Wahpeton knew they didn’t have an easy task ahead of them when Milbank, South Dakota, came to town on Friday, Aug. 30. The pair of teams each got a touchdown on the board in the opening quarter, but the Bulldogs fired back with five consecutive TDs to take home a 42-12 victory.
“We saw a lot of good things. We learned a lot about ourselves tonight,” Wahpeton coach Wade Gilbertson said. “We knew that we were going to show our age at times, but we did see some good things. We saw a lot of things to build off of.”
It was the first game under Gilbertson and with that comes players buying into a new approach. Both on the field and in the team’s culture overall.
“We see a lot of good things going on with our program right now. We’ve just got to keep our culture really tight and we can do some really good things at Wahpeton High School if we can do that,” Gilbertson said. “This started back in June with us trying to develop a culture where we can be proud of our program and get kids to buy in, play for each other and be excited about football.”
Milbank, who came to Wahpeton with a game under their belt already, put the first points on the board. The Huskies answered with a deep ball down the sideline to Jaxon Wienbar. The speedy senior is a newcomer to the team after suiting up for Breckenridge last year. He made his presence felt by making a nice play on the ball before taking it the rest of the way for the 38-yard score. Wienbar was the leading receiver on the day with 62 yards on a trio of catches.
“If we can get (Wienbar) involved on the offense, the offense can go. If we can stretch the field with him it opens up the run game a bit. If we can pound the ball, it’s going to open up the pass game a bit,” Gilbertson said. “That was a heck of a route and a heck of a throw.”
Tossing the long ball to Wienbar was Blake Schafer. The sophomore was making his first varsity start and was unfazed by the pressure in a 163-yard showing.
“I’ve got to tell (Schafer) that he played really well. That kid’s got some arm talent,” Gilbertson said. “I think as a sophomore I was most impressed with his composure in the pocket and his composure when he came off the field as well. He may not think I noticed that, but I noticed that. I didn’t know how some of these young guys were going to react when the lights came on, but he reacted well. I was impressed with him.”
The Huskies struggled to get anything going, but they continued to push through. The hosts ended the night on a high note by putting together a scoring drive, which ended with Dez Munezero bouncing out to the left side on an eight-yard score.
“We definitely wanted to get a ball punched in there. We were trying to get the excitement level raised up on the sidelines, we were trying to get guys motivated on the sideline,” Gilbertson said. “We don’t care what the score is, we just want to win each play and win that drive. That’s a big deal going into next week. That builds momentum going into next week.”
Wahpeton (0-1) will face their first road test with a long trip to Hazen, North Dakota. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6.
“It’s going to be a long day, but I’m looking forward to it,” Gilbertson said. “Those are the types of road trips that help bring a team together. Those are the kind of road trips kids remember 20 years later.”
Blake Schafer- 14-27 163 yds, TD, 2 INTs
Dez Munezero- 13 carries, 50 yds, TD
Isaac Wohlers- 3 carries, 6 yds
Jaxon Wienbar- 3 catches, 62 yds, TD
Jordan Miller- 4 catches, 48
Treyton Link- 4 catches, 47 yds
Wohlers- 3 catches, 6 yds
Kobe Thimjon- 9 tackles
Shea Truesdell- 6 tackles
Wohlers- 6 tackles