Sometimes, all it takes is a play or a good bounce to change the momentum of a football game.
It’s kind of like flipping a switch.
The Oshkosh North Spartans flipped a big one.
The Spartans scored 26 unanswered points and rallied to beat the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders 26-21 on J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium in a Valley Football Association-South contest.
And all it took was one play.
The Spartans found themselves down 14-0 in the third quarter after Wisconsin Rapids’ Kraig Arndt picked up Red Raiders fumble in the endzone at 6:34 mark.
But North would begin it’s charge, driving down to the Wisconsin Rapids 34-yard line. Spartans quarterback Nate Neveau was flushed out to his right and heaved a jump ball down to Cooper Radtke, who hauled it in and gave North the spark it needed.
“I said, ‘You know what, he’s going to going to make the play,”‘ Neveau said. “I gave him a chance and the rest was all him.”
“Really it’s just the height advantage,” added Radtke. “The ball was up in the air and you are just trying to make a play.”
That play shifted everything in North’s favor. The Spartans defense forced a three-and-out and Rapids had trouble handling the punt snap, giving the ball to the Spartans on the Red Raiders 18-yard line. A few plays later, North tied the game on a Peter Lenz four-yard run at 14-all.
The Spartans would then force a fumble on Wisconsin Rapids next possession, giving the offense another short field. North would capitalize on an Alex Hintze two-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter to make it 20-14.
“(That touchdown) made these young men believe,” North coach Chris Kujawa said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching these past three weeks. Believe in their ablility.
“Tonight, they finally realized they could win a football game.”
Neveau would cap the scoring for North late in the fourth quarter on an 18-yard scamper after a Radtke interception with 2:54 left to go. Rapids would tack on a late touchdown but didn’t recover the onside kick.
The thing that really changed was how the Spartans moved the ball on offense. After being shutdown in the first half running tight formations and trying to run the ball, North spread the field in the second half, putting the ball in the air and running options, getting themselves out on the edge.
“We thought we could spread them out a little bit,” Neveau said. “Personnel-wise, it just worked better for us. Spread them out. Throw a little bit, run a little bit. It seemed to work pretty well.”
North was able to do that because of a stout defense that kept the score close enought so the Spartans could come back. After letting Rapids go down the field the opening drive, North held firm the rest of the half, keeping the score only 7-0 at halftime.
“When the ‘D’ can keep us in it, we have playmakers with Phil (Brechlin), Shane (Hammerseng) and Coop(er), we’ll make plays eventually,” Neveau said. “Keeping it close at halftime was big for us.”
Neveau finished 8-of-14 for 108 yards and a touchdown and ran for 54 more yards and another touchdown for the Spartans. Brechlin was the leading receiver for the Spartans, catching six balls for 56 yards.
With the win, North moves to 1-1 in the VFA-South. They’re hoping this win is just a sign of bigger things to come.
“(This win) does a lot,” Radtke said. “Just as confidence, and as a team coming together, it builds a lot. Getting that first win under the belt, you know what it feels like and you know how to win now. It’s a big deal.”
Wis. Rapids7 0 7 7 — 21
Oshkosh North0 0 14 12 — 26
WR — Ryan Duxbury, 1 run (Zach Bassuener kick).
WR — Kraig Arndt, fumble recovery in the end zone (Bassuener kick).
ON — Cooper Radtke, 34 pass from Nate Neveau (Turner Geisthardt kick).
ON — Peter Lenz, 4 run (Geisthardt kick).
ON — Alex Hintze, 2 run (kick failed).
ON — Neveau, 18 run (run failed).
WR — Duxbury, 1 run (Bassuener kick).
First downs13 7
Total yards296 188
Yards Passing49 108
Rushing: WR — Duxbury 40-223. ON — Neveau 14-51.
WR — Jared Halbur 5-11-2-49. ON — Neveau 8-14-1-108.
— Arndt 2-15. ON — Phil Brechlin 6-56, Radtke 1-34.