Momentum can swing in an instant in football, as one minute a close contest can turn into a runaway affair.
The Wisconsin Dells football team found itself on the short end of that scenario last Friday as the tide quickly turned on the Chiefs in a 40-0 loss to Richland Center in a WIAA Division 4 Level 1 regional match-up. Wisconsin Dells had just 162 total yards of offense and failed to counter the Hornets after a 21-point second quarter sent the Chiefs spiraling.
“Richland Center came out and got us pretty good right off the bat,” Wisconsin Dells coach Mike Janke said. “They played hard and physical all game; they came out and established their run game right away, and turnovers killed us obviously.”
The two teams traded punches throughout a scoreless first quarter before the Hornets (3-2) landed a trio of haymakers in the second quarter to send the Chiefs snowballing. Richland Center rode the legs of running back Bryce Hillers all night, and the 6-foot, 190-pound junior gave the Hornets a 7-0 lead just seconds into the second quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run.
The Hornets wasted little time adding to their lead as they blocked a punt on the ensuing Chiefs possession inside the Wisconsin Dells 10-yard-line. The loose ball rolled back into the end zone and Richland Center senior Gus Donovan pounced on the pigskin for a 14-0 lead.
“Whenever you can score on special teams, it’s huge for momentum and it obviously can shift the scoreboard just like that,” Janke said. “When they blocked that punt on our 10-yard line, that’s the kind of momentum swing that Richland Center needed.”
Hillers found the end zone again before the end of the quarter on a 10-yard scamper to send the Hornets into halftime with a three-score cushion. The two-touchdown second quarter was just an appetizer for Hillers as he continued to punish the Chiefs defense out of the intermission.
Hillers scored two more times in the third quarter on runs of 15 and 25 yards to stretch the lead to 34-0 as he piled up 200 yards and four scores on 23 carries. The Hornets ultimately put a running clock into effect with a 2-yard Donovan plunge in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a very good running back; he’s good in space, good between the tackles and he’s smart,” Janke said of Hillers. “He’s just a really good all-around running back, and I can’t give him enough compliments.”
As for the Chiefs offense, Wisconsin Dells (4-3) continued to hurt itself all night while struggling to pierce the Hornets defense. The Chiefs had a number of big plays, including runs of 20 and 15 yards, called back via penalties, while senior Barrett Witt and junior Will Michalsky each threw interceptions.
The normally potent Dells ground game was kept to just 86 yards on 22 carries, good for 3.9 yards per attempt, while the Hornets racked up 300 yards on 46 touches (6.5 yards per attempt).
“We had a couple of big offensive penalties. We did that to ourselves quite a bit Friday night; just those mental mistakes teams shouldn’t be making the playoffs,” Janke said. “We’d have an interception but then give the ball right back. We’d get a fumble recovery on that punt, but give it right back. We definitely need to focus on some consistency in the offseason and start putting drives together off of turnovers.”
Michalsky ran for a team-high 54 yards and threw for 35 more, while Witt completed 3-of-9 passes for 41 yards. Senior Silas Greendeer made a pair of catches for 33 yards.
While teams can still schedule games for the final week of the season after getting eliminated from the postseason, Janke said the Chiefs opted to end the 2020 campaign. It was a bittersweet end to a promising season for the Chiefs, who returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and had their first winning season in seven years.
Given the fact the team went through plenty of ups-and-downs, including an influx of players due to COVID-19 quarantine, Janke knows the 2020 campaign is a huge step moving forward. That, coupled with the debut of the school’s new turf field next year, should pay dividends next year after an already page turning season.
“The main thing is we improved all year. When you look at some of the mistakes we had back at Westfield in the beginning of the year, which feels like three years ago now,” Janke said. “We cleaned up a lot of those and really got better as a team, which is the main goal.
“We obviously all have to sit down and get our offseason goals; point out what we need to improve and how we’re going to do it, but overall it was a very, very good first year for the staff and kids, too.”
RICHLAND CENTER 40, WISCONSIN DELLS 0
RC: Bryce Hillers 7 run (Bryce Hillers kick).
RC: Gus Donovan blocked punt recovery in end zone (Bryce Hillers kick).
RC: Bryce Hillers 10 run (Bryce Hillers kick).
RC: Bryce Hillers 15 run (Kick failed).
RC: Bryce Hillers 25 run (Bryce Hillers kick).
RC: Gus Donovan 2 run (Kick failed).
Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — RC 46-300, WD 22-86. Passing yards — RC 60, WD 76. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — RC 5-14-1, WD 6-21-2.
Rushing — RC: Bryce Hillers 23-200. WD: Will Michalsky 5-54.
Passing — RC: Konner Ellenson 5-13-1-60. WD: Barrett Witt 3-9-1-41, Will Michalsky 3-10-1-35.
Receiving — RC: Sam Bosworth 3-37. WD: Silas Greendeer 2-33.
Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.
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