This year has been a year of uncertainty, sacrifice and, yes, weirdness.
The Waterford High School football team’s season opener fits the latter.
After falling behind 28-21 at halftime, the Wolverines rallied to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. They then held their collective breath as Elkhorn failed on a potential game-winning two-point conversion with just under two minutes left, allowing Waterford to escape with a 42-41 Southern Lakes Conference victory at Waterford.
It was one of those games where neither team took a clear advantage. The teams were within a touchdown of each other throughout the game.
What was different, however, was the defense, which had held the Elks to just 10 points combined over the previous five seasons. Waterford held SLC teams to fewer than 100 points combined four times during that same time frame.
“This was not one of our great performances on defense, to say the least,” Wolverines coach Adam Bakken said. “We had a number of players going both ways. Both teams were tired and both played hard.”
The teams essentially traded scores. Waterford scored first, but the Elks came right back and scored two touchdowns in a three-minute span for a 14-7 lead.
Trevor Hancock’s 57-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Logan Martinson tied the game at 21-21 late in the first half, and Elkhorn took the lead with 20 seconds left in the half.
The defense tightened up in the third quarter, allowing the Elks just three plays, and the Wolverines had two long drives in the period. Casey North ran for an 11-yard score midway through the third quarter and also had a 2-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. He also ran for a two-point conversion on the second score for a 35-28 Waterford lead.
Elkhorn answered a touchdown pass and tied it at 35-35, then North ran for his third touchdown of the night with 5:33 left to give the Wolverines the lead again.
With 1:55 left, the Elks scored and went for the win on the conversion with a roll-out pass, but the receiver caught the pass out of bounds and Waterford ran out the clock.
Following the graduation of standout running backs Tanner Keller and Dominic Miller, the Wolverines got contributions on offense from several players.
On the ground, Justin Mittelstaedt had 62 yards on seven carries, North had 57 yards on 10 carries and Parker Peterson had 50 yards on 10 carries. Through the air, Hancock had 65 yards and Ty Johnson had 53. Martinson went 10 of 19 for 153 yards and no interceptions.
“It’s a little different this year,” Bakken said. “We don’t have the two superstars, so we spread it around. Casey North played well on both sides of the ball and both of our ends (Hancock, Johnson) had a number of catches.”
The Wolverines allowed an uncharacteristic 203 yards rushing, with Jake Rockweiler leading the Elks with 165 yards on 18 carries.
RACINE LUTHERAN 53, CHRISTIAN LIFE 0: After several years of having featured running backs, the Crusaders have had to take to the air this season, and that is definitely a good thing for Camdin Jansen.
The junior quarterback had Aaron Rodgers-like numbers and Lutheran coach Scott Smith said he may have set a school record in the process in the Crusaders’ Midwest Classic Conference victory at the Topper Bowl in Burlington.
Jansen went 17 for 24 for 296 yards — 10 of those passes going to senior running back Nolan Kraus, who may have set a record of his own — and four touchdowns. Kraus had 173 yards and three of the touchdown receptions, along with a rushing touchdown.
“We have to adjust to what we have and we’re going to be a lot better throwing the ball,” Smith said. “Cam played well and Nolan played well. The offense opened it up.”
The Crusaders jumped all over the Eagles from the start, taking a 19-0 lead after the first quarter. Kraus had touchdown receptions of 6 and 24 yards from Jansen, sandwiched around a 14-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Folsom.
It was more of the same in the second quarter for Lutheran, with Kraus running for a 24-yard score, Noah Schoff scoring on a 1-yard run and Nate Zawicki catching a 34-yard TD pass from Jansen for a 40-0 lead at halftime.
Defensively, Smith was pleased with the play of the linebackers, who “flew to the ball well,” and the overall effort, which held Christian Life to 79 total yards.
“Our defense was effective and we tackled well,” Smith said.
The only negative Smith saw was being whistled for nine penalties for 85 yards.
ST. JOSEPH 35, CATHOLIC CENTRAL 6: The Hilltoppers couldn’t generate much offense in their season opener, a Midwest Classic Conference loss Friday at Paddock Lake.
St. Joseph struck first on a touchdown pass in the first quarter, then added a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead.
Quarterback Max Robson got Catholic Central on the scoreboard late in the first half with an 86-yard touchdown run and the Hilltoppers trailed 21-6 at halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Lancers tacked on a pair of running touchdowns in the fourth.
Turnovers were key for the Hilltoppers, who fumbled nine times and lost three.
“It’s our first game of the year and we got a lot to work on,” Catholic Central coach Tom Aldrich said. “We just have to take care of the ball on offense.”
Robson led the Hilltoppers in total yards with 78 rushing and 37 passing. Cal Miles led the team in receiving with 23 yards on three receptions.
St. Joseph quarterback Jacob Ashmus went 15 for 19 for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and Luke Schuler caught four passes for 73 yards and a score.
LAKESIDE LUTHERAN 34, ST. CATHERINE’S 6: The Angels lost to the Warriors in their long-awaited 2020 season debut in a nonconference game Friday at Lake Mills.
St. Catherine’s got down early as Lakeside Lutheran used a potent rushing attack to take a 20-0 lead at halftime. The Warriors added 14 points late in the third quarter before the Angels got on the board in the fourth quarter, on a 20-yard touchdown run from John Perugini.
“Defensively, we missed some key tackles that led to big plays,” St. Catherine’s coach Dan Miller said.