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By Laura Giammattei, Sports Correspondent
GLENWOOD CITY — A defensive battle between the Glenwood City Hilltoppers and the Thorp Cardinals came to a head in the fourth quarter, as the Cardinals found the end zone to secure a 12-6 victory over the Hilltoppers last Friday evening at Glenwood City High School.
Although Glenwood City fell short in the August 30 home opener, the Hilltoppers showed marked improvement in its second contest of the 2019 season.
Thorp’s Zander Rockow, who finished with 236 yards rushing on 31 carries to power the visitor’s offense, put the Cardinals on the board first late in the first quarter with a 15-yard run. A two-point conversion attempt was stifled by the Toppers to hold the Cardinals to only six points.
Glenwood City evened the score just a few minutes into the second quarter, after a slow march upfield to position themselves at the two-yard line. A handoff to Brandyn Hallquist secured the Hilltopper’s first touchdown of the season, and following an unsuccessful point after kick by Marcis DeSmith, it was all tied up at 6-6 heading into halftime.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third and fourth quarters, but it was the Cardinals that finally broke through the Topper defense.
Having taken the ball over at their own 47-yard line, the Cardinals found a series of explosive plays, including a 28-yard pass to settle them on Glenwood’s 11-yard line as Thorp’s Aidan Reis plucked the ball away from GC freshman Bryce Wickman who nearly intercepted the throw. Just two plays later, the Cardinals crossed into the end zone for the final touchdown of the game with just 6:07 left.
The Hilltoppers attempted to drive for a game-tying score, gaining first downs on a Justin Moe run and a fourth-down offsides by the Cardinals, before turning the ball over on downs following back-to-back incompletions at the Thorp 43 yard line.
The Cardinals then drained the Toppers of time outs and the scoreboard clock of time to seal the six-point victory.
Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong was pleased with his team’s performance, noting that in 22 years of coaching football, he has never had as many underclassmen on the field as he did on Friday.
“I was proud of the effort they put in this week,” he said. “I think our kids improved from week one, which is what you want to see as a coach.”
Glenwood City racked up 138 total offensive yards, including 115 on the ground. Quarterback Gavin Janson completed one pass, hitting Hallquist for a 23-yard completion. Daniel Loring led in rushing yards with 34, followed by Janson with 30, Hallquist with 26 and Justin Moe added 25.
Showing up on the defensive end for the Hilltoppers was Loring and Maxwell Janson, who both picked up one sack each. Hallquist-DeSmith led in tackles with 3 while Janson, Loring and Cole Logghe each had one.
Some of the areas Strong mentioned that still need work are tackling on defense and showing more fight on the field. “I don’t feel we are imposing our will on the other team with a burning desire to win each play … that takes discipline.”
The Hilltoppers head into Dunn-St. Croix Conference play 0-2, as they meet with the Bulldogs at Boyceville (1-1) on Friday. Glenwood City then returns home to host Durand on Friday, September 13.
“Boyceville is much improved this year,” Strong remarked of their upcoming matchup. “They have some talented kids and they play hard every play. We are focused on improving fundamentally right now and this game is another opportunity for our kids to come together and improve as a team.”