It was bound to happen sooner or later.
For the first time all season, the No. 1 seeded Roncalli football team had to play the full four quarters to secure a victory, which they did on Friday, defeating host No. 5 Little Chute 20-7 in the WIAA State Football Division 4 Level 2 playoff.
The Jets were locked in a defensive battle with the Mustangs, taking a 6-0 lead into halftime behind an Alex Deets one-yard touchdown run on Roncalli’s first offensive possession of the game.
The drive started for the Jets when Josh Erickson intercepted Little Chute quarterback Sam Merryfield, the first of three interceptions Merryfield would throw. Containing Merryfield was a point of emphasis for Roncalli coach Ray Baranczyk and his team’s swarming defense did just that. The Mustangs signal caller was harassed all game, completing 5-of-14 passing for just 33 yards.
“I thought coming in with the style of offense (Roncalli) runs it’d be a knock out, drag out event,” said Little Chute coach Brian Ryczkowski. “I hoped we’d be able to wear them out with them having a few players going both ways but Roncalli is a very well-conditioned team…they were the better team.”
Little Chute’s defense also contained the Jets’ primary weapon, limiting the Olympian-Packerland Large’s leading rusher, Joey Macdonald to 22 yards on 10 carries. It was Roncalli’s other running backs who would carry the load for the Jets, especially Alex Deets. Deets pounded the middle of Little Chute’s interior defensive line time and again to a tune of 88 yards on 17 carries including his first score of the game.
“It was difficult,” Deets said. “They were taking away Joey and Nick (Stelzer) so the middle was open and the line were getting a good push near the end when we wore them out.”
Baranczyk was surprised by the ability of the Mustangs to contain Macdonald.
“Through 10 games, no one was able to stop Joey,” Baranczyk said. “The conditions on the field had something to do with both running attacks but with the way its been going this year if you stop one thing on our offensive scheme we can go to the next option.”
Neither side was able to sustain much momentum with Little Chute turning the ball over twice in the first half while Roncalli put the ball on the wet turf to stop a promising drive near the end of the half.
The Jets also got a score in the third quarter, with JP Ruether scampering in from eight yards out before a successful two-point conversion put the visitors up 14-0 entering the fourth. Ruther also made his presence felt on the defensive side of things, snagging a pair of interceptions when Merryfield threw ill advised passes due to the Roncalli rush.
“We knew (Merryfield) couldn’t throw under pressure well so our defensive line really stepped up forcing some bad throws,” Ruether said.
Baranczyk also added that they noticed tendencies film which helped limit Little Chute’s passing attack.
“As we looked through the tapes,” Barancyzk said. “We saw down and distance and formation really dictated what they did so that allowed us to get a good pre-snap read of what we thought they were going to do. The quarterback often tipped his hand with a receiver in mind before the ball was even snapped so we tried to rattle his cage a little bit to get him off his rhythm.”
Roncalli also got a stellar game from quarterback Jared Patek, who completed 8-of-14 passes for 125 yards. Patek normally takes a backseat to the stout Jets rushing attack, but on this night was called upon to move the chains and delivered almost every time. He found his safety valve, tight end Josh Erickson, four times for 56 yards with all four producing pivotal third or fourth down conversions.
It was Patek’s legs, though, which provided the game-clinching score at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Patek dove in from the one-yard line to put Roncalli up 20-0, which stood until Mustangs’ running back Tyler Zak scored on a six-yard run with 15 seconds remaining in the contest.
Roncalli will host No. 2 Freedom, Friday night at Municipal Field. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Roncalli……………….6 0 8 6 — 20
Little Chute…0 0 0 7 — 7
R — Alex Deets, 1 run (PAT no good).
R — JP Ruether, 8 run (2-point good).
R — Patek, 1 run (PAT no good).
LC — Tyler Zak, 6 run (PAT Will Hietpas).
First downs 12 7
Rushing 214 69
Yards passing 125 33
Comp.-Att-Int 8-14-0 5-14-3
Fumbles 2-2 1-0
— Alex Deets 17-88, Nick Stelzer 8-67. LC — Tyler Zak 24-84.
— Jared Patek 8-14, 125. LC — Sam Merryfield 5-14, 33.
— Josh Erickson 4-56. LC — Will Hietpas 1-16.