ALMOND – Now Austin Bunders has a tough decision to make.
Thanks to his best friends — aka linemen Garret Yonke, Cole Warzynski, Taylor Kim, Jordan Kealiher and Christian Noth toiling in the trenches — the Almond-Bancroft senior running back enjoyed a special night carrying the ball.
Bunders suggested he might have to buy each of them dinner. The question for Bunders is whether he goes with McDonald’s or gives the quintet a fine dining experience on steak.
He’ll have to check his budget, or maybe more accurately, that of his parents.
An emotionally charged Bunders rushed for a career-high 231 yards and three touchdowns, and he also was on the receiving end of a scoring pass in a 42-0 trouncing of previously unbeaten Wild Rose.
“I probably should buy them dinner,” Bunders, whose best performance to date of 200 yards came earlier in the season. “Our linemen were absolutely dominant, I could drive a car through some of those holes.”
The Eagles had plenty of incentive coming into the matchup of Central Wisconsin Conference-10 title contenders.
For starters there was the whole pomp and circumstance surrounding Homecoming. More importantly, A-B had a chance to make an emphatic statement about its championship intentions.
“We want a conference championship,” said Bunders, who also chipped in with three receptions for 103 yards and a TD. “We don’t like being second. We’ve been second the last three years and that’s not how we want it to end again.”
Wild Rose had a similar thought coming into the night.
The mind games between the CWC-10 rivals began before the opening kickoff. Both teams stood next to their respective sideline waiting for the other to make the first move.
Wild Rose eventually had to line up first since the officials were counting off the seconds before a delay of game penalty was called.
“I’m sure they were just trying to figure out where they wanted to kick the ball,” A-B coach Andrew Bradley offered as an explanation for the stare off. “I’m sure they were waiting to see who they wanted to scrib the ball at.”
Wild Rose appeared to have won the battle of psychological warfare when the scrib kick glanced off the hands of an Eagles player and the visitors recovered.
Just when it appeared the Wildcats would fire the opening salvo and grab an early lead, A-B’s defense stripped the ball from Jeremy Lesniak and recovered the fumble at their own 9-yard line.
The turnover seemed to take the wind out of Wild Rose’s sails, and it never recovered. The Wildcats were held to 143 yards of total offense, including only 81 on the ground.
“They had the momentum and were getting ready to go in and score,” Bradley said. “Someone mentioned that (Lesniak) didn’t take care of the ball last season when we played. So we were looking to see if we could get him to put the ball on the ground.”
A-B spent the rest of the game knocking the air out of the Wildcats by being extremely physical up front, along with a new wrinkle in the game plan.
Wanting to get the ball in the hands of Bunders — not a bad idea on this night — the coach who also doubles as the offensive coordinator put in an I formation.
A-B and Bunders then proceeded to put on an dominating exhibition of power football. The Eagles finished with 352 yards rushing, including another 92 yards on 13 attempts for Derek Baumgartner.
“We wanted to go at them with our size and strength,” the Eagles coach said. “We stressed all week that we wanted to go right at them and we might be able to wear them down.
“This one was huge.”
AB – Derek Baumgartner 1 run (Wyatt Richtmyre kick), 4:03
AB – Austin Bunders 56 pass from Richtmyre (kick failed), 11:50
AB – Bunders 21 run (Bunders run), 2:46
AB – Bunders 1 run (Richtmyre kick), 7:51
AB – Bunders 10 run (Richtmyre kick), 2:36
AB – Baumgartner 14 run (Richtmyre kick), 6:17
Records: Almond-Bancroft 6-0, 2-0 CWC 10; Wild Rose 5-1, 2-1 CWC 10.
—Scott A. Williams can be reached at 715-345-2282, or on email at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter as @SPJScottWill.