LADYSMITH – Although it had been nine months since Glenwood City played a football game, the Hilltoppers began the 2013 gridiron campaign in the same manner in which they finished their championship run last November, with a convincing win.
The defending WIAA Division 7 state champions and this season’s current number one-ranked team in the same division traveled to Ladysmith for the season opener last Friday, August 23 and emerged victorious with a 72-0 whipping of the overmatched Lumberjacks.
“I was really pleased,” said Shane Strong, Glenwood City Head Coach. “More importantly than the scoreboard itself, we were looking for great effort and attitude.”
And that is just what each of Strong’s charges gave.
The Hilltoppers scored early and often. In fact, Glenwood City touchdowns on all eight of its first-half offensive possessions and included a 58-yard punt return by senior speedster Isaac Tuttle early in the first quarter.
“I thought the kids came right out of the gates fast,” said Strong. “They stuck to the game plan, I think we had one penalty on a pass interference for 15 yards, but other than that we played very sound, fundamental football and I was very happy.”
Glenwood City’s starters piled up 39 points in the first quarter alone as it took advantage of several Ladysmith misques – the Lumberjacks lost four fumbles and threw three interceptions – and a shortened field to put the non-conference showdown out of reach of a rebuilding home squad.
With the game out of the Lumberjacks reach after the first 12 minutes of action, the Hilltoppers went to their bench as back-ups and junior varsity members received plenty of playing time over the next three quarters.
“We were able to play a lot of our younger talent and to figure out what we have for depth,” Strong stated of the lopsided win. “That was a big thing.”
“Everybody on our team got to step on the field and play,” Strong noted. “We were also able to rest some kids as well. Tuttle had only eight carries which is a positive when we can get other kids the ball.”
“I thought our conditioning level was very good which was a positive,” added the coach. “There are definitely some things that we need to work on. We missed some tackles. But we also found that our kids picked each other up on some missed tackles because we had 11 kids flying to the football.”
The Toppers looked to be in mid-season form from the opening kick-off as it took them less than two minutes to punctuate the end zone.
Jeff Kopacz had the honor of scoring the first touchdown for the 2013 season as he romped 22 yards for the score just 1:44 into the contest. Kopacz then hauled in the two-point pass from quarterback Nick Mrdutt for an 8-0 lead.
After shutting down Ladysmith’s first offensive foray, senior Isaac Tuttle hauled in the Lumberjacks punt and returned it 58 yards for six points. Billy Norenberg then dove across the goal line on the two-point conversion run to make it 16-0 Toppers with 8:02 left in the opening quarter of play.
Much to Ladysmith’s chagrin, Glenwood City was just getting started.
The Toppers would strike end zone pay dirt four more times in that eight minute span of the first quarter.
Jeff Kopacz recorded his second running touchdown of the night with an 18-yard jaunt at 5:15. Sophomore Nathan Mrdutt plowed ahead on the two-point conversion to give the Toppers a 24-0 advantage.
Older brother Nick Mrdutt called his own number a few minutes later and took the ball 16 yards for six more Topper points. Tuttle ran in the conversion as the Glenwood City lead grew to 32-0 with 3:09 to play in the opening stanza.
Then with just 7.3 seconds left on the first-quarter clock, Isaac Tuttle walked into the end zone from 11 yards out. Nick Mrdutt tacked on the extra point kick and the Toppers ended the first 12 minutes of play with a 39-0 cushion.
The Lumberjacks’ defense found no respite when the Hilltoppers back-ups took over in the second quarter.
Tuttle opened the second with his third touchdown – a 45-yard scamper at 10:07 – that gave Glenwood City a 46-0 lead after Nick Mrdutt’s PAT.
Marcus Kadinger then took to the backfield and scored twice on runs of 11 and three yards, the later coming with just 17.9 ticks left in the halftime clock. Nick Mrdutt’s extra point kicks after both scores gave the G-men a 60 to zip halftime lead.
Despite a second-half running clock, Glenwood City still had plenty of time to find the end zone twice more in the final 24 minutes of play.
Isaac Tuttle had a 17-yard scoring run at 6:47 of the third (PAT failed) to add to the GC lead that grew to 66-0.
Nathan Mrdutt then punched in the Toppers’ final score of the game on 5-yard push to pay dirt. Back-up quarterback Nick Schone took a knee on the conversion try as the Toppers claimed a 72-0 triumph in Ladysmith and a 1-0 start to the new season.
Isaac Tuttle lead the Hilltoppers’ offensive charge with four touchdowns and 106 yards on only eight carries. Brothers Nick and Nathan Mrdutt each finished with 50 yards rushing on five and 11 carries respectively. Marcus Kadinger finished with 45 yards and a pair of scores on eight carries.
Glenwood City will have its hands full this Friday night, August 30 when it heads north to face the number four ranked team in D7 – the Frederic Vikings.
“They are a tough, physical team. Good challenge for us, we’re excited,” stated Coach Strong.
The match-up between the state ranked teams was to be played in Glenwood City but the new football field and facilities will not be completed in time for the game necessitating the move to Frederic’s field.
“Our bleachers are not arriving until later this week,” Strong said. “We want it to be a special time with everything completed when we host our first game on the new field.”