Cats roll at Ellsworth
While the Wildcat offense took a little while to get in rhythm Friday night in Ellsworth, the defense made sure the Panthers couldn't take advantage.
The Cats held the Panthers to four first downs in the first half and blocked a punt while the offense gave the Cats a 7-0 halftime lead by virtue of a 67-yard touchdown run by Dylan Dock. Things really started clicking offensively in the third quarter when the Cats scored on three straight possessions on their way to a 28-6 victory.
Ellsworth's only touchdown came late in the game with the Wildcat starters on the bench.
"Defensively, the boys played well," River Falls' coach John Bennett said. "We had a lot of defenders getting to the ball carrier. They took good angles of pursuit and played the game faster than the previous week.
"On offense, we played inconsistently and were out of sync in the first half," he added. "The boys responded with a good offensive performance in the third quarter. That allowed us to get the second and third team players in for the duration of the fourth quarter and they did a good job."
Oscar White carried three straight times from the Ellsworth 10 to score on a 4-yard run midway through the third quarter to extend the Wildcat lead to 13-0 after Ryan Kusilek's extra point attempt was blocked.
After a Panther three-and-out, the Cats put together a seven play, 59-yard drive, highlighted by a 29-yard pass from Kusilek to Connor Schug down to the Panther 12. Two plays later, Ben Wunrow scored from three yards out and Kusilek added the two-point run for a 21-0 Wildcat lead.
After holding Ellsworth to another three-and-out and punt, Wunrow took a first down handoff and went through the middle of the Panther line before cutting to the left sideline and racing 61 yards for his second touchdown of the game and a 28-0 Wildcat lead.
The teams traded punts to open the game before Dock opened the scoring with his 67-yard touchdown run. River Falls put together a 12-play drive that started on its own 24 but stalled when Mark Bennett's 4th-and-6 pass intended for Evan Huppert fell incomplete at the Panther 27.
Wunrow blocked an Ellsworth punt on the ensuing possession and the Cats took over at the Panther 25 yard line but fumbled the ball away after taking two plays to move the ball to the 14.
The third quarter was all River Falls, as the Cats held Ellsworth to three-and-out on their first three possessions of the half before Mark Bennett killed the next Panther drive with an interception.
Meanwhile, the Wildcat offense scored three touchdowns in just over six minutes to break the game open.
Wunrow finished with 100 yards rushing yards in 11 carries and also made 11 tackles to lead the Wildcat defense. Dock added 90 yards in five rushing attempts while Kusilek completed 3-of-4 passes for 49 yards without an interception. Schug had the longest reception of the night, a 29-yarder in the third quarter to set up Wunrow's first touchdown of the game.
Grant Lillvis had two tackles for losses to help the Cats' defensive effort while Wunrow had one.
Coach Bennett credited the Wildcat special teams, especially the kick-off team, with strong play in the win but added the Cats need to improve in all parts of the game with Big Rivers Conference play starting this week.
"The key to success for this team will be to take as big a step forward each week as we can," he said. "We need to improve our consistency of execution on the offensive side of the ball. In all facets of the game we need t increase the speed and intensity at which we play the game. We need to keep chasing those 48 minutes of disciplined, intense Wildcat football."
The Cats, now 2-0 on the season, will open BRC play at home Friday at 7 p.m. against Menomonie (1-1). The high school band boosters will host a tailgate party from 5:30-6:30 p.m. before the game with a hamburger or two hot dogs, chips, a pickle, brownie bar and pop available for $5 near the gazebo.
At halftime, the Marching Wildcat Band will perform its 2009 field show, "Bellus Noctis."
River Falls 7 0 21 0--28
Ellsworth 0 0 0 6--6
RF--Dylan Dock 67-yard run (Ryan Kusilek kick), 7:27
RF--Oscar White 5-yard run (kick blocked), 7:52.
RF--Ben Wunrow 3-yard run (Ryan Kusilek run), 3:40.
RF--Ben Wunrow 61-yard run (Ryan Kusilek kick), 1:18.
Ell--Luke Cuddy 1-yard run (kick failed), 6:51.
1st downs 13 9
Rushing 38-273 24-44
Passing 4-9-0-56 13-35-1-70
Total Offense 342 114
Punts 2/64 8/243
Fumbles 1 0
Penalties 3-20 7-60
RUSHING: Ben Wunrow 11-100; Dylan Dock 5-90; Mark Bennett 3-42; Austin Johnson 4-21; Jason Bloom 2-24; Oscar White 6-11; Tyler Slowiak 4-8; Ty Talafous 1-1; Josh Halling 1(-1); Isaac Witt 3(-1); Evan Huppert 1(-4); Henry Higgins 2(-5).
PASSING: Ryan Kusilek 3-4-0-49-0; Mark Bennett 1-4-0-7-0; Isaac Witt 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING: Connor Schug 1-29; Jack Herum 1-11; Rickey Troester 1-9; Justin Brown 1-7.
PUNT RETURNS: Dylan Dock 1-16; Jason Bloom 2-1.
KICKOFF RETURNS: Austin Johnson 1-23; Justin Brown 1-16.
TACKLES (SOLO-ASSIST): Ben Wunrow 11-0; Grant Lillvis 4-0; Nick Zimmerman 3-1; Landon Kaiser 3-1; Tim Weller 3-0; Joe Gresback 2-2; Tony Mishek 2-1; Talal Adam 2-0; Lee Getschel 2-0; Dylan Dock 1-1; Justin Brown 1-1; Cam Loomis 1-0; Austin Johnson 1-0; Jason Bloom 1-0; Michael White 1-0; Jack Herum 1-0; Tyler Slowiak 1-0; Zac Balsiger 1-0; Kelly Larson 1-0; Cameron Wing 1-0; James Kozak 1-0; Calvin Wing 0-1.
TACKLE FOR LOSS: Grant Lillvis (2), Ben Wunrow.
INTERCEPTION: Mark Bennett.
TIPPED PASS: Nick Zimmerman, Jason Bloom, Lee Getschel.
BLOCKED PUNT: Ben Wunrow.