The good news for the Two Rivers football team is that the Raiders picked up its first win of the season over New Holstein — in dramatic fashion, no less — and are off to a 1-0 start in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference.
The bad news for the Raiders … last week is over.
“I told the kids, it’s one week at a time and you have to go and prove yourself each week in this conference,” Two Rivers head coach Kevin Shillcox said. “It’s going to be that kind of conference where if you’re caught sleeping, someone is going to take advantage of it.”
Two Rivers was outscored 61-26 in nonconference games against Antigo and West Bend to start the season, but got its offense cranked up in the win over the Huskies.
Junior Dawson Kiphart was inserted at quarterback and threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, including scoring strikes to Devin Palmquist and Darrin President in the fourth quarter to rally the Raiders from a 41-28 deficit.
It wasn’t Kiphart’s first varsity start — he started two games for the Raiders last year after Trevor Smith was injured — but Shillcox said that Kiphart wasn’t really ready for the role at that time. It’s a different story this season.
“He’s improved a lot from last year. He’s been ready and he did a good job,” Shillcox said. “The big thing with Dawson, his strength, is that he sees the field real well. He really is a pocket passer and reminds me of (former Two Rivers quarterback) Brett Kasper.”
The victory over the Huskies should give the Raiders at least some momentum heading into their Week 4 matchup at Valders.
Shillcox said it was a much-needed win and hopes his squad can add to it this week.
“After starting 0-2, we needed to get a win early. It was a pretty satisfying win and an exciting high school football game,” Shillcox said. “We know where we need work. We know we haven’t hit our full potential yet, obviously nobody has, but we as a team feel good about what we are and I think it’s very possible we could come out 2-0.”
A quartet of area quarterbacks have gotten off to strong starts throwing the ball this season and are ahead of last year’s numbers — whether their own stats or the team’s quarterback last year.
Brett Bahrs of Roncalli and Kiphart of Two Rivers each have six touchdown passes each so far this season, while Kyle Tuma of Valders and Morgan Meissner of Mishicot have five apiece.
Meissner has made the biggest jump of the group after taking over for Kyle Curry this season. Meissner has thrown for 469 yards and the five TDs through three games, while over the first three games last year, the Indians had totaled 178 yards and three scores.
However, Mishicot was 3-0 through three games last year and are winless so far in 2015.
Kiphart has thrown for 524 yards and six touchdowns in just about a game and a half, where he had posted 291 yards and two scores playing in two games and parts of a third in 2014.
Tuma’s number are only slightly higher than Trenton Sundsmo’s from last year (441 yards and five TDs for Tuma compared to 377 yards and five scores for Sundsmo) but the Vikings are 2-1 compared to 1-2.
Bahrs is actually down in yardage from last year to this point (399 this year compared to 478) but his touchdowns are up.
Even Kiel’s Nicholas Walsh (380 yards, 3 TDs) has improved on the Raiders passing numbers through the first three games from last year (184 yards, 2 TDs).
Five of a kind
Two Rivers collected a one-point win over New Holstein last week, but it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise — the Raiders have fared very well in games decided by seven points or less since 2008.
But Two Rivers isn’t the only area team to succeed in close games. Since 2008, all eight area teams are .500 or better in such games. Here are the schools with the five best records in those games.
•1. Mishicot (8-3, .727 winning percentage): The Indians have played in the fewest games decided by seven points or less, but have been very successful.
•2. Two Rivers (10-4, .714): The Raiders have won at least one such game in seven of the last eight seasons.
•3. Manitowoc Lutheran (9-5, .642): The Lancers won five straight such games from 2011-13.
•4. Kiel (11-7, .611): The Raiders have played the most such games among area teams and went 3-0 in 2010.
•5. Valders (9-6, .600): The Vikings were 7-1 in such games from 2009-11, but have won just one such game in the past three seasons.
Each week I will rank what I feel are the top 5 teams in the area. These rankings are not based on head-to-head competition (No. 1 team would beat No. 2 team), rather it will be gauging how they would stack up against teams in their own division. With that said, here are the Week 4 rankings.
•1. Kiel (3-0): The Raiders got a big win at home over Valders last week and remain unbeaten. Kiel can’t look past rival New Holstein this week, though, as the 1-2 Huskies have put up 87 points in three games.
•2. Roncalli (2-1): The Jets won their first EWC game in about a decade last Friday and have a good chance to go to 2-0 in the league against Brillion on Friday.
•3. Valders (2-1): A close loss on the road against a good team isn’t going to derail a season, however, the Vikings must bounce back against Two Rivers this week.
•4. Two Rivers (1-2): If Dawson Kiphart and the Raider offense can continue to put up numbers like they did against New Holstein last week, Two Rivers will definitely be trending up.
•5. Manitowoc Lincoln (1-2): The Ships have had a tough early-season schedule and it doesn’t get any easier this week on the road at Bay Port.
Steve Clark: email@example.com or follow on Twitter at @skcreno27