By Scott Williams

August 23, 2019

WAUSAU – Coach Jason Foster had two points of emphasis for his players coming into the 2019 high school football season: toughness and never wavering fight.

Wausau West senior linebacker Marc Sippel and his comrades in arms on both sides of the ball took that message to heart in the season opener on a crisp Friday night.

All that was missing was an elusive victory for the Warriors.

West went toe-to-toe with Hortonville for the final three quarters but wound up on the short end of a 34-17 Valley Football Association verdict at Thom Field to kick off the season.

“The kids came out and competed,” Foster said. ” We talked about that after the game. Our two big things for the year are to improve our toughness and improve our level of compete.

“Obviously, no one works as hard as we worked to lose, so we’re definitely not satisfied with the outcome. There are definitely some good things to build off of. It was a good effort.”

Among the positives was a gritty, physical performance turned in by the West defense in the second half.

The Polar Bears struggled to block the Warriors without holding. The 21-3 cushion they built in the opening half came in handy.

“As the game went on we got bogged down with penalties,” Hortonville coach Tom Kolosso said. “That’s a good football team. (Sippel) is one of the best linebackers you’ll ever play against.We were having a hard time blocking them.”

Polar Bears’ bruising senior halfback Jose Concepcion also found running room tough to come by after the break.

Concepcion racked up 75 yards on 15 carries and a score in the first half. With Sippel plugging most of those holes in the final 24 minutes, Hortonville’s featured back finished with 131 yards on a 28 attempts.

The primary problem for the Warriors was solving Polsr Bears quarterback Kyle Allen. The senior signal-called went 10-for-18 through the air for 121 yards and four TDs.

Three different Hortonville receivers were on the end of scoring passes from Allen, with Jayqon Owens hauling in scoring strikes of 28 and 9 yards.

“We’re really excited about our quarterback Kyle (Allen) and our skill guys. We have a lot of weapons on offense,” Kolosso said. “We have a lot of weapons and can spread it around.”

Seven consecutive losses to close out last season stuck in the crawls of the Warriors like a tough piece of steak.

Not even a 21-3 halftime deficit would deter them this season. On two different occasions West clawed its way back within 11 points in the second half.

Brennan Goralski broke loose for a 51-yard touchdown scamper on the first drive of the third quarter to make it 21-10. He finished with 155 yards on 19 carries.

Goralski tweaked his right knee in the third quarter and didn’t return. The prognosis is promising, however, according to coach Foster.

Junior quarterback Garrett Richardt rebounded from a slow start to complete 13 of 31 passes for 133 yards and a TD. Maxwell Helke was his top target with six receptions for 72 yards and a score.

In the end the early hole proved too much to overcome. But there are plenty of positives to build on for the Warriors.

“We’re headed in the right direction and taking steps forward,” Foster said. “There were definitely things that didn’t go our way tonight, but we’re pretty proud with how they responded to each and every one of them.

“In the second half tonight we got better.”

Hortonville  14  7  7  6 –  34

Wausau West  0  3  7  7 –  17

First Quarter

H – TJ Payne 31 pass from Kyle Allen (McKenna Gervais kick), 4:40

H – Jayqon Owens 28 pass from Allen (Gervais kick), 1:38

Second Quarter

WW – Nicholas Raasch 24 FG, 8:15

H – Jose Concepcion 3 run (Gervais kick), 1:34

Third Quarter

WW – Brennan Goralski 51 run (Raasch kick), 10:11

H – Owens 9 pass from Allen (Gervais kick), 8:33

Fourth Quarter

WW – Maxwell Helke 20 pass from Garrett Richardt (Raasch kick), 7:48

H – Parker Lawrence 31 pass from Allen (kick failed), :49