GLENWOOD CITY — Good fortune proved to be on the Hilltoppers’ side when it opened the 2015 football campaign at home last Friday, August 21.
Glenwood City dodged a few early bullets against Frederic that helped keep the contest in a scoreless deadlock until the Hilltoppers could find their footing.
Frederic went deep on the game’s first offensive play and nearly connected with what might have been a scoring strike. Instead, Topper defenders watched in relief as Frederic quarterback Austin Ennis’ throw sailed well over the head and outstretched arms of his wide open receiver Brady Evans.
Then, after the Toppers’ opening drive stalled inside the Vikings’ ten, Frederic took possession and quickly pushed the ball down field to set up a first and goal. But once again, the ball bounced Glenwood City’s way as Jake O’Meara scooped up a fumble and returned it 35 yards.
Three plays later senior quarterback Nick Schone dodged and weaved his way through the Vikings defense on a 48-yard touchdown score that helped propel the Hilltoppers, who never trailed in the game, to a 35-13 victory.
“We played very well for a game opener and with several underclassmen,” Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong said.
“I felt our offensive line played well despite being smaller up front,” added Strong. “Our top objective was to control the line of scrimmage and to stop their tailback and we were able to do that very well.”
Even without lineman Allen Croes, who is sidelined with an ankle injury, Glenwood City managed the run game on both sides of the ball quite well.
Glenwood City finished with 387 yards, all on the ground, nearly 120 yards more than Frederic tallied.
The Vikings had trouble all game long stopping the Hilltoppers’ stable of talented backfield runners. Junior Jake O’Meara sliced the Vikings for 142 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries while Nick Schone, helped by his 48-yard scoring jaunt, eclipsed the century mark with 129 yards on 14 attempts.
The Toppers’ three other ball carriers fared well, too. Nate Mrdutt turned three of his 11 hauls into scores and finished with 55 yards total; Jake Nelson netted 33 yards on eight runs and Jake Kopacz had a pair of runs that covered 28 yards.
“Nick and our backs ran very well,” said Strong. “Defensively, we played our read keys well and stopped the run.”
Glenwood City, however, did struggle trying to throw the ball. Even though Schone attempted just four passes, two were intercepted including one in the end zone while the other two fell incomplete.
After dodging the Vikings’ home-run throw and forcing a punt, the Hilltoppers took their first possession at midfield. Faced with a fourth and four at the Frederic 33, Glenwood City went for it, picking up 20 yards on an O’Meara run to the 13.
The Toppers, however, netted just two yards in the next three plays. Again, the team turned to Jake O’Meara on a crucial fourth down. The speedy junior back picked up seven yards falling just a yard short of the eight needed.
Frederic took the ball on downs at its five and began to move downfield. Ennis threw to Jonah Tinman eight yards and a fresh set of downs on a third and long play. Roman Poirier rattled off a 23 yard run but had it trimmed to just eight after a Viking block in the back brought the ball back to the Vikes’ 38. But after a pair of Poirier carries, Ennis threw the ball to the elusive back and Poirier did the rest for a 40 yard gain to the Toppers’ 16. Mitchell Paquette picked up 13 yards on back-to-back runs to give the Vikings a first-and-goal at the three.
But on the next play senior Cody Bonte broke through the Vikings’ line and hit Ennis as he attempted a hand off causing the ball to come loose. Jake O’Meara scooped the ball off the grass and returned it to the Toppers’ 41 before being hauled down.
O’Meara and Schone would each picked up five yards on consecutive runs to give the Toppers a first down just inside Frederic territory as the first quarter ended.
On the ensuing play, quarterback Nick Schone called his own number and picked up some solid blocking as he made his way to the end zone 48 yards away. Schone then tacked on the extra point kick for a 7-0 lead at 11:48 of the second quarter.
Glenwood City found itself with the ball just a few minutes later when Schone pounced on another Frederic fumble at the Vikings 43.
But Schone gave it right back on the following play when his pass was picked off by Brady Evans and returned back to the 43 yard line.
A few plays later, Evans out jumped Toppers’ defender Jacob Kopacz for a 31-yard pass completion to the GC 34. The Vikings converted a fourth and nine play when Mitchell Paquette ran for ten yards and to set up a first-and-goal at the nine. Poirier ran eight yards on first down. Then on second down, Vikings’ quarterback Austin Ennis dove across from a yard out to pull the Vikes to within a point at 4:12. Evans booted the extra point to knot the game at seven.
The Toppers responded with their second touchdown drive of the half. Nathan Mrdutt scored from four yards out for the first of his three TDs with just 42 second remaining until halftime. Schone’s extra point kick sailed through the uprights to give Glenwood City a 14-7 lead at the break.
Schone also shouldered a good portion of the scoring drive as he netted runs of nine, 13, seven, six and two yards.
Glenwood City added to its lead early in the third quarter. It took the second-half kickoff and marched 60 yards in ten plays, hitting paydirt on a 6-yard Nate Mrdutt scoring run. All ten plays stayed on the ground with Jake Nelson, Schone and O’Meara also getting touches. The point after was good off Schone’s foot and the Toppers led 21-7.
The Toppers stymied the Vikings offense and forced a punt after five plays.
Taking over at its own 36, Glenwood City advanced inside Frederic territory on a nice 26-yard run by Jacob Kopacz. O’Meara and Nelson added runs of four and seven yards before Schone took yet another keeper for 12 yards and a first-and-goal at the nine. But on a second-down pass play, Schone’s pass to the end zone sailed high and was intercepted for a second time by Brady Evans with just 51 ticks left on the third-quarter clock.
Frederic took the ball at the 20 yard line on the touch back. A first-down Vikings’ run was stuffed by the Toppers’ defensive unit, prompting Frederic to call a time out with nine second left.
Following the time out, Frederic sent back Roman Poirier out wide. He faked a quick hook route that allowed him to get a step behind defender Nick Schone. He hauled in the long Ennis pass and then raced to the end zone as time expired on the clock to complete the 80-yard score. The Vikings’ kick attempt went wide right leaving them trailing the Toppers 21-13.
That was as close as the Toppers would allow the Vikings to get.
Glenwood City posted a pair of touchdowns in the final stanza to pull away for the 35-13 victory.
After allowing the long scoring pass that ended the third quarter, Glenwood City answered with an eight-play, 66-yard drive that ended with Mrdutt’s third and final touchdown, a nine-yard run at 7:02 of the fourth. Nick Schone passed the ball to Carson Strong to complete the two-point conversion play and up the Toppers advantage to 29-13.
Jake O’Meara carried the ball four times during the scoring drive for 39 yards including runs of 10 and 20 yards, the later set the Toppers up at the Frederic nine.
Frederic was once again forced into a punting situation on its ensuing possession. But instead of booting the ball away on a fourth and 10 play, Roman Poirier pulled the ball down and lofted it to an open Kyle Olson who promptly dropped the big gainer.
That gave the Hilltoppers the ball on downs at the Vikings’ 31. The Toppers needed just five plays to punch the pigskin past the goal line for a fifth and final time. Jake O’Meara finished the drive with a ten-yard run that gave the Toppers their final tally of 35 points with 2:11 left in the game after the extra point was missed.
Glenwood City will be on the road this Friday when it travels to Amery to face the Warriors, a 13-12 winner over Hayward last week, in a nonconference tilt.