Lately, the Bluejay varsity gridiron crew have been playing a rather selfish, rather greedy brand of football.
The guys have not only refused to allow the opposition to score any points whatsoever since the first game of the season and averaged nearly 400 yards of total offense per game, but have in turn piled up 46 unanswered points since then.
Friday’s bout with Rhinelander showed a whole lot more of the same as the Jays steamrolled the Hodags 41-6 in a GNC contest at Jay Stadium.
In fact, the Jays once again came out of the blocks with the pedal to the floor as senior quarterback Drew Hoff capped off a 91 yard drive with 32 yard aerial strike to receiver Scott Wallace for the score.
Don’t think for a minute the Jays slacked on defense, not even close.
The Hodags soon found themselves in the same stranglehold by the Bluejay defense as their predecessors this season and went three and out.
It was sophomore running back Nevada Laabs’ turn to finish the next drive as he bolted in on a 2 yard goal line plunge to make it 14-0 Bluejays, with the help of Ryan Golisch’s extra point with 2:16 left in the first quarter.
It wouldn’t take long for the Merrill juggernaut to strike again. I
Just four minutes into the 2nd quarter, Hoff connected with senior running back Austin Reissmann on another scoring strike, this time from ten yards out.
The lone score by the boys in green came in the waning minutes of the first half when a blitzing Hodag defender caught Hoff’s arm just as he pulled the trigger, leading to a 70-yard Rhinelander pick six. The failed extra point closed out the first half.
The second half would show no sense of yielding whatsoever from the Jays as they came out and assembled yet another impressive scoring drive, this time for 45 yards and a ground score by Hoff from 8 yards out.
Another goal-line score from Laabs at the end of the third quarter, a two point conversion by Reissmann, followed by a 20-yard scoring ramble from Reissmann early in the third would be the nails in the Hodag coffin and a 41-6 final.
“We had a couple of minutes there at the end of the first half where we weren’t playing up to our ability,” commented head coach Nick Sturm. “We challenged the kids at halftime to play to the level we know and they know they were capable of. They came out in the 2nd half and buckled down as we hoped.”
The Bluejay defense strangled Rhinelander to 165 yards of total offense (48 rushing) and accomplished the feat with reckless abandon including 5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
What was once a question mark for the team is now shaping to be up to a unit of domination and coach Sturm chalks it up to player progression.
“It all comes down to the guys learning the game and getting better as they go,” Sturm said. “Coming into the season we had a lot of young kids on the defensive side. We knew they were athletic and it was just a matter of getting some varsity reps and experience. Experience is so important. Our ultimate goal is to get better every week. That’s what we are seeing.”
Junior middle linebacker Jake Collinsworth paced the wrecking crew in tackles for the second week in a row with 6 solo, 2 assists and a sack.
Junior linebacker Trey Seubert, one of the many new faces Sturm mentions, enjoyed yet another solid performance with 3 solo hits, 3 assists and a pass deflection.
“Trey is one of those athletic new kids on our defense” Sturm added. “Trey is a hard worker and is working hard at improving his game. I have no doubt his progress and development will continue.”
Defensive tackle Christian Kleinschmidt came up with the other sack for the Jays as well as a solo hit.
Offensively, the Merrill melee broke the 400-yard barrier with 446 yards of total offense.
Hoff finished the night with a pair of scores through the air (4/6, 98 yds, 2 TD/INT) and another 93 on the ground on just 7 carries and a score.
Laabs has proven a formidable threat from the back field thus far this season, slashing and burning for 86 yards on just 10 carries and a pair of scores.
The guys continue conference action at 7 p.m. on Friday when they head to Medford to square off with the upstart Raiders who slipped past Mosinee in a 42-35 shootout Friday night.
“Medford is a very well coached football team,” Sturm adds. “We will need to play very well to come out with win against them. We know what Medford is capable of and so do the kids. They play very smart, disciplined football and the kids know that. We will have a great week of practice this week, come out and execute on Friday night.”
RHN: 0 6 0 0- 6
MER: 14 6 14 7- 41
Passing: Hoff (4/6, 98 yds, 2 TD/INT). Rushing: Hoff (7-93, TD); Laabs (10-86, 2TD); Jake Collinsworth (8-65); Braeden Dorn (6-55). Receiving: Austin Reissmann (2-59, TD); Scott Wallace (1-32); Collinsworth (1-7). Defense: Collinsworth (6s, 2a, sack); Belfiori (5s,1a); Seubert (3s,3a, PD); Wallace (4s, 1PD); Dorn (1s,2TFL); Troy Pike (3s,1a,TFL).