When making the seemingly endless trip to Hazen, North Dakota, a lot of teams might come out flat to start a football game. Wahpeton bucked that trend and grabbed a quick lead in their Friday, Sept. 6 game. Similar to the Huskies’ season opener, the hot start didn’t last and the Bison took control for a 41-12 win. Hazen is the No. 5 team in the state.
“We came out of the gates and we played really hard. We made some really big plays to start the game,” Wahpeton coach Wade Gilbertson said. “Our excitement level was up and it was nice to see after a hard week of practice and after the game last week, it was nice to see the kids come out with good energy.”
Jaxon Wienbar picked up where he left off from last week with another early touchdown. The senior hauled in a 39-yard long ball and then a couple plays later Blake Schafer found him again for a four-yard scoring hookup.
“We noticed the corner was playing Wienbar a little bit tight and we thought that he was a better athlete so we sent him deep and sure enough Blake made a great throw,” Gilbertson said. “And then Blake steps back and makes a nice throw to Wienbar for the score. Couldn’t be happier. We started off really well.”
The pair were clicking all night to the tune of seven catches and 113 yards.
“We’re trying to take advantage of the way teams are playing (Wienbar),” Gilbertson said. “If teams are going to play loose like they did tonight, we just start dumping it off shallow and try to get yards that way. Teams are either going to play him tight or loose, so we try to take advantage of the way they play him.”
Along with the early fireworks from the offense, the Wahp defense also came out hot. Hazen got the ball back after the score and drove to the red zone, but were denied. They were kept off the board the entire first quarter.
“That was awesome. That was a big part of the game right there. That was a huge, huge defensive effort,” Gilbertson said. “Defensively we were making plays and were in position to make plays all night long. We just didn’t make a lot of plays. We gave a great effort all night long. That first stop got our excitement ramped up even more.”
Hazen shook off the slow start and their experience played a big part in how they responded with the next 34 points. Almost all of their starters were seniors and they were also a far more physical squad.
“(Hazen) started 20 seniors tonight. That’s a big deal. They had big guys and they were bruisers,” Gilbertson said. “They were starting guys with a lot of experience and when we’re as young as we are, sometimes we’re going to take our lumps against more experienced and physical teams like that.”
The Huskies’ defense may have struggled keeping their foes in check, but they still had some bright spots. Defensive lineman Logan Gjerdevig was the team’s leading tackler with seven stops, including a sack.
“I thought Logan Gjerdivig played better. We challenge Logan sometimes to play nasty. Logan loves football, but sometimes he can be a little bit of a nice guy,” Gilbertson said. “I want to turn him into a caged animal on the football field. Thats what we need out of him. He’s too much of a nice guy. I thought he played a little more physical tonight.”
Isaac Wohlers was another standout for the WHS defense.
“I thought (Wohlers) played really well on that side of the ball,” Gilbertson said. “I thought he flew around and that’s what we’re trying to get all of our guys to do. Just fly around and make plays.”
Just like last week, Dez Munezero showed his offense still had some life with a late touchdown from four yards out. He was limited to 37 yards on the day and the team totaled seven yards on the ground.
“We could not get the ground game going at all. If we give Dez the room, he’s going to be OK,” Gilbertson said. “We’ve just got to get him the room. All of his yards were tough yards. He was getting hit before he’d even get to the line of scrimmage.”
Wahpeton (0-2) will host Beulah, North Dakota, for their annual Homecoming game, which will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
“Beulah is one of the top five teams in the state. They’re going to be pretty salty and good,” Gilbertson said. “Our boys will be excited to play on Friday night and twice as excited because it’s Homecoming. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”