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Game gets away in a bigplay, second-quarter flurry

Game gets away in a bigplay,  second-quarter flurry Game gets away in a bigplay,  second-quarter flurry


What had been a competitive game through a quarter and a half Friday unraveled quickly for the Rib Lake-Prentice Hawks, who in a span of just over six minutes went from being down 8-0 to trailing 36-0 at halftime in what wound up being a 48-0 season-ending loss at Athens.

The Blue Jays scored two offensive touchdowns, one defensive touchdown and one on special teams in the big second- quarter flurry that sent them to a 4-2 record for this shortened 2020 season. The Hawks finished with an on-field record of 1-4.

“It was just a couple of small things and it all added up right there in the second quarter,” Rib Lake-Prentice co-head coach Jonah Campbell said.

Offensively, Campbell said the Hawks ran into some of the problems they saw more of in 2019 with drive-killing mistakes like penalties and bobbles that took them out of favorable downs and distances. The Hawks managed just 105 yards of total offense. A few drives, especially in the first half got off to some promising starts, but they weren’t sustained.

“We ran the ball well,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to tell based on situations where you’d have second and two but then you’d have some sort of penalty and now you’re second and 12. You’d have one play and then you’d be stuck in a third-and-long situation. We had things like that happening. We had decent plays where we just couldn’t get a second good play. Once, we had a play call that we thought was going to work based on catching the defense off-guard and we fumbled the snap.”

The Blue Jays took advantage behind their experienced three-headed monster consisting of running backs Dayne Diethelm and Jake Denzine and quarterback Cooper Diedrich. Though none of them had eye-popping numbers, they combined to drive an offensive attack that piled up 331 total yards, including 254 on the ground on just 31 attempts.

“It was pick your poison with the three,” Campbell said. “You had to try to stop all three. At certain points they would one, wear you out, and two, kind of break a play, which was what we’d seen on film from all three of them. They’re a pretty athletic group and played well.”

Rib Lake-Prentice’s defense stopped Athens’ first drive just after the Jays got across midfield. Then the Blue Jays stopped the Hawks’ next possession after Rib Lake-Prentice got two first downs and forced a short punt that set Athens up on its own 44. Athens needed seven plays to cover 56 yards and score on Denzine’s 2-yard touchdown run. Diedrich ran in the two-point try for an 8-0 lead with 22 seconds left in the opening quarter.

The next possession for Athens covered 57 yards in six plays and ended with a 4-yard scoring run by Diethelm and two-point conversion by Diedrich with 6:41 left in the half.

Two plays into Rib Lake-Prentice’s next drive disaster struck when a throw from quarterback Michael Borchardt on what was intended to be a bubble screen behind the line of scrimmage floated a little too far downfield. Diedrich picked it off and ran it back 39 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-0.

When the Hawks’ next drive stalled, Damien Peterson’s punt was returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Diedrich and, just like that, it was 30-0 with 3:13 still left in the half.

Athens got one more possession starting with 41 seconds left in the half. A 23-yard run by Diedrich and a 24-yard touchdown pass to Diethelm padded the lead with three seconds left.

“Giving them the ball back at the end of the quarter when they already had two big momentum plays, they were able to just build on that to end the half,” Campbell said. “In the first quarter, they were able to drive on us, but we got a stop. They had a stop. We were able to get a couple of first downs. It looked like it was going to be a close game as long as we could get some things going offensively. Obviously, then that second quarter happened. There’s not much you can do in those types of situations where there’s an interception return, followed by a punt return. Those one-play type deals. Those are two instances where you skip even having a defense on the field.”

With running clock through the entire second half, the Blue Jays added short touchdown runs by Diedrich and Caleb Borchardt to close the scoring.

“In the second half, I know we didn’t score but the way our guys played spoke volumes about this year’s group,” Campbell said. “Even though the score was pretty lopsided, really we played well and never played like we were down as much as we were. There were things that were obviously unfortunate and some sloppy play, which you can’t be too happy about. But as far as the attitude and the effort, it was more than there in the second half, knowing that we were in a hole we probably couldn’t climb out of.”

Sam Gumz led the Hawks with 36 yards rushing on 14 attempts, while senior Ashton Keiser closed his career with 28 yards on six carries and he completed his lone pass for 13 yards. That fourthquarter completion went to fellow senior Carter Scheithauer on a tackle-eligible throwback, which brought smiles to the Hawks’ sideline, even though the play unfortunately ended with a lost fumble.

Diethelm had 59 yards rushing and 43 yards receiving for Athens. Diedrich ran for 53 and threw for 77 while completing three of seven passes.

The Hawks’ unusual season featured a WIAA-mandated delay to the start of practice, then a three-week delay to start games due to COVID-19 issues that sprung up the day of what was supposed to be the opener. But they did get a fivegame season in and made strides compared to their 0-9 season of 2019.

“For our situation, there was a brand new offense and a brand new defense being installed,” Campbell said. “There were bound to be mistakes, bound to be some confusion in games. It takes a while to understand the scheme and blocking it to the call. The calls are different. There are different numbers and all of that stuff. That was expected, but I think we went through the learning process fairly quick. We kinda had to this year. Defensively it wasn’t too much different as far as knowing a slant call or knowing a blitz call, but their positions on the field changed.

“As a whole it was a good learning experience,” he added. “To teach the stuff, we didn’t have the same amount of time. We learned on the fly, but as a group we were able to learn fairly well and take some steps, prepare some people. Obviously, like every year we had a couple of injuries that were key and made differences. With two starting linemen (Logan Sarkkinen and Grant Craavack) going down, it just makes it tough because now you have more guys on the field that are learning.”

The Hawks didn’t fully get a grasp on how they fit into the Lakeland Conference by only playing three of their seven games, but to be very competitive in those three games should carry some momentum into 2021. The Hawks will lose Keiser, Brock Thiede, Sarkkinen, Scheithauer and Bud Schreiner to graduation, but could also bring back their largest senior class in some time.

“It was exciting knowing that in a year where we didn’t have many seniors that whatever we could put together was still good enough to compete with the other teams in the conference,” Campbell said.

Sam Gumz tries to work off a Brock Thiede block during the first half of Rib Lake-Prentice’s loss at Athens Friday.DONALD WATSON/THE STAR NEWS