This story was updated on Monday to include full analysis, quotes and official statistics
By KELLY FENTON for The Denmark News
DENMARK – There might have been a small panic stirring among the folks charged with setting off the fireworks following Denmark Viking scores on Friday night.
As in, are we going to have enough?
The Vikings’ first two plays from scrimmage had them up 14-0 and there were still nearly seven minutes left in the first period. While it took them only three more minutes to extend that lead to 21-0, Denmark did eventually slow down – maybe to the relief of those fireworks operators and the consternation of the Vikings’ head coach – but still cruised to a 40-8 pounding of winless Shawano on Homecoming at Leiterman Field.
Brandon Wavrunek lit almost all those fuses, scoring five touchdowns and rushing 252 yards on 20 carries. The North Eastern Conference’s leading rusher has now scored nine touchdown and has gone over 800 yards this season.
“We had not had a game where we had come out and dominated in the first quarter,” said first-year Denmark head coach Tom Neuman. “I put it on my seniors to do that and I thought they were the real spark plug tonight. I can’t say enough what the senior leadership has meant to me.
“And Brandon each game surprises me. It really shouldn’t because he’s one of the hardest working kids in the weight room and the practice room and the classroom. He’s starting to turn some heads. I always say (linebacker) T.J. Weidman is one of the best-kept secrets in the North Eastern Conference. Brandon was, too, but I don’t think he’s going to be a secret anymore.”
The Vikings’ second straight win evened their record at 3-3 and provides them a chance to do something they haven’t done since the end of the 2014 campaign when they finished 6-5: push their record over the .500 mark. They’ll get that opportunity at Marinette on Friday night.
Another Offensive Explosion
Denmark followed its 500-yard output in Week 5’s rout of Oconto Falls with 417 yards against the Hawks, though nearly three-fourths of that came in the first half. The defense was also once again in shut-down mode after allowing less than 70 total yards the week before, even stopping the Hawks four times from the one-yard line.
While there was a bit of a drop-off in focus after intermission, it was another sterling performance from a unit that has proven itself quick, smart, aggressive and mostly mistake-free. Ultimately, Shawano (0-6) reached 205 yards on the ground, but completed only 2 of 12 passes.
“I thought the defense and the special teams did a great job tonight,” Neuman said. “(Kicker Hailey Aschenbrenner) did a fantastic job with squib kicks. We blocked a punt that gave us great field position.
“I don’t think if you put us on the clock we’d be the fastest team. But we’ve got some really smart football players. Week in and week out, we try to keep the scheme pretty simple and then you have Jerick (Czarneski) and T.J. really running the show out there and getting the guys in the right position. And those guys all then just run and hit really well.”
The frustration of the Hawks’ night was best epitomized in their opening offensive series, which went backwards on three plays and ended with a partially blocked, sideways punt that netted the Hawks a minus 15 yards as Denmark took over at the Shawano two. Throw in an immediate offsides on the Hawk defense and the tone was set. Wavrunek went in from a yard out on the first play. He was just getting started and, in fact, stuffed a fourth-and-three play at the Denmark 37 on Shawano’s next series, setting up – one play later – Wavrunek’s dynamic 63-yard touchdown run. He appeared stopped in the backfield, cut left to avoid one tackler, then right to avoid another before finding a corner at the sideline and simply outracing everyone.
Two plays, two touchdowns, 14-0, 6:45 first quarter.
Denmark needed six plays for its next touchdown. Jack Satori ripped off an 18-yard option keep to set up Wavrunek’s 15-yard touchdown run that was aided by a big block from Kenny Satori in the right flat and the lead was 21-0, still with 3:33 left in the opening period.
Using a couple of Satori-to-Casey Kropp completions, the Vikings began their next march to pay dirt in the final seconds of the first quarter and eventually reached it two minutes into the second quarter. The numbers were in perfect alignment on this one: No. 44 (Wavrunek) went 44 yards for his fourth touchdown and a 27-0 lead.
Shawano had a chance to get on the scoreboard when it reached the Denmark 1 midway through the quarter, but the Viking ‘D’ stuffed the Hawks on three straight plays before a fumbled snap on fourth down squelched the threat at the seven. If that wasn’t enough to vanquish whatever light breeze might have remained in the Hawks’ sails, Denmark marched 93 yards on 10 plays, closing out the half with an Ethan Schwartz touchdown for a 33-0 lead at intermission.
Every Rep Matters
The loss of focus coming out of the locker room was probably inevitable and Denmark faltered on its first two series, thanks to penalties and fumbled pitches, and Shawano went 75 yards on 11 plays for its only score of the night with 9:37 left in the game.
“My coaches sometimes have to temper me,” Neuman said of the letdown in the second half. “But I really believe that every rep matters. There isn’t a wasteful rep. Like Vince Lombardi said, I want you to be perfect and you’re going to catch excellence along the way. If I let the standard down an inch, it will have repercussions.”
Denmark capped the scoring with Wavrunek’s two-yard touchdown plunge in the final period.
Gabe Wertel ran 10 times for 52 yard, Jack Satori added 39 yards on three carries and Schwartz 20 on four. Satori completed 5 of 6 passes for 68 yards, with Seth Alexander grabbing three and Kropp two.
Defensively, Satori led the way with five tackles, while Jack St. Peter added four tackles — including one for loss — and an assists. Weidman had three solos and six assists and Czarneski three solos and five assists. Michael Rabas added a sack and a tackle for loss among his three solos and an assist, while Wertel recorded two solos and three assists.
It was jam-packed on the home team’s side of the stands on Friday, something Neuman noted and appreciated.
“I’m just so excited by this community,” said the former assistant coach at a large high school in Texas the past two decades. “The parade was outstanding, and the support has been fantastic. We didn’t really get any of this down in Texas, at least outside of the program. I landed in a fantastic community.”
The competition gets tougher on Friday when the Vikings travel to Marinette to take on a similar team in similar circumstances to their own. The Marines are coming off a 28-7 win over Clintonville that evened their overall record to 3-3 and their conference mark to 2-3, the same as the Vikings.
“They are huge and they run hard and they’re good tacklers,” Neuman said. “They’re in the same boat as us: they play a lot of people both ways. I know they beat Menominee, Michigan, which historically is a state challenger every year.
“They’re hungry for another win. They’re in the same position as us. We have to win out if we want to have a chance at the post season.”
Through four conference games before Friday night’s win over Clintonville, Marinette was averaging close to 300 yards a game, led by running backs Sam Drees (61 carries, 373 yards, 3 TDs) and Joe Bezio (32-185). Matt Wagner had completed 26 of 53 for 372 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defensively, the Marines had given up nearly 375 yards a game, including more than 230 on the ground.
Based on comparison of results from their mutual opponents, Denmark would seem to own the advantage. The Vikings fell by seven to Luxemburg-Casco, while Marinette lost 49-20. Denmark also demolished Oconto Falls, 59-0, whereas the Marines squeaked by, 34-27.
Check back later for official offensive and defensive stats