While most of the Valley Football Association’s attention was focused on Friday’s Kimberly-Appleton North showdown, Appleton East was busy still writing its own playoff story.
“Hey, why not us?” Patriots coach Pat Schwanke said after East went to 3-1 in the VFA-North with a 27-13 win over Appleton West at Pickett Field. The victory put the Patriots in a three-way tie for second place with North and Wausau West at 3-1, one game behind Kimberly, and 3-3 overall.
East hosts D.C. Everest next week and a victory would assure the Patriots a winning conference record before battling the Lightning and Wausau West in the final two weeks of the season.
Even if East has not drawn much attention through the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots made themselves memorable Friday with a defense that suffocated the Terrors’ rushing attack. West managed just 25 net yards on 24 attempts. Included in that total were five sacks of Terrors quarterback Ethan Herbst.
“We wanted to get 27 (West running back Ty Zarembski) out of the game because he’s a tough, shifty runner,” said East senior defensive end Parker Groves, who also had one of the year’s biggest “whoo” blocks — the kind that make both sidelines say “whoo” — on teammate Dominick Castillo’s punt return in the first half.
Herbst managed to find his favorite target, senior Matt Reader, five times for 83 yards, including a 60-yard TD connection in the third quarter. The Terrors, however, managed only eight first downs and moved into Patriots territory only three times in their 10 possessions.
East’s ground game, meanwhile, was relentless. Three Patriots backs ran for more than 80 yards, including two fullbacks. Cole Krause led East with 97 yards on 19 carries, while Nathan Emrick had 88 yards on 13 rushes with a pair of touchdown runs, and Gabe Heindel added 89 yards on 11 tries.
The Patriots defense also turned the game early in the third quarter as East was clinging to its 7-0 halftime lead. A sack of Herbst caused a fumble recovered by Ryan Nebel at the Terrors’ 27. Six plays later, Krause drove in for a two-yard scoring run that put East up 13-0.
“East controlled the line of scrimmage on us when we were on offense,” West coach Brent Engen said. “And they also controlled the special teams tonight. Their returns upfield were excellent.”
Castillo was a huge part of the return game, changing directions on several punt returns to create big plays. He had returns of 32, 30 and 50 yards and had two others erased on East penalties. His 50-yard return to the Terrors’ five-yard line set up Jake Gostisha’s two-yard TD run that gave East a 20-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
“Castillo was a big difference maker tonight,” Engen said. “We have to find a way for our kids and coaches to play well in all three phases of the game and see what kind of season we can have for ourselves. That’s what we’re going to work on.”
As for the Patriots, they’re going to keep working on their dream of reaching the playoffs for the second straight year but only the third time since 2002. If no one has paid them much attention, well, that’s still OK with them.
“We’re right in the division race,” Groves said. “I can’t see why we can’t do it.”
AE – Nathan Emrick 17 run (Gabe Heindel kick)
AE – Cole Krause 2 run (kick blocked)
AW – Matt Reader 60 pass from Ethan Herbst (kick blocked)
AE – Jake Gostisha 2 run (Heindel kick)
AE – Emrick 24 run (Heindel kick)
AW – Marco Flores 28 run (Ben Wettengel kick)
|Total net yards||166||291|
Rushing – Appleton West, Marco Flores 3-33, Jake Zaruba 10-17, Connor Larson 3-7, Ethan Herbst 8-(-32). Appleton East, Cole Krause 19-97, Gabe Heindel 11-89, Nathan Emrick 13-88, Alic Riedel 1-2, Jake Gostisha 7-0, Team 3-(-4).
Passing – Appleton West, Herbst 8-16-141-0. Appleton East, Gostisha 1-6-17-1.
Receiving – Appleton West, Matt Reader 5-83, Ty Zarembski 2-31, Flores 1-27. Appleton East, Sam Herrmann 1-17.