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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Bulldogs Booted 42-14

No Match For Little Chute In Division 4 Opener

Speed kills and the Peshtigo Bulldogs found that out first hand Friday night in the opening round of the Division 4 playoffs.

Champions of the M-O Conference, the Bulldogs (8-2) proved to be no match for deep, quick and talented Little Chute 42-14. Featuring a roster of over 60 players, the visiting Mustangs (7-3) dominated the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball to advance along the tournament trail. The usually explosive Peshtigo offense was held to 211 total yards, including 19 yards rushing on 28 attempts. The pass proved to be Peshtigo’s most effective weapon as senior quarterback Dakota Keller connected on 18 of 32 throws for 192 yards and two touchdowns.

“Little Chute is bigger, stronger and faster. They play in a much stronger conference and all you can do is tip your hat to them as they were the better team. They were quite possibly one of the best football teams we have gone up against in the playoffs,” Peshtigo coach Sam Komp said. “On a night like this, we had to play error free, make every play and tackle well. None of that happened.”

Offensively the Bulldogs never got in sync. The ground game was slowed to a halt, gaining less than one yard per rush (0.7). Gunner Kinney was the top runner with 3 carries for 20 yards, fullback Michael Vojcihoski 8-17, DJ Messenger 10-15. Getting pressured on just about every pass play, quarterback Keller finished with a minus 22 yards on 4 rushes.

When Keller found some time throw, he hit Levi Sanborn 5 times for 71 yards and a touchdown, Marcus Sharkey 4-30, Justin Couillard 3-30, Messenger 2-36 and Jake Veness 2-22 and a score.

Piling up 355 yards of offense, Little Chute did most of its damage via the run. Utilizing the “jet sweep” to get outside, speedy senior halfback Tyler Zak burned the Bulldogs for 132 yards on 15 carries, Shane Schwaller added 12 rushes for 53 yards and Parker Gloudemans 4-32.

How fast is the Mustang backfield ace Zak? He was the state 300 meter hurdles champion this past spring with a time of 38.92.

“Little Chute is extremely quick to play against and their line got off the ball well,” Komp added.

The Mustangs tried to land an early knockout blow, racing to a 15-0 lead in the first quarter.

Getting the opening kickoff, Little Chute put together an 11 play drive moving from its own 40 to the Peshtigo 5. Gloudemans raced past the Bulldogs for 15 yards on a sweep to the 35 then added 14 more yards on a double reverse to the 9. Two runs by Schwaller netted 4 yards while a third down pass fell incomplete. Sitting at the 5, Little Chute watched Matt Vandenberg boot a 21 yard field goal at the 8:06 mark.

Peshtigo tried to answer on its opening drive, but saw Keller get picked off by Bryce Zdanovec at the Little Chute 32 (5:16). Finding yards tough to come by, Peshtigo watched Messenger gain 12 on two runs before a late hit penalty and a pass to Zack Neumann put the ball at the 42.

The Mustangs eventually turned that turnover into points 6 plays later when Zak scooted in from 7 yards out (3:23). The key play in the drive was a fourth down pass from Sam Merryfield to Gloudemans to the 22 followed by a personal foul on Peshtigo defensive back Messenger. Starting at the 11, Zak made his way into the end zone two plays later for a 9-0 lead.

Peshtigo showed some life on the ensuing kickoff with a 9 play drive to the Little Chute 25 only to fizzle on fourth down. Vojcihoski got things rolling with a 9 yard jaunt to the 45 before Keller teamed up with Sanborn for 35 yards to the Little Chute 20. It looked like points were on the way for Peshtigo, that is until Keller lost 3 yards on first down then missed Veness twice setting up a fourth down at the 25. Things didn’t get any better on fourth down as Keller was sacked for a 9 yard loss by blitzing linebacker Max Keyzers.

Sitting 66 yards from the end zone, Little Chute needed just one play to extend the lead to 15-0. Give the ball to Zak and watch him run. The 5’9, 171 pounder burst through the Bulldog defense on a delayed handoff and raced untouched to the end zone with 0:40 left in the opening period. The teedee not only put the Mustangs up two scores, but also deflated the Bulldog defense.

With their backs to the wall and looking to stay in the game, Peshtigo momentarily regained some momentum with an 11 play drive. Again this march came up short of the end zone and stalled at the Little Chute 6. Keller went to the air 7 times, completing 4 passes for 40 yards but was stopped on a fourth down scramble with 9:33 left in the half.

Backed up near their own goal line, the Mustangs went nowhere as the Bulldogs forced a three and out, taking over at the Little Chute 33.

Komp and company finally smiled on this possession as his troops make their way to the end zone. The five play march saw Keller hit Messenger on a well-designed 21 yard screen pass to the 13 before hooking up Veness for the touchdown. Zach Neumann booted the point after for a 15-7 deficit with 6:22 remaining in the half.

With plenty of time left on the clock, Little Chute answered Peshtigo’s touchdown with a 13 play, 74 yard scoring march to go up 22-7 at intermission. Merryfield fired a 21 yard pass to Gloudemans on a third and 7 play and then 7 yards to Scott Hietpas at the 33. Moving to the Bulldog 29, Gloudemans hauled in a 15 yard pass for a first down while Hietpas raced into the end zone from 4 yards out with 0:40 seconds left. Vandenberg’s kick upped the lead to 22-7 and gave the Mustangs plenty of momentum heading into the halftime break.

“We made it a game for a while, got within 15-7 before that touchdown right before the half hurt. Then to make matters worse, we get caught deep in our end against the wind in the third quarter and couldn’t get out of it,” Komp added.

As bad as things were for Peshtigo to end the half, they got worse just 47 seconds into period three. Bulldog back Messenger fumbled on the second play from scrimmage with Ryan Christopherson scooping up the loose ball and racing 40 yards to the end zone for a comfortable 28-7 spread (11:13).

The Little Chute defense continued to create big problems for Peshtigo, forcing a pair of three and out drives, resulting in great field position. Taking over at the 30 following a 12 yard punt by Justin Couillard, Little Chute pushed the upper hand to 35-7 when Gloudemans grabbed a 30 yard touchdown pass from Merryfield. Vandenberg’s kick split the uprights with 7:58 left in the half.

Two more short punts kept Little Chute deep in Peshtigo territory. Starting at the Bulldog 25, the Mustangs scored three plays later when Zak bolted 11 yards for another touchdown. Vandenberg’s kick pushed the lead to 42-7 and started the running clock.

With the outcome no longer in doubt, the Bulldogs salvaged some pride, stringing together a 7 play scoring march. Aided by a facemask penalty on a punt and two passes to Couillard, Peshtigo earned a new set of downs at the Little Chute 22. Keller went back to the air and hooked up with Sanborn for the touchdown with 2:16 remaining. Neumann tacked on the extra point kick for that 42-14 final score.

The playoff setback marked the final game for 14 seniors, most of them varsity starters since their sophomore campaigns. “The finality is tough for the players and coaches...our seniors were some good football players, but more importantly fine young men. We’ll miss them,” Komp commented.


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