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Keepers scores five times as Pirates blow out the Bears

Keepers scores five times as Pirates blow out the Bears Keepers scores five times as Pirates blow out the Bears


An impressive football season for Gilman’s Bryson Keepers went to a whole new level on Thursday night.

The junior, who primarily plays tight end and outside linebacker and has been an impactful player at both positions, turned all three of his pass receptions into touchdowns and returned two interceptions for the touchdowns in Gilman’s 66-0 win at Clayton that kept the Pirates undefeated for the fall at 6-0.

The Pirates were able to take advantage of the Bears’ defensive scheme, which featured a five-man front that tried to take away Gilman’s running game. Quarterback Julian Krizan was five for seven for season-highs of 119 yards and four touchdowns. Plus, the Pirates still were able to run for 173 yards on just 23 attempts (7.5 yards per carry).

The two pick-sixes as well as a 57-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Grady Kroeplin to start the second half helped the score get out of hand quickly in the middle of the game.

Defensively, Gilman put up its fourth shutout in six games. The key there was putting the clamps on Clayton’s Gunnar Lewis, who came into the game with 751 yards in five games.

“We did a good job on him with six carries for 17 yards,” Gilman head coach Robin Rosemeyer said. “He did catch three passes for 16 yards. Obviously defensively we did a good job controlling him. We ran the ball well enough against that five-man line and had some success. With the special teams touchdown and the two interceptions obviously we didn’t have a lot of plays again.”

As they’ve done all season, the Pirates jumped ahead quickly. The defense forced an immediate punt and established field position. Four plays into Gilman’s ensuing drive, Krizan found Keepers wide open in the end zone on a play-action pass for a 19-yard touchdown. Krizan ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead just 2:48 in.

Just over three minutes later, Keepers struck from the defensive side, picking off a Colton Zacharias pass and returning it 45 yards for the score. Krizan hit Branden Ustianowski with the two-point pass. The defense got another stop, forced a punt and Gilman punched it in again, this time on an 11-yard pass from Krizan to Keepers. Krizan ran in the two-point conversion for a 24-0 lead with 1:03 still left in the opening quarter.

Clayton’s one good scoring chance of the first half then stalled on downs at Gilman’s 20. The Pirates moved the ball to midfield where the Krizan to Keepers connection clicked again. Their 50-yard touchdown pass play and the two-point pass to Brayden Boie extended the lead to 32-0 with 8:20 left in the half. The three Krizan-to-Keepers touchdowns accounted for 80 of Gilman’s 119 passing yards.

“They started out in five-man line that kinda forced our hand to throw the ball a little bit,” Rosemeyer said. “In eightman football, if you have five on the line you’re going to be a little bit weak in the secondary and we were able to take advantage of that.” Krizan threw his fourth touchdown pass, a 19-yard scoring strike to Boie with 3:32 left in the half. With 42 seconds left, Keepers got his second pick-six, taking it 57 yards to the house. Boie kicked the extra point after those touchdowns for a 46-0 halftime lead.

“It was a formation where they were a little bit predictable,” Rosemeyer said of the defensive scores. “They put one guy out and they run an out with him. (Keepers) was the outside linebacker and he was just able to undercut it. We kinda knew it was coming, but he made a good read on it and was able to step underneath it. He was able to make a play while being where he was supposed to be. They were identical touchdowns basically.”

The kick return unit made a play to start the second half while springing Kroeplin for another quick score.

“The way they do their kickoffs, we did have a special return set up,” Rosemeyer said. “They kick it to a side and then all eight guys just kind of flood the side. We tried to make a wall to go around them. We got around seven and Troy Duellman got a good kickout block on the eighth guy on the outside. Grady had to cut inside one guy and outraced everybody to the end zone. We executed that new kick return pretty well. We were actually expecting it to go to Kade Kroeplin, but their kid didn’t kick it far enough.”

From there, younger players took over where possible. Freshman Troy Duellman got his third touchdown of the season, scoring from a yard out on Gilman’s first true possession of the half and Grady Kroeplin scored from 17 yards out with 9:40 left in the game.

Gilman had a 292-81 advantage in total yardage. The 173 rushing yards were evenly distributed, led by Grady Kroeplin’s 53 yards on two carries, Kade Kroeplin’s 39 yards on six carries and Krizan’s 37 yards on four attempts.

Nolan Kvidera led the Bears with 33 yards on 10 attempts.

Gilman’s end-of-season schedule has changed. The much-anticipated trip to Newman Catholic Friday was scrapped after Newman announced Sunday it was forced to cancel the remainder of its season. The Pirates picked up a replacement game for tonight, Thursday, in Chippewa Falls against McDonell Central, a team it beat 44-8 on Oct. 16. The Macks come in at 4-2 after losing 48-6 last Thursday to another former CloverWood and Small Cloverbelt rival, Greenwood.

Rosemeyer said Gilman’s tentative plan for next week is to play Belmont, the state’s second-ranked eight-man team, Friday at the Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston. Belmont is playing fourthranked Luck there this Friday. Gilman remained third in this week’s state rankings.