SPASH blows out Rapids on Homecoming
By John Kemmeter
The Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) football team turned in a dominating performance to beat rival Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln (3-5, 2-5) on Homecoming at Community Stadium at Goerke Field Friday, Oct. 5.
The Panthers (3-5, 3-4) used a scored late in the first half to take a 21-7 lead into halftime and continued to roll in the second half, as they went on to a 55-7 win to bring home the Ol’ River Jug.
“Homecoming week, with the jug, everything’s on the line, it’s pretty awesome to just go out there and dominate like we did,” said SPASH senior running back/defensive lineman Jack Kelly. “Fifty-five points on the board, that’s pretty unreal.”
“We had a lot of people make a lot of big plays tonight,” said SPASH football head coach Pete McAdams. “And to have a Homecoming victory like this, it’s just flat-out fun.”
In the 72nd anniversary of the rivalry, SPASH struck first when Kelly scored on a four-yard touchdown run with 8:55 left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead after the extra-point kick from sophomore Kenny Schultz.
Senior quarterback Brett Ehr hit senior running back/wide receiver Travis Johnson on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 11:44 to go in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead following the extra-point kick from senior Abby Gemza to make it 14-0, while Rapids scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass to pull within 14-7 with 3:29 remaining in the second quarter.
The Panthers responded on the next drive, as Ehr found Johnson wide open down the right sideline for a 22-yard touchdown pass that increased the lead to 21-7 with 3:06 to play in the opening half after the extra point from Gemza, and SPASH took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
“One of the keys to this game was that second half, because coming out of the locker room, Rapids had some momentum,” said McAdams. “They were coming out, believing in themselves, and when we got the ball right off that opening kickoff and were able to get another score to start the third quarter, I think that No. 1, it helped us build our own momentum.
“But it also was a pretty good dagger, if you will,” he said. “Or at least definitely taking the wind out of their sails.”
SPASH took control early in the second half, as Ehr scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 10:06 to play in the third quarter, and senior wide receiver Michael Vang hauled in a six-yard touchdown pass from Ehr with 4:43 remaining in the third quarter to make it 34-7.
Junior running back Cooper Behnke had a two-yard touchdown run with 10:11 to go in the fourth quarter to go up 41-7, and sophomore running back Christian Zarazua scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 8:16 left to make it 48-7.
Zarazua added a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:03 to play and freshman Brandon Vlcko kicked the extra point to put the finishing touches on the 55-7 win.
Ehr completed 9-of-11 passes for 143 yards, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, to go along with 15 yards rushing and one touchdown on six carries. Kelly finished with 133 yards rushing and one touchdown on 15 carries, Vang had four catches for 70 and one touchdown, and Johnson caught three passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 24 yards on two carries, and intercepted a pass on defense.
Meanwhile, SPASH totaled 460 yards of offense in the win, as it brought the Ol’ River Jug home for the second year in a row, following a 21-17 victory at Rapids last year.
“My sophomore year, there was a ton of people here and I felt like we kind of blew it that year,” said Kelly of a 41-35 overtime loss in 2016. “So coming back and being able to just blow them up like that, it’s pretty awesome.”
“I got texts from alums this week about, ‘make sure you keep that jug here in town,’” said McAdams. “And so I think there’s more history to it than there is relevance of the current situation. Our kids are very competitive, Rapids and Point, it doesn’t matter what the records are when these two teams are going to play, and tonight there was a lot of emotion out there on both sides of the field.
“But our kids played hard, and to keep the jug at least for one more year, it’s exciting, no doubt,” he said. “I got a couple of texts from those seniors from last year, and it was a heck of a game last year, when we were able to come out on top. And to get the jug and to keep it this year, is not only for this group of young men and young lady tonight, but I think it means a lot for our alumni too.”
The win was the third in a row for SPASH, as it outscored its opponents by a 128-20 margin during that run, and the Panthers will need to win at top-ranked Fond du Lac (8-0) next week to reach the playoffs.
“This three-game stretch has been going awesome for us,” said Kelly. “The defense is playing light’s out, the offense is clicking on all cylinders, and it’s going good.”
“Ever since the Marshfield game, we had our backs up against the wall, and we’ve known that and these kids have stuck in there,” said McAdams. “We’ve been preaching all season long, and especially early on in the season when we had a couple of early losses, about ‘staying the course and trusting the process.’
“And these young men have done everything along those lines, so I’m very proud of them on that end, and after we lost our first five games, we wanted to be going into that Game 9 with a position to continue playing,” he said. “The last three games have been a playoff game for us, because it keeps your playoff hopes alive, and our kids have done a heck of job with that.
“We’re going up against a phenomenal football team, but these kids aren’t going to back down,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough battle, but we’re going to give it everything we have.”