Samuel Ritchey takes off on a run in the Chiefs 44-27 win over Whitewater Oct. 6. Ritchey rushed 18 times for 154 yards and a touchdown in the game. (Bob Mischka photo)

By Dan Truttschel

Sports correspondent

Even with its struggles again this year, Big Foot football coach Greg Enz knew his team’s matchup Friday night with Whitewater was bound to be a difficult one.

He was right on the money.

Big Foot found itself down twice before it rallied in the second half to put the Whippets away in a 44-27 Rock Valley Conference win.

The Chiefs improved to 3-5, while Whitewater fell to 1-7.

Enz was pleased to see his team bounce back, not only from a loss the week before, but after some early struggles Friday.

“Based on how we played in the first half, the second half was by far our best performance on all sides of the ball on the season,” he said.

There was a lot to like about the Chiefs’ play, Enz said, beginning with the efforts of the players up front who helped Big Foot rush for 292 yards.

“We were able to control the line of scrimmage (and) were able to run better than we have in a couple of years,” he said. “Our pass game has continued to excel as it has most of the year. The difference was we were able to create a pocket for (quarterback) Logan (Eischeid) and limit mistakes in our blocking and protection.

“Defensively, we created stops, moreso in the second half, pitching the shutout.”

Big Foot scored three unanswered touchdowns to take control.

Quarterback Logan Eischeid, who passed for 294 yards and rushed for 93 more, connected on a 4-yard scoring play to Aidan Greco, and then scored on a 29-yard run. Sam Ritchey, who rushed 18 times for 154 yards, scored Big Foot’s final touchdown on a 1-yard run, followed by a two-point conversion run by Pedro Sierra.

The combination of Ritchey and his offensive line was quite the formidable duo all night, Enz said.

“Sam has always been a strong runner with good vision,” he said.” Friday, our offensive line executed their assignments as well as I have seen since I have arrived here.

“We have been grading our position players up front this year, and they collectively graded their best score of the season. Sam was given creases (to run) along with the ability to cut back, but what stood out was how he kept his running vertically on every carry. This is something high school running backs and young running backs need to realize. Moving laterally is never a good thing. Sam definitely had himself an outstanding night.”

Eischeid seems to have settled into the position, Enz said.

“I think it took a while still, but in the third quarter, he really became more aggressive in his throws and decision making,” Enz said. “The key to being successful isn’t as much skill, but confidence. … This is something that I hope he can build on into Week 9, and then obviously in his efforts as a basketball player in the winter.”


Chiefs rally early

Jack Hereley put the Chiefs on the scoreboard in the first half on a 1-yard touchdown run, followed by the two-point conversion pass from Eischeid to Sierra that gave Big Foot an 8-6 lead.

After Big Foot fell behind again, Eischeid hit A.J. Courier with a 40-yard scoring play, followed by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Sierra. Eischeid added two-point conversion passes to Sierra and Greco.

Sierra led the receiving corps with eight catches for 78 yards, followed by Greco with seven catches for 66 yards, Jack Heidenreich with four catches for 68 yards and Courier with three catches for 59 yards.

Jack Gillingham led the defense with 11 tackles, followed by Konor Gerhardt with nine, Eduardo Cruz, Dylan Robinson and Danny Carpentar with six and Tucker Milligan and Kolin Leidberg with five.

Enz was pleased with the defensive efforts of several players on that side of the ball.

“Konor (Gerhardt), Dylan Johnson and Jack Gillingham needed to have good games as their position was going to be forced to step up and make plays throughout the evening,” he said. “Konor always had a nose for the ball and makes great contributions to the team.”


Chiefs to host Evansville

Big Foot hosts Evansville-Albany on Friday in a 7 p.m. RVC matchup. The Blue Devils, who already have clinched a playoff berth, bring a 5-3 record into the contest after a 35-7 win last week over Brodhead-Juda.

Enz said Evansville brings several weapons into the regular-season finale.

“We have to stop the run first,” he said. “This has been a goal that we constantly stress, but obviously have been inconsistent in our effectiveness. With how we performed on Friday, our hope is that it helps us going into the game with the Blue Devils.”

With a victory, the Chiefs will improve to 4-5, which would put them on the bubble for a possible playoff berth – but nothing is guaranteed, which means Friday could be the end of 2017. Regardless, the team’s seniors will be a focus, Enz said.

“The last game is always about your seniors,” he said. “This quite possibly will be our last game. That is something that we haven’t dealt with here in quite some time. I think (the seniors’) legacy is very much in how they finish their season.

“With the enormous amount of injuries, from season-ending to game-to-game, this team has been stressed like no other I have been around. That creates constant challenges to the players and demands of them to step up and perform.”

Enz said he’s been proud of the seniors for dealing with their fair share of adversity.

“This class of seniors have never once pointed fingers, given up on their teammates or themselves,” he said. “Even though the wins and losses haven’t been to the level they have wanted, they have come to practice willing to work and eager for the next game.

“I have seen other teams with more success fail to take advantage of the opportunity to play the game. This is the only sport in their lives that will never be able to be duplicated in any setting.”


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