The defense had forced multiple turnovers, and quarterback Jackson Flottmeyer had thrown multiple touchdown passes.
Then, with one cut, Collin Conzemius gave the Aquinas High School football team yet another big play in yet another phase in the first half of Friday night’s game against Arcadia.
After the Raiders scored their first points, the Blugolds junior bobbled the ensuing kickoff and gathered himself around the 10-yard line near the right sideline.
Conzemius raced toward the wall of Aquinas blockers forming on the left sideline, but he noticed Arcadia’s coverage team flowing hard in that direction. And at the same time, a lane began to open up back to right.
“I saw the wide open hole, so I took it,” Conzemius said. “Put it into second gear.”
And no one could catch the track star.
The Blugolds got contributions from all over the field, including Conzemius’ 90-yard kickoff return, as they built a 24-point halftime lead before the offense quickly added two scores in the third quarter en route to a 45-14 victory at Roger Harring Stadium at the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex.
With the win, Aquinas (6-0, 4-0) is now alone atop the Coulee Conference standings, while the Raiders (4-1, 3-1) are tied with Altoona for second.
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“When we practice during the week, we’re very competitive to the point where we hate each other in the moment,” Flottmeyer said. “But at the end, we love each other, and the way that we practice during the week helps us prove that we can play with any team on Fridays.”
Flottmeyer completed 10 of his 14 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns while helping the offense take advantage of the Blugolds’ solid defensive play in the early going.
Arcadia attempted a halfback pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage, but Aquinas senior defensive back Chris Wilson wasn’t fooled and came down with an interception.
The Blugolds immediately moved into the Raiders’ territory on a 14-yard run by junior Calvin Hargrove, and a screen to the running back three plays later gave them first-and-goal from the 8.
The Raiders, who entered Friday night allowing 164 total yards per game, held firm for three downs and chased Flottmeyer on fourth-and-goal from the 6 as the quarterback rolled to his right.
His first read, senior Quinn Miskowski, was covered, as was his second, senior Will Skemp. But just as Arcadia’s Kaden Updike was closing in for a sack, Flottmeyer found a window to get the ball to senior Jack Christenson, who made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone.
In just over two minutes, Aquinas held an 8-0 lead.
“It especially felt good getting our offense the ball back,” Wilson said of his interception that set up the score. “We know with Flottmeyer, Miskowski, that’s a deadly combination. So whenever you can get them the ball, it’s good news.”
The defense quickly did so again by forcing a three-and-out. Flottmeyer then connected with Skemp for 47 yards, and sophomore David Malin had the first of his two rushing scores three plays later to give the Blugolds a 16-0 lead with 6 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first quarter.
From there, Aquinas was in control.
The defense forced a pair of turnovers on the Raiders’ next two possessions, and Miskowski came down with a jump ball from Flottmeyer for a 30-yard touchdown that extended the team’s lead to 22-0 with 8:24 left in the second quarter.
Arcadia responded with an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive — which almost ended another turnover but was extended because of a Blugolds personal foul — but Conzemius followed with his kickoff return.
The Raiders outgained Aquinas 119-118 in the first half, but the Blugolds’ came up with timely plays on defense and special teams to give them a 30-6 lead at the break.
“We’ve talked about all three phases,” Aquinas coach Tom Lee said. “Defensively, we’re not the ‘85 Bears. Like, I’d love to be the ‘85 Bears. But teams are having a tough time scoring on us. It’s hard to go all the way down the field all the time.
“And we’re so explosive on offense, and then we invest in specials. And the boys believe in the specials. It’s paid some dividends for us, so we want to keep that going.”
The Blugolds were crisp on their first two possessions of the second half. Two screen passes to senior Jack Gagermeier set up a Hargrove TD run on the first, and a 55-yard pass to Miskowski down the middle of the field set up Malin’s other score, which put Aquinas in front 45-6 with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
Hargrove led the Blugolds’ rushing attack with 51 yards and that touchdown on seven carries.
Updike led an Arcadia scoring drive early in the fourth quarter, including a 59-yard pass to junior Cam Boland and a touchdown on a QB sneak, to bring the game to its final score.
Boland, who had a rushing touchdown for the Raiders’ first score, finished with 85 total yards, while Updike was 4-of-9 passing for 87 yards and an interception. He also rushed for 46 yards but had a fumble.
Aquinas will look to stay perfect next week when it plays Viroqua, while Arcadia will look to get back on track against Altoona.
Eric Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ByEricLee