Week 1 - NUIC Game of the Week: Du-Pec vs Aquin
Starting out the gates with a big game is something you don't see too often. However, when you look at the Du-Pec Rivermen schedule this spring there is no avoiding a big game situation every week they take the field. This week would be no different as they played host to the #3 ranked team in Class 1A, the Aquin Bulldogs. The Rivermen were voted as team to watch in Class 3A in the Coaches Poll, and many polls generated had Du-Pec rated or ranked in the top 10.
The Rivermen would start the game strong as they were able to limit the Bulldogs offensively on their first series, and then forced a fumble that the Rivermen would recover at the Bulldog 23 yard line. The first play was a Tre'Von Stifter 4 yard run, followed by a Gabe Howard rush, and then Hunter Hoffman would connect with Stifter on a great catch in the end zone to put the Rivermen on the board first 6-0 with 7:37 to go in the 1st quarter.
Aquin would quickly retaliate, as Will Gustafson would get the kickoff at the 16 yard line and return it the 84 yards for the score. The Evan Broge point after attempt was good and the Bulldogs would take the lead 7-6 with 7:25 still to play in the 1st quarter.
The Bulldogs would do a squib kick that Du-Pec couldn't handle and the Bulldogs would recover at the Du-Pec 40 yard line. A nice steady drive set up by a 21 yard reception from Brennan Carlson would lead to a Gustafson 5 yard scramble for the score on a designed run play to put Aquin further in front 14-6 with 4:02 to go in the 1st.
The Rivermen would catch a break for a moment as the Bulldogs were deep in Du-Pec territory, but a Gustafson pass across the middle would find the hands of Stifter instead of intended target Christian Becke. On the very next play, however Cade Geiken would recover a Hoffman fumble at the Du-Pec 30 yard line to put the life back in the Bulldogs. After a few rushing attempts by both Gustafson and Ty Stykel would move the ball to the 8 yard line, Gustafson would connect with Andrew Bowman for the touchdown and extend the Bulldog lead to 20-7 with 5:11 left in the 2nd quarter.
Du-Pec would drive the ball to the Bulldog 15 yard line, but were turned away by the Bulldog defense on a 4th down stop. Once again the turnover bug would hit, as Stykel was hit hard and the ball came out with Jake Anderson from the Rivermen landing on it. The Rivermen would get on the board when Hunter Hoffman dropped back to pass, rolled to his left to avoid pressure, then turned to his right as he was cornered in, picked up a big back side block from Trent Harris that sprung him free for a 7 yard scamper into the end zone. The 2 point attempt was a pass play from Hoffman to Trent Hetland that was successful that cut the Aquin lead to 20-15 headed to the half.
The 3rd quarter went very fast, as Du-Pec would turn the ball over on downs twice, with one drive ending at the Aquin 24 yard line. The Bulldogs would see their first 2 drive end in a turnover on downs and another fumble that was recovered by the Rivermen's Bryce Fitzanko.
That would lead to a big drive as the Rivermen started at their own 30 yard line. A Bulldog rush would force Hoffman out of the pocket again, but he was able to find Hetland for a 20 yard gain. A nice run by Fitzanko for 26 yards had the Rivermen on Aquin's side of the field. The drive would be capped on a big pass and catch from Hoffman to Stifter for a 38 yard score that put the Rivermen back in front to end the 3rd quarter with Du-Pec in front 21-20.
The 4th quarter would belong to the Bulldogs, as their offense controlled the tempo and the clock, chewing up almost 7 minutes on a drive that started at the Bulldog 41 yard line. Some big catches by Carlson down the stretch helped extend the drive, along with the legs of Gustafson, who would find the end zone for the 3rd time on the day from a yard out. The 2 point try was a Gustafson to Carlson pass that was good and put Aquin in front 28-21 with 5:11 to go.
The Rivermen wouldn't even have the ball for a minute before Aquin had it again and ate up the final 4:15 on the clock to seal the win. It was quite entertaining for the casual fan though, as Aquin would face 4th down twice, with the final 4th down play being a Gustafson rush that looked to come up a half yard short of the sticks, but the ball spot gave the Bulldogs a 1st down and placed them into victory formation to wind out the clock.
Aquin was led by Will Gustafson. The All-Stater was 11-20 passing for 138 yards and 1 TD, carried the ball 36 times for 98 yards and 2 TD's, and had the 84 yard kickoff return TD. Ty Stykel added 11 yards rushing on 10 attempts, while Brennan Carlson hauled in 7 passes for 102 yards, and Andrew Bowman had 2 receptions for 15 yards and 1 TD.
Hunter Hoffman paced the Rivermen offense with 15-27 passing for 141 yards and 2 TD's to go with 9 yards rushing and 1 TD. Tre'Von Stifter had 4 receptions for 68 yards and 2 TD's, Bryce Fitzanko ran the ball 7 times for 35 yards, and Trent Hetland had 3 receptions for 35 yards. Defensively, the Rivermen forced turnovers with Stifter on an interception, and Jake Anderson and Fitzanko both recovering fumbles.
Du-Pec (0-1) travels to Stockton (0-1) next Friday at 7 pm in what should be another good matchup. Aquin (1-0) will play host to Rockford Christian (0-0) at 3 pm from Pretzel Stadium next Saturday.