Oconto Falls struggling for points

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Team was shut out in Friday’s loss

Greg Bates Times Herald Correspondent

Photo by Lisa Walters

Oconto Falls High School senior Cliff Yuma gets tackled during the 46-0 loss to Freedom on Sept. 8.

In the previous two years, the Freedom football team put a hurting on Oconto Falls, outscoring the Panthers 95-6.

Friday night continued that trend as Freedom scored on five straight first-half possessions before cruising to a 46-0 victory in North Eastern Conference play.

The Panthers have been outscored 181-15 in their first four games this season.

“It just comes down to finishing,” Oconto Falls coach Barry Derickson said. “What we’re trying to do is execute. It’s going to be a process; there is no magic wand. I’m not (University of Texas football coach) Tom Herman who’s going to come in and make it happen overnight.

“But at the same time, we’re on the right path to do the right things. We’ve just got to go out and execute. This program, we’re trying to revive it from the dead.”

Oconto Falls (0-4, 0-3 conference) had a tough time stopping Freedom (3-1, 3-1) on the ground. The Irish amassed 246 yards, 217 of those coming in the opening half. Freedom quarterback Matt Verhasselt rushed for a career-high four touchdowns and had just five carries on the night for 70 yards. He was also 4-for-7 passing for 84 yards and a score.

“Matt is an excellent athlete,” Freedom coach Frank Mattia said. “He was a tight end last year and there are plays that he has the option to pull the ball or give it. There were a couple where we were like, ‘Give it. Give it.’ Then he pulled it and scored himself. It was like, ‘No. No. No. Yes.’ He’s just a good athlete.”

Oconto Falls is trying to cut down opponents’ big plays on the ground.

“We just needed to get lined up correctly,” Derickson said. “We switched up what we were doing on defense to try to stop the bleeding. And that’s what it came down to; we just needed to get the alignment correct. That’s all it was.”

Freedom got on the board on its second drive as Verhasselt hit Caden Hofacker on a jump ball for a 29-yard touchdown. On the Irish’s next three possessions, Verhasselt scored on runs of 12, 7 and 40 yards to put Freedom up 27-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The quick start by Freedom had Oconto Falls on its heels.

“We’ve been trying to establish that,” Mattia said. “We’ve had a little bit of trouble in a couple of our games getting out to a quick start, and so it was something we emphasized this week, really trying to get out quick.”

The Irish got a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by Hofacker to make it 34-0 early in the second quarter. After Verhasselt tallied his fourth rushing touchdown of the game, the Freedom starters were done for the night with a six-touchdown cushion.

Freedom scored its final touchdown of the game on a 51-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Jordan Cassiani to Hunter Wiese.

Oconto Falls’ offense had a tough time getting going, amassing just 75 total yards. The Panthers had 13 possessions on the night: seven resulting in three-and-outs, two in four-and-outs and four ending in interceptions.

Quarterback Dakota Carriveau was 8 of 21 for 25 yards and two interceptions. He was also the team’s leading rusher with two carries for 12 yards.

“All these defenses that we face, they get more and more creative to stop our passing game,” Derickson said. “Everyone is so afraid of Dakota’s arm and our wide receivers, so tonight they mixed up their coverages – they weren’t showing what they were really playing. It’s Dakota’s first year and people are going to disguise coverages, and we’re working through that.”

Jarod Parsons had two receptions for 21 yards to pace Oconto Falls. Jacob Foster had three catches for 20 yards.

Freedom’s Dakota Brockman ran for a game-high 107 yards on eight carries.

“Next Friday is going to be a big week for us,” Derickson said. “Denmark (1-3, 1-3) is something we can go out there and win. They know they can beat Denmark, now they just need to go out there and do it.”

Freedom 46, Oconto Falls 0

Team 1 2 3 4 F

Freedom 27 13 6 0 46

Oconto Falls 0 0 0 0 0

Scoring Summary

First quarter

F: Verhasselt to Caden Hofacker 29-yard pass (PAT good) 7-0 (7:18).

F: Verhasselt 12-yard run (PAT good) 14-0 (6:16).

F: Verhasselt 7-yard run (PAT good) 21-0 (1:59).

F: Verhasselt 40-yard run (PAT missed) 27-0 (0:00).

Second quarter

F: Caden Hofacker 45-yard interception (PAT good) 34-0 (9:34).

F: Verhasselt 5-yard run (PAT missed) 40-0 (7:08).

Third quarter

F: Cassiani to Hunter Wiese 51-yard pass (PAT missed) 46-0 (1:53).

Fourth quarter

No scoring