It wasn’t pretty at times, but a win is a win and Fond du Lac head coach Mike Gnewuch will take it.
The Cardinals, who turned the ball over five times in Friday’s game against Stevens Point, completed a rally to beat the Panthers 29-25 in a Valley South Conference game played at Fruth Field.
“That’s going to happen, Stevens Point is a good football team,” Gnewuch said. “I credit them as well, they are well-coached and do a nice job, but those are some things we need to limit. We can’t turn the ball over and we’ll work to improve upon that next week.”
It took a great last effort for the Cardinals, who saw themselves down double-digits about to enter the fourth quarter.
After turning the ball over their first three possessions of the second half, SPASH took advantage with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the third quarter. A 1-yard touchdown run by Victor Kizewski made the score 25-14, and things were looking ugly for the Cardinals.
But Gnewuch could tell in the next huddle that his players weren’t finished quite yet.
Sure enough on the second play after SPASH’s touchdown, Fondy’s Quinn Woelfel found Justin Maratik on a screen pass and the senior ran it in 51 yards to make it 25-22 – after completing the 2-point conversion – as the game headed to the fourth quarter.
Momentum stayed and the tables turned as the Cardinals forced two late turnovers and used a 3-yard touchdown run from Woelfel with 4:53 left in the game to help clinch the win.
“I’m so proud of the way the kids responded, we were down a couple times and there was a lot of adversity we had to fight back from,” Gnewuch said. “Going into the fourth quarter down 11, you could look inside their eyes and tell that we had a lot of football to play yet and there was a lot of fight left in them.”
It was a relief for Woelfel, who struggled through the air Friday. The senior quarterback threw four interceptions but made the play that counted late in the game.
“It was a great team victory and being down in the fourth quarter, it was a great win having our team overcome adversity,” Woelfel said.
After Woelfel scored his 3-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals their first lead since late in the first half, SPASH threw an interception to Donte Johnson. Taking over on the opposing 30-yard line, Fondy had a chance to just run out the clock with about three minutes left.
But Woelfel threw an interception on a third-and-long, giving the ball back to SPASH with two minutes left to give it a chance to win the game.
However, Fondy’s defense, which struggled in the first half, came up big again. On the second play, Fondy recovered a fumble to seal the win. Fondy’s defense only gave up 73 yards of offense in the second half after giving up 195 yards in the first.
“I think they played a better second half than a first half,” Gnewuch said of the defense. “We made a couple of adjustments and the kids did a nice job responding to those changes.”
“We played hard,” said Johnson, who intercepted Beau Rosenthal late in the game. “It’s not about how you start but how you finish. We gave our 100 percent effort and there are a lot of things we have to clean up but that’s what practice is for.”
While Woelfel struggled through the air, going 3-for-13, his running attack is what sparked Fondy. On Fondy’s first two scores – a Reggie Hernandez 11-yard run and a Justin Maratik 4-yard run – Woelfel had two big runs (67, 64) to bring the Cardinals close to the goal.
Woelfel finished with a game-high 149 yards on seven carries while Maratik had 57 yards on 24 carries. Maratik led Fondy with two catches for 61 yards while Ryan Collien and Hernandez had a combined 76 yards rushing on just three carries.
SPASH got 96 yards and two TDs from Rosenthal, who went 9-for-19 for 75 yards through the air. Gus Turner-Zick finished with 83 yards on 23 carries.
Stevens Point…10 0 15 0 — 25
Fond du Lac…0 14 8 7 — 29
SP— 33 yard FG by Joey Dorgan, 9:35.
SP— Beau Rosenthal 5 run (Dorgan kick), 2:48.
FDL— Reggie Hernadez 11 run (kick), 10:23.
FDL— Justin Maratik 4 run (kick), :25.
SP — 32 yard FG by Dorgan, 7:56.
SP— Rosenthal 7 run (2 pt fail), 2:41.
SP — Victor Kizewski 1 run (2 pt fail), 1:06.
FDL — Maratik 51 pass from Quinn Woelfel (2 pt good), :07.
FDL — Woelfel 3 run (Kuber 2 pt), 4:53.
First downs…9 11
Total yards…348 268
Passes (C-A-I)…3-13-4 9-19-1
Passing yards…73 75
Rushing: FDL— Quinn Woelfel 7-149-1; Reggie Hernandez 2-37-1; Justin Maratik 24-57-1; Ryan Collien 1-39. SPASH— Gus Turner-Zick 23-83; Beau Rosenthal 13-96-2; Victor Kizewski 3-11-1.
Passing: FDL— Woelfel 3-13-73-1. SPASH— Rosenthal 9-19-75.
Receiving: FDL— Maratik 2-61-1. SPASH— Grant Czaikowski 4-48.
Alex Wolf writes for Oshkosh Northwestern Media and can be contacted at (920) 426-6661