Games get bigger for unbeaten Fall Creek gridders as Cloverbelt Conference play begins this weekend
AUGUSTA - For the first time in a while the Fall Creek High School Football Team had more yards rushing than passing in a ballgame last weekend at Augusta's Centennial Field for a non-conference prep football game.
That's been been the design for the Crickets this season and if it can work against a talented team like Augusta then the Crickets are hoping it can carry over to Friday, Sept. 2's contest at home vs. fellow unbeaten Mondovi.
The Buffaloes have two big wins over G-E-T and Osceola to start the season led by their traditional ground. Against the Chieftains last week the Buffaloes rushed for 354 yards led by backs, seniors Jarod Falkner and Dawson Rud. Control of the line of scrimmage will be crucial to the outcome and not on offense. FC's defense has been effective this season so far holding the Beavers to just 125 yards rushing and 59 yards passing and scoreless in the second half of last week's ballgame.
On the other side of the ball FC rushed for 292 yards led by Ryan Whittlinger's 92 yards in seven carries and Ben Kelly's 185 yards on 29 carries. But the Crickets didn't short the passing game as senior quarterback Eli Laube set a new school record in passing yards with 128 on 11-for-17 throws. Jacob Wathke had two receptions for 51 yards while Bo Vollrath caught five passes for 36 yards and Leo Hagberg had three catches for 34 yards.
While excited about the win and the new record, Laube was eagerly pointing out how well the Crickets' linemen were playing throughout the game.
"We were getting a good push from our linemen all evening," Laube said. "Not just in pass protection but running the ball as well. It just game go smoother, faster and better when you have that control on the line."
Played in front of a big Centennial Field crowd in perfect weather conditions, the game had all the makings of being a classic in the first half. FC struck first on a 25-yard TD pass from Laube to Wathke on the Crickets' opening drive. Augusta, 1-1 overall, answered immediate afterwards capping a long drive with a two-yard TYD run by quarterback Brennan King for AHS's lone lead of the evening 8-6 after Levi White's two-point conversion run. FC responded on their next series with a long drive capped by a five-yard TD pass from Laube to Vollrath.
From there though, Fall Creek and took and stayed in control even though they scored just one more TD and none in the second half. Kelly scored on a big play, 51-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Hagberg caught the two-point conversion pass from Laube and it was 20-8.
Augusta tried as hard as they could Fall Creek's defense consistently frustrated them led by Whittlinger's 10 tackles and an interception and Kelly's five tackles and an INT snagged. Wathke and Brian Birdsall each had four tackles for FC. Vollrath had a sack.
Despite the win in almost the perfect setting for high school football the mood was one of frustration, from all involved in fact. Fall Creek head coach Tyler Mickelson certainly appreciated the win over a tough Augusta squad but believes their plays has to be better and elevated in many areas to be able to beat Mondovi.
"Augusta is a great team but we have a lot to clean-up in our play and we can't be satisfied in our performance," Mickelson said. "I guess you can say it's a testament to how much progress our program has made in that we can still win without playing at our best but we can't do that with league play about to begin. Not in the Cloverbelt anyways."
Part of the reason for this sentiment were numerous missed opportunities for Augusta to get back in the ballgame, especially when Fall Creek fumbled five times yet only lost one of them. There were also plenty of missed tackles to concern AHS head coach Derek Boldt.
"We let them break runs on us and missed four times to get turnovers that would have changed things around," Boldt said. "And tackling was a problem the week before against Pittsville too and this is not the time for it. We've got a lot to fine tune and fix as conference play starts."
Last year Augusta got Dairyland Conference play off to a great start with a big win over Melrose-Mindoro and may do so again at Mel-Min Friday as the Mustangs have been shutout in both their non-conference games in loss to Bangor and Abbotsford.
King was 10-for-19 passing for 59 yards. Augusta's Joe Shong caught three passes for 36 yards and Jackson Laxson led the team in rushing with 78 yards.