After a difficult close to last season, the Wisconsin Dells football team kicked off its 2019 campaign in style last Friday night.
The Chiefs shined in all three phases, racking up nearly 400 yards of offense while adding touchdowns on defense and special teams for a convincing 42-6 win over Richland Center in a non-conference season opener at Richland Center High School.
“It feels great,” Wisconsin Dells second-year coach Scott Flood said. “It was a real complete game for us.”
Wisconsin Dells (1-0) came out of the gates firing, scoring the games’ first 21 points, including a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Barrett Witt. The 6-foot-2, 165-pounde junior threw for 199 yards on 16-of-30 passing with three scores, including a 16-yard pass to senior Jack Steinhaus on a fade for the opening score and an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
After dropping in a dime to Steinhaus, Witt connected with senior Brett Hirst. Witt found Hirst on a short out route on the left sideline, Hirst cut all the way back across the field for a 24-yard score and 13-0 lead.
Despite it being Witt’s first start, Flood was impressed by the junior signal caller’s leadership and understanding of the Chiefs’ offensive scheme, as well as incorporating all of the Dells’ weapons.
“We simplified everything down from last year to making everything a lot simpler, and his grasping of RPO concepts, the run game long with the passing game, and being able to find the balance with the receivers,” Flood said. “With (Jacob) Hunkins at running back, I think all five of those are weapons we can use.”
The Chiefs’ defense got in the act by forcing a Hornets safety on a blocked punt out of the end zone by senior Gavin Kingsley before Hirst found the end zone again, taking the ensuing free kick 66 yards to the house for a 21-0 advantage.
Richland Center (0-1) answered with a 79-yard touchdown run by Jaren Hill to cut the lead to 21-6 at halftime, but it was all Chiefs after the break. Hirst, who had 161 total yards, got into the end zone for a third time with a 3-yard touchdown run before Patrick Hoving added a 37-yard interception return to go up 33-6.
According to Flood, the score was Hoving’s first career touchdown, an accomplishment shared by Steinhaus in his first varsity game.
“Seeing guys like that understanding the process and the program, it’s a great feeling for everybody,” Flood said.
The Chiefs tallied another safety in the third quarter before Witt connected with Ben Koenig for a 4-yard strike to finish off the scoring. Hirst hauled in a game-high six catches for 93 yards, while Gavin Kingsley added six receptions for 71 yards.
On the ground, Hunkins led the way as the junior racked up 114 yards on 11 carries, while the Chiefs defense had five turnovers, including four interceptions as they kept the Hornets without a yard through the air.
As impressed as he was with complete performance, Flood said the Chiefs can improve on third down after converting on 3 of 10 third down opportunities, as well as their completion percentage. Cleaning those things up should help Wisconsin Dells when it hosts Lodi in its home opener on Thursday. While there are areas for improvement, Flood said the Chiefs’ progress starts with their approach.
“We’ve been talking about it for the last three weeks now, its mindset and it’s doing the right thing over and over with basic fundamentals,” he said. “Along with that, it’s getting the right mindset and understanding that the game is also played between our ears.”
WISCONSIN DELLS 42, RICHLAND CENTER 6
Wisconsin Dells 7 14 14 7 — 42
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Richland Center 0 6 0 0 — 6
WD — Jack Steinhaus 16 pass from Barrett Witt (James Sampson kick)
WD — Brett Hirst 24 pass from Barrett Witt (Kick failed)
WD — Safety
WD — Brett Hirst 66 kickoff return (kick failed)
RC — Jaren Hill 79 run (kick failed)
WD — Brett Hirst 3 run (Pass failed)
WD — Patrick Hoving 37 interception return (Kick failed)
WD — Safety
WD — Ben Koenig 4 pass from Barrett Witt (James Sampson kick)
First downs — WD 15, RC 7. Rushes-yards — WD 26-198, RC 34-171. Passing (Comp-Att-Int) — WD 16-31-1, RC 0-9-4. Passing yards — WD 199, RC 0. Fumbles-lost — WD 0-0, RC 1-1. Penalties-yards — WD 7-34, RC 4-14.
RUSHING: WD, Hunkins 11-114. RC, NA.
PASSING: WD, Witt 16-30-1-199. RC, NA.
RECEIVING: WD, Hirst 6-93. RC, none.