, the Ghosts misfired on a pass and the Cardinals’ defense got off the field clinging to a 21-13 lead.
“That was a huge stop,” Gnewuch said.
Fondy took over at its own 29, but a McEnroe 51-yard burst through the middle set up a scoring drive, and he finished it.
Fondy defensive back Jacob Behlke intercepted the first of his two picks on the night to give Fondy the ball right back and the Cardinals scored again for a 35-13 lead, but Kaukauna returned the ensuing kick 86 yards for a touchdown and the game was still on.
“I thought we were going to be all right (after the score to start the fourth quarter),” Gnewuch said. “It was just mistakes, and I think the biggest thing we have to preach is we have to finish. They were playing a little hesitant at the end instead of sticking the nail in the coffin it was almost like they were playing not to lose.”
The Cardinals are again on the road next Friday when they travel to Wisconsin Rapids. The home opener at Fruth Field is Sept. 7.