Pacelli football’s fight not enough in season-opening loss
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT — High school football under the lights is finally in full swing. Pacelli played its opening game on Aug 18 versus Weyauwega-Fremont at Goerke Field and suffered a 33-12 loss on opening night.
The Cardinals had low numbers coming into the 2022 season, so keeping up with most teams they will play is always the challenge. That’s one thing head coach Drew Nelson talked about post-game. The Cardinals found themselves down 27-6 heading into halftime but never quit. The defense only surrendered six points in the second half.
“In our breakdown, I said, hey we only gave up one touchdown in the second half. You guys didn’t quit, you fought,” he told his team. “As long as you don’t give up, we’re going to be okay. We’ll fight through these non-conference games and get ready for conference.”
Rewinding to the first quarter: the Cardinals’ offense stalled on its first two offensive drives. One was a fumble, and the other was a failed fourth-down conversion attempt. Pacelli got down 12-0 after the first quarter and then gave up another touchdown to the Warhawks early in the second. With a score of 19-0, Pacelli finally tacked on points. Senior running back Brock Birrenkott broke loose for a 58-yard run that ended in the endzone. That cut the score to 19-6. The Warhawks answered back on the next possession, making it a 27-6 game, which would be the score going into halftime.
Pacelli opened the second half on defense and forced a fumble near mid-field. The Cardinals took advantage of the turnover with Birrenkott’s second rushing touchdown of the night, making it a 27-12 game halfway through the third quarter. Nelson voiced his thoughts about his senior taking charge offensively in a run-heavy offense.
“He runs hard. He’s a special kid, has great character, and his motor never stops,” he said. “We’re looking for big things from him the rest of the season.”
Birrenkott finished the night with 121 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. He carried the ball 22 times in the game. The senior also had ten tackles defensively, seven of which were solo tackles.
Pacelli gave up one more touchdown before the game ended with a score of 33-12. Even with the double-digit loss, the Cardinals coaching staff found things they can take forward with them throughout the rest of the season.
“We told them (the players) all year that we aren’t going to be the team this year that hits 80-yard touchdowns every time,” Nelson said. “We’re going to have to grind out drives three or four yards at a time.”
Nelson also brought up a point about what he learned from his team in game one.
“We don’t quit. We are going to keep coming. Whether we’re down 21 or up 21, we’re going to keep going,” Nelson stated. “That’s a testament to the kids and the coaching staff.”
Pacelli heads into week two with the opening loss behind them and will face Brookfield Academy at home on Aug 26 at 6 p.m.