Unexpected. But welcome.
Out of all the possible outcomes imaginable for Thursday’s matchup between the undefeated Roncalli and Kewaunee football teams, a 35-0 rout by the host Jets wasn’t even on the radar.
Yet, with 7:04 left in the third quarter, a bruising 11-yard touchdown run by Jets running back Joey Macdonald and the ensuing two-point conversion run, also by Macdonald, brought the running clock in a game pitting two top-five teams.
Roncalli (9-0, 7-0 Olympian-Packerland Large) was ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press medium schools division state poll while Kewaunee (9-0, 6-1 OP Large) were ranked No. 5 in D5 according to Wisconsin Sports Network with the winner earning the OP Large title outright.
The Jets earned their first conference title since 1989 in convincing fashion, shutting out the Storm for the first time since Kewaunee lost 27-0 against Aquinas in the 2007 in the D5 championship game. In fact, during that 67 game stretch, the Storm averaged more than 35 points per game but were held to 115 yards of total offense.
Kewaunee coach Kurt Flaten was disappointed in his team’s performance on the night.
“We just didn’t play very well,” Flaten said. “Our offensive line didn’t pass block very well and because of that our quarterback was rushing his throws. They dropped a lot guys into coverage so our guys had a tough time getting open.”
The Storm entered the contest averaging just over 186 yards passing and 180 yards rushing per game, meaning teams had to pick their poison in terms of what to stop. It was that type of balanced attack which worried Roncalli coach Ray Baranczyk the most. “Coming into this game we were apprehensive about their diverse offense,” Baranczyk said. “They ran the ball well, they threw the ball well, a number of good skill kids. It was certainly an advantage to us to keep the ball on our side of the field and keep a short field going.”
Roncalli was afforded good field position because of the play by its special teams.
After the Jets offense stalled near midfield on their opening possession, a stellar punt pinned Kewaunee inside the five. Backed up by their goal line, the Storm were forced into a three-and-out giving Roncalli excellent field position. The Jets then converted the short field into their first score of the night, a two-yard touchdown run by Alex Deets.
Roncalli held the potent Kewaunee offense in check, allowing just 105 yards of total offense.
“We’ve been stout all year on defense,” said Baranczyk. “Our kids love to fly to the ball and I think we set the tone with their first offensive series, letting them know we’re out here playing defense just the way we have done.”
On the ensuing kickoff, a squib kick was muffed by one of the Storm and recovered by Roncalli. Deetz later capped the drive with a one-yard plunge and the Jets led 12-0 after the first quarter.
Later on in the second quarter, with Roncalli facing fourth and three, a Kewaunee player jumped offsides as a result of the Jets switching into a punting formation. Originally, the Jets lined up in a bunch formation and appeared to be going for it on fourth down but changed last second causing all kinds of confusion for the Storm defenders.
The five-yard penalty kept the drive alive, and Jets running back JP Ruether ended the possession by racing 23 yards for a touchdown and a 19-0 halftime advantage.
Finally, Macdonald’s game-icing 11-yard touchdown, his second of the game, was set up by a botched punt attempt with Kewaunee’s punter being tackled at the 11-yard line after mishandling the snap.
“A lot times special teams gets a backseat to the offense and defense,” Baranczyk said. “In this situation, the kids were able to capitalize on the errors Kewaunee made but you know these are things we practice on. This week it paid off for us.”
Roncalli was able to consistently turn short fields into points while eating away at the clock by rushing for 296 yards, led by Macdonald and Deetz, who each scored twice and combined for just over 2⁄3 of the Jets rushing yards. Macdonald cracked the century mark with 114 yards on 12 carries and Deetz wasn’t far behind, running 14 times for 88 yards.
“We came out thinking we were going to get hit in the mouth and how many times we’d have to get up from it,” Macdonald said. “It was stressful all week, everyone was running on nerves but we were able to come out and execute real well. We just had to come out and play ball.”
With a perfect regular season and conference title locked up, Roncalli now begins to prepare for the postseason.
“We’re going to take things one game at a time,” Baranczyk added. “Things can change when you get into the second season. Right now we’re just going to enjoy this conference championship and Saturday morning we’re going to find out where our second season starts.”
12 7 16 0 — 35
…0 0 0 0 — 0
R — Alex Deets, 2 run (PAT missed Zach Jacquart).
R — Deetz, 1 run (2 pt. run no good).
R — JP Ruether, 23 run (PAT Jacquart).
R — Joey Macdonald, 13 run (2 pt. pass Alec Salutz from Jared Patek).
R — Macdonald, 11 run (2 pt. run Macdonald).
First downs 16 7
Rushing 296 70
Yards passing 32 35
Comp.-Att-Int 4-7-0 7-13-1
Fumbles 1-1 1-0
— Joey Macdonald 12-114, Alex Deets 14-88. K — Austin Richard 5-35.
— Jared Patek 3-6, 31. K — Caleb Johnson 7-12, 35.
— Alex Deetz 2-16. K — Peter Metzler 3-19.