#5 Newell-Fonda bests #6 Harris-Lake Park, clinches a playoff spot yet again
NEWELL - The yearly tradition continues for the Newell-Fonda Mustangs as they were able to knock off Harris-Lake Park on Friday night, 20-7, to earn a spot in the 8-Man football playoffs in three weeks. This marks the eighth straight season Newell-Fonda has qualified for the playoffs.
“Well I’m not going to say it wasn’t wet,” NF Coach Brian Wilken said of the weather conditions. “But we’ve played in worse.”
Newell-Fonda took the opening kick off to start the game and began to work their way methodically down the field. Steady runs from senior Jesse Haack helped to fuel the Mustang ground game until he found the end zone from half a yard out. The PAT snap was botched as holder Bryce Coppock took it in, but a penalty brought the play back. Junior R.J. Rojas hit the long 30 yard point after to give Newell-Fonda an early 7-0 lead.
The first Harris-Lake Park drive began with the news that their starting quarterback, Bryce Perkins, being suspended due to being ejected from the previous HLP contest. The Wolves picked up a first down behind the legs of senior running back Trevor Gunderson. However, the drive went south for HLP, culminating with a sack by Jake Davis of HLP quarterback Brady Sohn to force a punt.
The Mustangs went back to their punishing run game, grinding the Wolves down the field in nine plays, Haack capping off his second drive of the night, scoring from two yards out. The Rojas PAT was good as the Mustangs took a 14-0 late in the first quarter. HLP struggled on the ensuing drive, getting stonewalled by the NF stop unit. Rojas picked off a pass from Sohn and had what the home Newell-Fonda crowd thought was a pick-six, but a flag brought the score back as NF retained possession off the turnover.
A pair of penalties, a recurring theme for Newell-Fonda through the night, harmed their third possession of the night. Senior Nate Pedersen had a chance to set up NF with a first and goal, but was unable to coral a Coppock pass, forcing the Mustangs to punt early in the second quarter. The Wolves failed to get off the ground once again, going three and out to give the ball back.
Newell-Fonda started with good field position, at the HLP 38, and moved it down to the 8, but Coppock was stopped for a five yard loss as NF looked to settle for the field goal. The 30 yard attempt by Rojas went a bit too far right, keeping the score at 14-0.
Harris-Lake Park once again struggled to get the ball going down the field after a first down. However, the punt was muffed by Gerdes at his own 12 yard line and was recovered by HLP. The Mustang defense stood tall once more, Coppock picking Sohn off with five seconds or so left in the half.
The Wolves went three and out to start the third quarter, allowing Newell-Fonda to go back to work. Haack picked up an early first down which was followed by a big reverse to Pedersen to the Wolves 33 yard line. The run game kept picking up yards with Coppock extending the lead from eight yards out. The PAT was missed, making it a 20-0 contest.
Newell-Fonda nearly allowed HLP to return the ensuing kick off as Rojas made a saving tackle at the 39 yard line. A pass interference call against the Mustangs aided the Wolves get deep into Newell-Fonda territory. Facing a third and long, Gunderson took the snap, rolled to his right and found Dalton Nicks for the first HLP score of the night as the PAT was good, 20-7.
Gerdes kick-started the Mustangs late in the third frame, picking up 25 yards down to midfield. Newell-Fonda kept punishing the Wolves with their ground game, converting a fourth down at the HLP 20, but Haack fumbled at the 14 on the next play, giving the ball back to HLP.
Gunderson and the Wolves began to feel the momentum, picking up a third down conversion on their way to midfield. Another third down yielded a big play as Trevor Gunderson found Lucas Gunderson on a screen as the younger Gunderson got down to the NF 24 yard line. The Mustang defense stepped up on the third third down of the drive, bringing down the quarterback setting up a key fourth down with around five minutes left in the game. The pass fell incomplete, giving Newell-Fonda the ball back.
Newell-Fonda began to use the bruising Haack to pick up tough yards and milk the clock, aiming to seal their sixth win of the year. A late hit after a Gerdes run put Newell-Fonda deep in HLP territory, setting up at the 10 yard line. Newell-Fonda went backwards to the 15 on the next two plays, setting up another big third down. Pedersen slipped on the wet field, setting up a Rojas field goal that went wide right with 2:09 left.
The Wolves failed to get their offense going for the final time on the night, giving the ball back to Newell-Fonda, sealing the Mustang win.
Newell-Fonda picked up 254 yards on the soggy field, all of them on the ground. Haack gained 102 yards on 25 totes as Gerdes added 82 on nine carries.
“Everything starts up front,” Coach Wilken said of the run game. “There is no secret to our success. Everything our running backs get is due to our line, ends and fullbacks.”
The Mustang defense shut the Wolves down, holding them to -6 rushing and just allowed 66 through the air.
“Give credit to our kids. We did a good job of controlling Gunderson,” Wilken said. “A year ago we didn’t get off the blocks and we did this year and we were able to tackle well.”
Newell-Fonda was flagged nine times through the game for 85 yards. Coach Wilken was concerned about the penalties after the contest.
“That’s something that can haunt us. I think we’ve had five or more penalties every game this season,” he said. “We’re not an offense that can play behind the sticks.”
Newell-Fonda improves to 6-1, 5-1 on the year. Their next opponent is West Bend-Mallard who had a bye this past week. The Wolverines are 3-3, 1-3 on the year and lost to Harris-Lake Park Sept. 29, 36-26.