Posted On: 03/27/21 11:12 AM
It felt so good to be back out on the sideline of a Wisconsin high school football field! Week 1 found me making the trip to Neenah, WI where I was lucky enough to find a fun, well balanced matchup between two teams with a lot of talent that can and will play at the next level. From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, this game was packed full of momentum swinging turnovers, tough defenses, clutch drives, and big plays by the offense. I couldn’t have asked for a more exciting game to kickoff the spring season with. Let’s dive deeper into how the whole game played out last night in Neenah. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoy!
The season started with Neenah receiving the opening kickoff after Stevens Point deferred to the second half at the coin toss. It was an impressive return by RB Kaden Fritsch, who ended up having several long kickoff returns that set up his offense at or near midfield consistently. The great field position, or any field position for that matter, wasn’t able to be capitalized on because of the dominant play of the Stevens Point and Neenah defenses to open the game. Typical with early season play, the defenses were able to play far more loose and faster than the offenses. Neenah’s defense was led by several impressive prospects. Most notably, S Matt Jung, DL Kaleb Weyenberg, and LB Darius Jones Jr. Point’s defense, led by stud S/OLB Carter Borchardt Carter Borchardt 6'3" | DB Stevens Point | 2021 State WI , LB Ben Raczek, and DB Tommy Drohner was stout against the run game all night long. They also had plenty of speed as Neenah consistently tried to get the ball to the boundary quickly with bubble screens, but they couldn’t find a rhythm early.
After back to back punts by the two offenses, the Stevens Point defense made their first big momentum swinging play. DB Tommy Drohner was able to come up with an interception that set the Stevens Point offense up at the Neenah 40. The Neenah defense wasn’t going to let that momentum swing last long, and forced a quick three and out. More of the same continued from there as the first quarter ticked away. However, the final minutes of the first quarter were filled with excitement. After a Neenah three and out, they were forced to punt. Unfortunately for Point, the returner muffed the catch and Neenah recovered at the Point 45. That’s when Neenah QB Luke Elkin Luke Elkin 6'1" | LS Neenah | 2021 State WI started making some big time plays. The first came on a 3rd & 15 where he showed off his impressive acceleration and play speed to pick up 17 yards. Then on 3rd & 11 he ended the quarter by finding his receiver down the seam to convert another first down. It seemed as the quarter ended that the Neenah offense was finding their stride.
Neenah wasn’t able to carry that momentum into the second half to finish off their drive with any points as Borchardt and the defense were able to slam the door shut. From there, both teams’ defenses continued to control the game. It wasn’t just forcing punts either. There were also multiple fumbles by both teams that kept setting up the offenses in great situations with momentum, but the defenses never broke. The first score finally came late in the second quarter. Neenah was able to put together a drive thanks to some nice chunk plays on the ground and through the air. The drive was capped off when QB Luke Elkin Luke Elkin 6'1" | LS Neenah | 2021 State WI pulled it on the read option and plowed his way into the endzone from 3 yards out. The extra point hit off the right upright resulting in a 6-0 lead with 4:11 remaining in the half. Neenah kept that momentum because on Point’s first play of their next drive they fumble and the Neenah defense recovered it at the Point 45. Once again though, the Point defense gave the Neenah offense the Mutombo finger wave and got the ball back to their offense with enough time for one last drive before the half. This is where Point QB Riley Warzynski Riley Warzynski 6'3" | QB Stevens Point | 2022 State WI really broke out. He had made a couple impressive throws up to this point, but this drive was impressive. He completed an absolute bullet up the seam for 23 yards. Then as time was nearly run out he made a beautiful pass to WR Quinton Martin in the endzone on another 23 yard completion. Stevens Point converted their extra point and went into the half with momentum and the 7-6 lead.
That momentum stayed on Stevens Point’s side to start the second half. They received the second half kickoff and once the offense got on the field it didn’t take long for the fireworks to go off. This time it was the impressive RB Cole Kerchefski that did the heavy lifting on this drive. His first carry, and the first play of the drive, resulted in a first down. The second carry, and second play of the drive, went for even more as Cole broke through the left side of the line and then raced down the sideline for the 46 yard TD scamper. After another successful PAT, Stevens Point held a 14-6 lead. On Neenah’s next drive they came out looking to tie it up. It looked like they were well on their way to doing that too. Between QB Luke Elkin Luke Elkin 6'1" | LS Neenah | 2021 State WI and RB Kaden Fritsch, the Neenah offense methodically worked its way down the field and into the redzone. Right when it seemed like they were set to tie it up DB Tommy Drohner made another huge play as he went up and made the interception on the fade route in the endzone. It was a great job by Tommy to box out the receiver and go up and high point the ball. Very impressive play and one of the biggest moments in the game as a whole.
Neenah’s defense wasn’t going to be outdone easily, though. They quickly forced another punt to shut down any chance of that momentum turning into more Stevens Point points. The defenses continued their dominance as the third wore on. Once Neenah got the ball back Elkin muffed the shotgun snap and the Point front seven swarmed him and was able to recover the fumble at the Neenah 33. As you can probably guess, Neenah’s defense again came out and played as one strong unit and forced a turnover on downs. It was so impressive to see both these defense play as one unit this early in the season. Everyone did their job and it resulted in each unit making a ton of huge plays. The third quarter came to an end shortly after the turnover giving up a Stevens Point 14-6 lead heading into the fourth.
This time it was the Neenah offense’s turn to start a quarter off red hot. QB Luke Elkin Luke Elkin 6'1" | LS Neenah | 2021 State WI dropped back, pump faked once, and then let it rip down the left sideline. WR Chase Hanselman, who was a go to guy for Elkin all night, hauled it in and then was able to race down the sideline for the 59 yard TD pass. They weren’t done there. Neenah’s offense stayed on the field and were able to convert the two point conversion on a pass from Elkin to the other go to target WR Colin McClowry Colin McClowry 5'10" | RB Neenah | 2021 State WI . This gave us a 14-14 tie with just over 10 minutes left. QB Riley Warzynski Riley Warzynski 6'3" | QB Stevens Point | 2022 State WI and the Stevens Point offense came out on their next drive and responded with a clutch five plus minute drive. It was a perfect blend of Warzynski slicing it up through the air and Kerchefski running with power on the ground. The methodical drive made it’s way down to the Neenah 6 yard line where Colin Kerchefski was able to lower his shoulder and bulldoze his way in for the 20-14 lead with 4:38 remaining. Trouble did arise on the XP attempt as the holder muffed the snap and they had to try to make something out of nothing resulting in an incomplete pass and a chance for Neenah to go take the lead. RB Kaden Fritsch had another great return for Neenah setting them up at midfield. They used that great field position and worked their way to the Stevens Point 12 yard line. It looked like they were finding their groove, but then the Stevens Point defense once again slammed the door shut and were able to force a turnover on downs essentially ending the game. Point RB Kerchefski put the final nail in the coffin as he picked up a 3rd & 4 first down allowing the clock to run out and giving Stevens Point the 20-14 victory!
This was an exciting game to cover. These teams had a lot of talent, yet they were able to play more as a unit than as individual stars. They each did their jobs and trusted their teammates. It was those things that allowed this game to be as back and forth as it was. Nobody gave up and everybody played all out on every snap. Make sure you check out my next article where I give my Players of the Game and go more in depth on the individual players with the top performances! Thank you again for reading!