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Warriors' message simple: We're for real

by Chris Schulte

I have seen plenty of Wausau West football in my nearly nine years of living in Wausau, but none was better than the third quarter of Friday's 27-9 Valley Football Association North Division win over D.C. Everest at Thom Field.

To understand the magnitude of the victory, one only had to watch the post-game reaction of the student body section of fans, who rushed the field to celebrate the win with the players. And while that celebration was going on, there were plenty of hugs to go around among the coaching staff.

In that piovtal third quarter the Warriors not only erased a 9-7 halftime deficit, but they ran a successful fake punt, Jacob Martin scored three touchdowns and the defense -- highlighted by a Chris Clementi sack and a key Austin Bates pass deflection -- seized control of the game with 20 unanswered points.

More importantly, West improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play.

What changed at halftime?

The second half is ''a brand new game,'' said a jubilant Wausau West coach Kevin Grundy. "The fake punt (in the third quarter) got us going and that changed things.''

This is West's best start in more than 10 years and the team has already eclipsed its total victories in each of the past two seasons when the Warriors finished 2-7 both years.

West has now beat Marshfield 10-9, dropped a heartbreaking 10-7 contest to SPASH, when a game-tying field goal in the final seconds was just off the mark, whipped Appleton West 37-0 and handled Everest 27-9.

While this week was a test to see if the Warriors deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as the elite teams of the conference -- next week they will have the chance to see if they can compete head-to-head with one when they travel to Appleton North, which is 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play.

If comparable scores are any indication, the game should be a dandy. Last week, the Lightning travel to Everest and won by a 28-8 score, while this week it was West beating the Evergreens by an almost identical 27-9 total.

While West certainly did look the best I have ever seen, the Warriors will need to build on the success of that second half if they are going to compete with Appleton North. For as good as West's third quarter was, the first and second were sluggish and disorganized, with Grundy and his staff having to use two of its timeouts in the first five minutes of the game.

If West comes out prepared to go nose-to-nose with Appleton North, no stranger to playing in big games every year, it could pull off the upset. It has the makings of a classic battle of an up-and-coming team trying to tell a perennial power to make some room at the top.

East gets first win

While West improved to 3-1 and 2-0, Wausau East collected its first win of the season Friday night with a 35-32 win over Appleton West. It was the first win for coach Scott Mallien, who took over this season for Steve Jung, who now is at Neenah.