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by Joel DeWitt
Eau Claire – The Hilltoppers knew they had a tough row to hoe heading into their Division 7, Level 2 football playoff game against unbeaten Eau Claire Regis on October 29th. Regis is the top seed in the region, number one ranked small school in the state, and comes into the contest undefeated on the season.
Though Glenwood City had a few tricks up their sleeves on the evening, Regis would control the tempo throughout the game and cruise to a 50-13 victory at Carson Park.
While Glenwood City would have some success on the offensive side of the ball, three turnovers would doom them in the first half. Regis would convert on those turnovers; in fact they would score on five consecutive possession in the first half to jump out to a 36-6 lead at halftime.
“Turnovers definitely hurt our chances especially when you are playing a team as good as Regis,” Coach Shane Strong commented. “You almost have to play perfect football against a team like that.”
Trailing 15-0, the Hilltoppers would start to find a rhythm offensively. With 8:30 remaining in the first quarter and starting on their own 30-yard line, they would put together a drive to chip into the Regis lead.
To get things going, quarterback Bryce Wickman would find Brady McCarthy for 18 yards and the first down. The next play Regis would be flagged for pass interference, resulting in a 15-yard penalty and a first down.
A long rush by Wickman would set up a pass from Wickman to Gabe Knops, that went six yards for the score. The missed kicking PAT attempt would leave Regis with the lead at 15-6.
The Ramblers would take the ensuing kickoff 71 yards down to the Hilltopper 26-yard line. However, the Hilltopper defense would not make things easy for Regis.
After getting inside the ten and setting up a first and goal, Regis would hit a wall. Facing fourth and goal on the 5-yard line, Regis would connect on a pass for the score. The touchdown would extend the lead to 22-6.
The next two possessions would be fruitless for the Hilltoppers as they would fumble on the first and be forced to punt on the second. Regis would score on both of their possession to extend the lead to 36-6 with 4:58 remaining in the first half.
Glenwood City would have one more chance to cut into that lead before the half. Starting on their own 28-yard line, they would push the ball down the field and get within scoring distance. However, an interception by Regis in the endzone would kill that chance and end the half.
Unfortunately for Glenwood City, the second half would start much like the first ended, with Regis controlling the ball. The Ramblers would score on their first two possessions to take a commanding 50-6 lead.
On a positive note, the Hilltoppers were able to get the run game going in the fourth quarter. Max Janson had some nice runs to put some additional points on the board for the Hilltoppers.
Starting on their own 37-yard line with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter, Janson put together runs of 27 yards and 13 yards, the latter for a touchdown. The PAT by Marcis DeSmith would put the score at 50-13, which was the final for the evening.
While the scoreboard appeared a bit lopsided, the Hilltoppers were able to find some success offensively. Wickman lead the way passing with 165 yards. Brady McCarthy paced the receivers with 81 yards on five catches. Janson added seven catches for 41 yards.
“Regis did not have a weakness on their team, but we felt we could attack them in the secondary,” said Strong. “We have some kids that can get open in space in our passing game and Bryce has the arm to get them the ball.”
Total, Glenwood City had 254 yards. Jason led all rushers, carrying the ball eight times for 72 yards and the single score.
“The pass game opens the running game the same way a good run game opens the pass,” commented Strong on this team’s rush game. “We would have liked to be more balanced, but Regis was that good up front.”
The loss dropped Glenwood City to 6-5 on the year. While the loss is disappointing, many pluses are to be taken out of the season.
The six wins are the most by a Hilltopper team since 2016 when they notched seven. Also, the win last week against Turtle Lake was their first post-season victory since the 2013 season when Glenwood City lost in the Division 7 State Championship game.
“One of the best senior classes I’ve coached,” Strong exclaimed of his seniors. “They truly understand the meaning of brotherhood.”
He continued, “I thought they gave us everything they had on the field. They are a group of young men that set the example we want our younger boys to follow.”
The Hilltoppers finished the 2021 campaign with a 6-5 record.