By Mitchell A. Skurzewski
For Wausau Pilot & Review
WAUSAU – Things were going according to the script for Wausau Newman Catholic on Friday night at Thom Field.
A pair of touchdowns before halftime sparked by an interception from Thomas Bates and an onside kick before halftime helped Newman Catholic pull away and coast to a 49-22 victory over crosstown foe Wausau East in a 8-man football matchup.
Bates ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns and had a momentum-spurring interception, but midway through the third quarter, the Cardinals’ engine fell to the ground writhing in pain.
Bates took a handoff and was hit almost instantly in the backfield and he let out an audible scream of pain, clutching his left knee.
After the game on crutches in the locker room, Bates said he felt something hit his leg and it “just didn’t feel right.” There is fear that his season could come to an early end with a potential torn ACL.
“It didn’t look good, his season is most likely over,” Newman-Catholic head coach Paul Michlig said. “You hate to see that happen to that kid, the work he put into this and this season.”
Newman led 21-6 when Bates started a game-breaking sequence for the Cardinals with an interception. Moments later, Newman quarterback Conner Krach connected with Jacob Pfiffner for a 41-yard touchdown strike. Krach threw for four touchdowns in the game.
The ensuing squib-kickoff hit a Lumberjack upman and the Cardinals recovered and scored on a short touchdown pass from Krach to Eli Gustafson with under 40 seconds left before halftime turning a 15-point lead into a 35-6 advantage at halftime.
What makes the injury to Bates even tougher was the fact that the game was wrapped up and his night was likely to be done soon anyway. Bates was reflective in the locker room, saying “he was having the most fun he’d ever had playing football” playing against a much bigger crosstown school in a fun atmosphere.
“Last year when the season just kind of ended (due to COVID-19) it kind of taught us not to take things for granted,” he said. “We don’t have to play football, we get to play football. We all want to be out there. This team, we stick together, we play together and I am so happy to play and be with my friends in the locker room.”
“We are going to stay optimistic about his injury,” Pfiffer said. “No matter what we are going to let him know we have his back.”
For Wausau East, a cancellation on Newman’s schedule allowed the Lumberjacks, who, late in the summer due to low numbers opted for 8-man football, to play in Wausau. Because of the late decision, East would have been forced to play every game on the road, if they could find an opponent. This allowed the team to experience a senior night and a homecoming-type atmosphere at Thom Field.
“I told the kids in the locker room football is all learning experiences,” East football coach Henry Kremnitzer said. “It’s all about how you come back.”
“I think sometimes you forget how important football is to a school. How important homecoming and getting a little piece of that, those experiences to play in front of your fans. Tonight was pretty special and important to these kids.”
East quarterback Noah Stroming had three touchdowns – two rushing, one passing) in the loss.
Newman Catholic 14 21 14 0 – 49
Wausau East 6 0 0 16 – 22