Defensive front dominates in another lopsided Gilman win
Constantly in the backfield and disrupting anything Alma Center Lincoln quarterback Jack Anderson wanted to do, the Gilman Pirates kept their shutout streak intact at three with an easy 48-0 blowout win over the Hornets Friday.
Several sacks and tackles for losses led to the Hornets finishing with minus- 19 yards rushing. Lincoln had one first down in the first quarter and a half –– and that was by penalty –– while Gilman built a 34-0 lead while scoring on its first five possessions.
Anderson, the state’s eight-man leader in passing yards in 2019, finished with 82 passing yards Friday and completed nine of 19 attempts, while missing his top target, Blake Hanson, who did not play. The Hornets touched Gilman’s side of the field only twice and never came close to scoring. Junior end Bryson Keepers was involved in five quarterback sacks and the team overall had at least seven.
Through three games, Gilman has outscored its opponents 146-0, though things figure to get much tougher this week when the Pirates host McDonell Central and this year’s state leader among eightman quarterbacks, Tanner Opsal.
“The three-man rush just did a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback,” Gilman head coach Robin Rosemeyer said. “Zack Marion, Braeden Person, Bryson Keepers all did good jobs. Brayden Boie didn’t start on defense but he got good pressure. All four of those guys did a good job at D-end and at the inside spots. The two freshmen Nate Bertsinger and Dalton Wisocky got a sack at the end too. They all did a good job of getting pressure.”
While Gilman’s defensive linemen and linebackers couldn’t be blocked, the holes were often big and wide on the other side of the ball. Kade Kroeplin gashed the Hornets’ defense for 47 yards on the game’s first play and quarterback Julian Krizan rolled to his left and went untouched for a 5-yard touchdown on the third play to give the Pirates a 6-0 lead just 60 seconds into the contest.
Gilman’s second drive lasted two plays with Grady Kroeplin getting through a hole on the left side of the line for a 37yard touchdown. Krizan’s two-point pass to Bryson Keepers made it 14-0.
Gilman’s third possession covered 51 yards on four plays. The touchdown came on a perfect pass from Krizan to a wide-open Branden Ustianowski on a 21yard score. Keepers caught another twopoint pass for a 22-0 lead with 2:56 still left in the first quarter.
“We prepared for a three-man line with a lot of blitzing all week, then they showed up in four d-line look and didn’t blitz anybody,” Rosemeyer said. “So we made some slight adjustments. We didn’t block the trap as well as we would’ve liked. But saying that, Grady Kroeplin got 102 yards and mostly all on traps. We just have to be a little more assignment sure on our trap blocking. Just our angles on our trap blocks need to be better.
“When we wanted to throw the ball we had guys open, which is good,” he added. “I thought our play action was pretty good. Play action is probably going to be a little more necessary this week.”
Keepers and Braeden Person combined on a sack that ended the Hornets’ next possession. A short punt gave Gilman the ball just 35 yards away from the goal line and it took just five plays to get there. Grady Kroeplin covered the last 6 yards for the touchdown, pushing the lead to 28-0 just 22 seconds into the second quarter.
The Pirates stuffed Anderson for no gain on fourth and one and took over on Lincoln’s 44 for their fifth possession of the game. Runs of 19 and 11 yards by Kade Kroeplin set up the senior’s 3-yard score with 7:53 left that made it 34-0.
On its first drive of the third quarter, Gilman overcame a holding penalty that wiped out a Keepers touchdown run and finished off a 43-yard, nine-play drive with Krizan’s 6-yard touchdown run.
A fumble ended a Gilman drive deep into Hornets’ territory early in the fourth quarter, but they eventually forced another punt. Isaac Wininger’s 28-yard return set the Pirates up on the 14-yard line and runs of 10 and 4 by freshman Troy Duellman put the ball in the end zone one last time with 2:12 remaining.
The Pirates finished with 318 rushing yards, their lowest total in three games but also a reflection of their game-long advantage in field position. Kade Kroeplin had a team-high 139 of those yards on 14 carries, while Grady Kroeplin added 102 yards on nine carries and his two scores. Krizan and Duellman both ran for 32 yards.
The touchdown pass from Krizan to Ustianowski was the team’s lone completion in just two official pass attempts. Krizan, though, was two for two on twopoint conversion passes as well.
In its first game against a pass-first team, the Pirates limited the Hornets to 63 total yards.
“We switched to a little bit more of a Cover-2 press and did some things on the outside just to disrupt some of their routes a little bit,” Rosemeyer said. “I thought we did a good job of executing that for the first time this year. It’s something we know we can do if needed against a passing team like that. With having their best receiver gone, it definitely limited their offense.”
Limiting the opponent’s offense will be key this week when the Pirates face McDonell Central Friday at 7 p.m. in what looks to be the game that decides the Central Wisconsin West Conference’s championship.