Another big win puts Gilman on verge of title
GILMAN 44, McDONELL 8
Get early defensive stops, score quickly and take the fight out of their opponents. That’s been the story for Gilman’s football team so far in 2020 and it was no different Friday in its Central Wisconsin West battle of unbeatens with McDonell Central.
The Pirates forced McDonell to punt on the Macks’ first five possessions and scored on four of their five first-half possessions that mattered to build an insurmountable 32-0 halftime lead and cruise to another lopsided win, 44-8, that clinched at least a share of the six-team conference’s inaugural championship.
Gilman aims to clinch the outright title when it hosts 2-2 New Auburn this Friday at 7 p.m. to close out the conference schedule.
While the Pirates did give up their first points of the season and 242 total yards –– by far an opponent’s highest yardage total in four games –– they did what they had to against what had been an explosive offense. They kept star quarterback Tanner Opsal contained and did not allow any big plays when the game was still in doubt in the first half.
Opsal finished with 77 rushing yards, but it took him 27 carries to do (2.9 yards per carry) and he completed 16 of 32 passes for Pirates crush the Macks
“We went to a little different defense, kind of a 2-4-2 look,” Gilman head coach Robin Rosemeyer said. “We put a lot of pressure on Zack Marion and Braeden Person to really control their running game inside. We forced McDonell to double team them and put them in some gaps. That left Julian and Bryson Keepers in the linebacker spots to help clean things up so to speak. They did a nice job there. It wasn’t perfect by any means but we were able to control their running game enough. Getting that lead forced them to start passing the ball basically that whole second half. But I don’t think it was something they were prepared for.”
McDonell got the ball first and punted after gaining one first down. It then took the Pirates just three plays to strike first.
On third and seven from Gilman’s 23, quarterback Julian Krizan rolled right, quickly got through a nice hole and was off to the races on a 77-yard touchdown run. His two-point pass to Branden Ustianowski put the Pirates ahead 8-0 just 4:12 into the game and, again, set a quick tone for the state’s fourth-ranked eightman team.
“They blitzed on the play side which kinda helped us,” Rosemeyer said of the touchdown. Julian beat the blitz to the edge and he was able to outrun some people. For the most part, it was well executed. They helped us blitzing to a gap where they couldn’t get us and it left them more vulnerable on that outside spot.”
The Macks collected two first downs on their next drive before a holding penalty ruined the drive. Following a short punt, the Pirates needed only six plays to drive 79 yards and take a commanding 16-0 lead. A 33-yard run by Brayden Boie and a 19-yard run by Bryson Keepers set up Kade Kroeplin’s 9-yard scoring burst up the middle with 1:04 left in the quarter. Boie ran in the two-point conversion. The Pirates stymied Opsal on three straight runs and, with a 15-yard personal foul on the Macks tacked on to Kroeplin’s punt return, they got a short field to start their next drive. It took just three plays to drive 35 yards with Krizan breaking free for another big run, this one from 26 yards out. His two-point pass to Boie boosted the lead to 24-0 just 1:09 into the second quarter.
The Macks finally stopped Gilman on fourth and short deep in McDonell territory, but Kroeplin’s big punt return set up another short drive that ended in Krizan bulling his way through traffi c for a 5-yard touchdown run with 3:14 left in the first half. Krizan passed to Ustianowski to make Gilman four for four on two-point conversions in the half.
The offense continued to roll in the third quarter. A nice kickoff return by Keepers set up a 47-yard drive that included a 15-yard run by Krizan and a 22yard run by Boie that put the ball at the one. Boie scored from there to push the lead to 38-0.
McDonell finally got on the board with a 60-yard drive that started with a 29-yard pass from Opsal to Dale Tetrault. Tetrault ended the drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception.
But Gilman needed just 50 seconds to answer and put the running clock into effect for good. A 25-yard run by Kade Kroeplin started the three-play, 57-yard drive. A 30-yard pass from Krizan to a wide-open Keepers ended it with 5:21 left in the third.
“That was just a product of being able to run the ball so effectively,” Rosemeyer said. “We got the safety looking in the wrong spot and it was wide open on a play-action fake.”
Gilman finished with 333 rushing yards and 390 total yards. Krizan led the rushing attack with 134 yards on just eight carries. Kroeplin had 93 yards in only seven carries and Boie hit 70 yards on nine attempts. As a team, the Pirates averaged 11.1 yards per rushing attempt.
“They kinda gave us B-gap the whole night and we were able to take advantage of it,” Rosemeyer said. “The guard-tight end gap is what they gave us in their 40 look and we were able to exploit that. Our guards did a great job of down blocking on their defensive tackles and our tight ends did a great job of getting to their linebackers to open up nice running lanes for whoever was carrying the ball between Brayden, Kade or Bryson.”
Unfortunately, Krizan suffered a hand injury in the win. As of Tuesday, it remained to be seen what his availability would be in the next few weeks.
This week, Gilman faces New Auburn for the second time this season. The teams scrimmaged each other on Sept. 18. Rosemeyer said the key characteristics of that team are size and a sense of physicality.
“They’re going to come right at us,” he said. “They have some big boys. They’re going to have one of the better offensive and defensive linemen in the conference (Wyatt Gotham). We’ll need to get him blocked when we’re on offense.”
Gilman has added two road games to its schedule following this game. On Oct. 30, the Pirates will head to Clayton for a 6 p.m. contest. Then, on Nov. 6, they’ll be at Newman Catholic for a 3 p.m. showdown featuring the currently fourth- and second-ranked teams in the state. Luck is ranked first and Belmont is ranked third this week.