Week 1 of high school football has come and gone, and what an interesting Friday night it was to open the season.
There were surprises, expected blowouts, special moments for coaches, and opening-night victories for defending state champions.
Grabbing the top headline had to be Wausau East’s 25-14 defeat of Wisconsin Rapids at Thom Field. It’s tough to call an opening game an upset, considering how many unknowns there are going into a high school season. But when a team that was blown out in its playoff opener last season beats the state runner-up from a year ago, “upset” is fair.
The most impressive part of Wausau East’s turnaround over the past 1 1/2 seasons has been the work of second-year head coach Steve Jung.
First, Jung has his kids believing. The team has now won five of its last seven games, going back to last season, and gains confidence with every victory.
Second, he coaches to win. Many times you’ll see a coach trying simply not to lose. Jung is just the opposite. One example: The Lumberjacks ran a risky fake punt that led to a score.
Third, he never panics. Friday night when Rapids was staging its comeback, reducing the Raiders’ deficit from 19-0 to 19-14, Jung gathered his troops, prepared them for the kickoff and watched standout Logan Taylor race 87 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.
Be certain of one thing, though: The Raiders will be fine. It’s just one loss. Veteran coach Tony Biolo, who has guided the Raiders to a pair of state championship contests in his tenure, will get his players back to work and ready by the time Fond du Lac comes to town this week.
The Raiders were hit hard by graduation, so look for the them to show remarkable improvement from Week 1 to 2.
Among other notable opening night stories was the successful return to the sideline of SPASH coach Pete McAdams, who stepped down for a season to pursue other interests. His Panthers held off Wausau West 28-18.
Wausau West put up a good fight in the second half, but the Warriors can’t fall into the same syndrome they suffered last season – the inability to put together four solid quarters. It will be interesting to see if West can break from that recent trend.
Perhaps the most exciting game of the night was Marshfield’s thrilling 34-30 victory over D.C. Everest. Those teams always seem to play games that go down to the wire. The Marshfield-Everest match should be on everyone’s annual list of don’t-miss games.
That game also featured the coming out party — of sorts — of Tigers quarterback Bo Howard. Howard made his share of plays last season, but he looked like someone to keep an eye on this year with 137 yards rushing, two touchdowns and a TD pass.
And we can’t forget our two defending state champions from 2011 who opened with wins. Greenwood/Granton took it to Assumption 38-0, while Colby found itself in a battle with Fall Creek but came out on top 14-7.
Chris Schulte is the sports editor for Gannett Central Wisconsin Media. He can be reached at 715-845-0701, 1-888-219-7787, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.