The Waukesha West football team has to feel a lot better about its season-opening performance than last year's.
The Wolverines thumped host Brookfield East on Friday, 23-7, one year after an embarrassing 29-0 opener at the hands of the Spartans.
'I know you guys have to feel good about this after what happened a year ago,' West head coach Steve Rux told his players in a post-game speech.
It was, for the most part, an evenly matched contest, until a high snap sent the football soaring over East senior quarterback Zach Damico's head midway through the second quarter. Damico made the smart play and fell on the ball, but surrendered a safety that sparked West's surge.
'It's a game of momentum,' Rux said. 'We missed some opportunities early, fumbling the football, and they missed some opportunities, so when that happened, I think it jacked us up a little bit.'
After the ensuing safety punt, West started a drive inside Spartan territory at the 47-yard line. Senior quarterback Drew Rhodes flashed his moves on the ground, rushing for 43 yards on a five-play drive capped by his 1-yard keeper on third and goal. West took a 9-0 lead with 6:31 to play in the first half.
West's defense forced a short series on the Spartans' next possession, and the Wolverines again started a drive from the Spartans 40. Five plays later, the Wolverines struck again, this time on a 10-yard touchdown burst from junior fullback Thomas MacCudden.
MacCudden also crossed the goal line on a 2-pt conversion to give West a 17-0 lead at halftime.
'You just can't do that against a quality opponent like that,' Spartans head coach Tom Swittel said of the field-position battle. 'They're good enough without you making it easy for them.'
The Spartans threatened early in the fourth quarter and reached West's 19-yard line. But on first down, they saw another drive go awry when a Damico pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off by junior linebacker Nick Radloff. The Wolverines first line tipped passes all night and intercepted Damico three times.
The Wolverines' third and clinching score came midway through the final quarter when senior running back Elijah Fort scored on a 3-yard rush. Fort sparked the drive earlier with a 38-yard scamper down the left sideline. He was a steady threat all night for the Wolverines, and despite an early fumble, he finished strong by rushing 24 times for 118 yards.
'I owe it all to the offensive line,' Fort said. 'Nobody likes to fumble the ball, but you have to shake it off and get back out there. You've got to have a short memory. They did what they had to do to get the holes for me. It's definitely a great way to start the season.'
Rux, who reached his 100th career victory as a head coach, wasn't as bashful about Fort's success.
'Elijah's a great success story,' Rux said. 'Last year, he was third string. He hasn't played much in the past, but he kept working at it. He worked his tail off. He's our most improved player. He's made an incredible difference on our football team.'
Senior wideout Will Sutton scored on a 12-yard touchdown catch from Damico to avoid the shutout with 1:34 left to play. The Wolverines recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
'This is one of the most enjoyable teams I've coached,' Rus said. 'A big difference this year is that most of these guys have played a lot of football on Friday nights. There's great chemistry and they're a pleasure to coach.
The Wolverines (1-0) host New Berlin West (0-1) next Friday, while the Spartans (0-1) host Beaver Dam (1-0).
'I've heard (New Berlin West is) pretty good,' Rux said. 'Some people in the Woodland think they're going to be pretty tough this year, so we'll have to be ready for that.'
CMH 37, Riverside 0
Defending Division 3 state champion Catholic Memorial crushed Milwaukee Riverside, riding a 30-point second quarter to victory.
Ty Schmitt caught a touchdown pass for 45 yards, then took a free kick 65 yards to paydirt following a safety just more than one minute later. Sam Gromacki administered teh quarterback sack that resulted in the two points.
John Clark and Alec Kocour finished with touchdown runs, and Robbie Gogin recovered a Clark fumble in the end zone for another score.
Waukesha South 53, Nicolet 6
The Blackshirts overwhelmed the Knights in the season opener, with Anthony Johnson, Isaiah Pitchford and Jordan Yatchak each clearing 90 yards rushing and scoring two touchdowns apiece. Jonathon Lombardi added another and Ryan Larke caught a score.
Port Washington 35, Waukesha North 21
The Northstars scored twice in the fourth quarter but never came within a score of Port. Mario VanSchaick scored twice and Jackson Roe once.