Amherst falls in showdown with Springs
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
In a battle of State Champions from a year ago, an experienced Fond du Lac Saint Mary’s Springs football team was firing on all cylinders in a nonconference win over top-ranked Amherst in Amherst Friday, Aug. 24.
Second-ranked Springs (2-0) scored on the opening drive of the game and remained in control the rest of the way, as it went on to a 34-0 win over the Falcons (1-1).
“We got drubbed,” said Amherst football head coach Mark Lusic, whose team won 34-3 at Merrill in the season opener. “They did anything they wanted to us on both sides of the ball.
“I got out-coached, we got out-played, we’ve just got to get better, and that’s the truth,” he said. “I believe the problems we have, we can fix. But that’s a great team.”
Springs brought back most of its roster from last year’s team that went 14-0 to win the WIAA Division 6 State Title, while Amherst lost 20 of its 22 starters from last season’s team that finished 13-1 and won the Division 5 State Title, with its only loss a 14-13 defeat at Springs in Week 2 of the regular season.
In the Falcons’ home opener Friday night, Springs scored on a three-yard touchdown run with 8:27 left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead, then added a 27-yard field goal with 12 seconds to play in the first quarter to go up 10-0.
“They came out faster than us, and just beat us up,” said Amherst senior running back/outside linebacker Josh Rieck. “We just weren’t prepared for their physicality.
“And we didn’t play physical at all,” he said.
The Amherst offense was held to one first down in the first half until the final drive of the second quarter, while Springs scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Mitchell Waechter to senior wide receiver Cade Christiansen with 8:09 remaining in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 17-0 lead.
“We couldn’t get momentum,” said Lusic. “We got stalled out right off the bat, we just couldn’t get anything going, and they held the ball.
“It felt like we ran probably 12 plays in first half, and I think in the third quarter we had one possession,” he said. “And it’s a credit to them; they just went three, four yards a chunk.”
Springs tacked on a 33-yard field goal with 2:52 to go in the third quarter to increase its lead to 20-0, then added a two-yard touchdown run from Waechter with 11:12 left in the fourth quarter and a three-yard touchdown run with 2:13 to play to cap the scoring on its 34-0 win.
Christiansen caught six passes for 72 yards and one touchdown, and Waechter completed 8-of-18 passes for 97 yards, with one touchdown and zero interceptions, while he also rushed for 133 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries, as Springs ran for 276 yards and three touchdowns on 53 carries.
Rieck rushed for 72 yards on 17 carries for Amherst, junior wide receiver Chris Andersen caught two passes for 31 yards, and junior quarterback Lincoln Cullen completed 4-of-13 passes for 37 yards, with zero touchdowns and one interception.
“The biggest thing I can take away from it is we’ve got to get tougher,” said Lusic. “That’s the first time Amherst has been out-physicalled in a long, long time.”
Springs, which is expected to be in Division 5 for the postseason this year due to increased enrollment, took over the top spot in Division 5 in the WisSports.net Coaches Poll following the win, while Amherst dropped to fourth.
The Falcons will look to bounce back when they open the Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC) Large season at Wittenberg-Birnamwood at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31.
“Conference is the most important part of the regular season,” said Rieck. “So we’ve just got to watch film over the weekend, and just be ready for Wittenberg.”
“There’s a good chance we may see them again down the road, we’ve just got to get better, I’m not even worried about them,” said Lusic of Springs. “I give them all of the credit, they took it to us.
“But as I told the team, ‘you’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are,’ so we’re somewhere in the middle,” he said. “Of course we want to win every game, but we’ve got to take care of conference. That’s where it really counts, so our season starts Monday, and we’ll be ready to go.”