Updated to include full story with quotes and official stats
By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – The mosquitos were so thick on Friday night at Leiterman Field that they actually managed to insert themselves into the game.
That’s right, Zach Mears’ interception right before halftime was negated when the referee swallowed one of them and inadvertently blew his whistle, blowing the play dead prior to the pick.
Yes, the mosquitos turned out in Super Bowl-crowd numbers, but it was another swarm that did in Oconto Falls – a Denmark High School defense that stifled the Panthers every which way, snuffing out every counter and misdirection, chasing down every runner trying to go wide and denying the passing game even one completion.
The result: A 59-0 pasting that improved Denmark to 2-3 and dropped hapless Oconto Falls to 0-5.
Meanwhile, the Denmark offense, behind a dominant offensive line, rolled up more than 400 yards on the ground – 517 overall.
“We were just sticking to the game plan and I think we did a great job tonight,” said lineman Braydn Polomis, one of only two returning starters up front. “We’ve been struggling with communication but we’re getting better and we were focused. Those three new guys have done a great job stepping up.”
Denmark will have a good chance to even its record next week when it hosts Shawano (0-5) in non-conference action on Friday.
“We talked about being resilient,” said first-year head coach Tom Neuman, whose Vikings dropped a tough 27-20 decision to Fox Valley Lutheran a week earlier. “Coming off that loss we didn’t want to have any residual effects and wanted to get out here on our home field and do what we needed to do and get the ball rolling.”
The Viking defense surrendered 67 total yards and three first downs – none after halftime when the Panthers ran only 10 plays from scrimmage and managed just two total yards.
“I watched a lot of film on Oconto Falls,” Neuman said. “They’ve run the ball well against other teams. It’s a challenge as a defense going up against that Wing T, double wing stuff. I told my guys all week don’t fall for the smoke screens. Just do your job, watch your key and don’t look at anything else and that’s what they did. And our pass defense was fantastic, too.”
Two Hundred Yard Rushers
Behind a potent offensive line of Ryan Wochenske, Mason Karl, Griffin Skaletski, Jackson Koenig and Polomis, two Denmark backs went for more than 100 yards. Brandon Wavrunek, who came into the game the second-leading rusher in the North Eastern Conference, rumbled for 161 yards on 18 carries, while Gabe Wertel, bulled his way for 104 yards on 13 carries. Each scored a pair of touchdowns.
“I feel a lot more comfortable this year,” said Wavrunek, a senior. “Last year, I had – I don’t want to call them jitters – but it was just harder to see the field. Now that I’ve had some experience, it’s opened up and I can see the holes a lot better.”
So dominant were the Vikings that they were able to try to get the passing game untracked and they did so, with Jack Satori completing 7 of 11 for 95 yards — three of those going to tight end Casey Kropp, who hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass late in the first half.
The mercy rule went into effect when Ethan Schwartz scored on a two-yard run with 3:13 left in the third to make it 38-0.
If there was any shortcoming in an otherwise ideal performance it was that for the second week in a row, the Vikings gave up several long kickoff returns and also mishandled several extra points, with one of those being blocked. They also had a field goal attempt blocked in the first period.
But none of that mattered on Friday.
It took the Vikings two minutes into the second period before they scored. But once they started, they never stopped. Oconto Falls only opportunity came on its opening drive when it picked up two of its three first downs and 35 of its 67 total yards. It ended in a missed field goal, but Denmark faltered after marching from its own 20 to the Panther 8. Hailey Aschenbrenner’s 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Reaching Pay Dirt
But three plays later Wavrunek picked off a deflected pass at the Oconto Falls 30. Six plays later, Wertel broke a tackle at the 10 and rambled in for a 12-yard touchdown a minute-and-a-half into the second quarter, the first of three Denmark scores over a five-minute span. Wavrunek took a pitch and outraced everyone down the right sidelines for a 46-yard touchdown with 8:26 left in the half. Three minutes later, Satori faked to Wavrunek on a quarterback option and cut up the seam untouched for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 19-0 at the 5:27 mark.
“That line is great,” Wavrunek said. “Any back can run behind them. Gabe, Seth (Alexander), Ethan, Max Krueger. They just make it so easy for everyone to run.”
The Vikings added one more score before intermission. Satori found Kropp for 28 yards on third and two plays later found him again on a slant in the right seam for a 25-yard touchdown and a 25-0 halftime lead. Kropp caught three passes for 64 yards.
“I’ve been waiting for Casey to have that breakout game,” Neuman said. “He’s one of the kids that worked out every day this summer, went to the 7 on 7s. He’s been looking for a home and I told him he needed to own the tight end position and he has. And his blocking has been fantastic, too.”
No halftime pep talk was going to rouse the Panthers on Friday, who promptly gave up an 8-play, 59-yard drive to open the half and Denmark’s lead grew to 31-0 on Wavrunek’s 8-yard burst off right tackle. Nine plays were required to cover the 61 yards on the Vikings’ next series, which ended with Schwartz’s touchdown. After sophomore Maxwell Krueger took a toss around the left side for a 25-yard score early in the fourth, Joseph Van Noie pounced on an Oconto Falls fumble to set up Wertel’s 16-yard touchdown and a 52-0 lead.
One last indignity awaited the Panthers – another fumble, this one recovered by Luke Abrahamson. Raye Kugle put the capper on the evening with a 30-yard touchdown run to set the final margin.
T.J. Weidman came up huge again with 6 tackles – 3 for loss – and 7 assists. Jerick Czarneski added four tackles and five assists and Mears two tackles (1 for loss) and 6 assists.
“We’re right there,” said Wavrunek. “We’re pretty confident and happy with where we are and taking it week by week. I’m really having a great time my senior year and wouldn’t want to be with any other bunch of guys.”