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Beavers Sports

Season Opener Slips Away From Beavers

Posted Saturday, August 27, 2011 by Brady Ambrose

FOOTBALL: Season opener slips away from Beavers

Junior Luke Bjorklund ran the Reedsburg flexbone offense Friday night as the Beavers rushed for 168 yards.

A relatively inexperienced defense kept Reedsburg in Friday night's season opener at Millennium Field. But in the end, Fort Atkinson took advantage of eight Reedsburg fumbles and five turnovers to pull away for a 16-6 victory in the season opener for both teams.

"Other than some breakdowns on third-and-long and some coverage issues, I thought our defense played well enough to win the game," Reedsburg coach Brian Pottinger said. "The defense gave us good field position with a couple of turnovers and held up well against their running game, for the most part."

But the Beavers suffered through a serious case of fumble-itis, as they put the ball on the ground eight times Friday. The Blackhawks recovered four of them, including two that set up 10 fourth-quarter points.

Fort Atkinson took a 9-6 lead with 9 minutes 11 seconds in the fourth quarter when Marie Fitzgerald converted a 22-yard field goal.

"We knew coming in to the season that we would need to be a ball-control team, and that means finishing drives with a score or at least flipping the field position," said Pottinger. "Despite how bad it seemed at times on Friday night, we really did some nice things that we can build on."

Hoping to control the ball on offense and cut back on the penalties and mental mistakes that plagued the team a year ago, the Beavers - with Luke Bjorklund at quarterback and Weston Ernstmeyer, Austin Westerwelle and Colin Scanlon in the backfield - rushed for 168 yards on 50 carries. But the Beavers could only muster up six points.

Fort Atkinson took the opening kickoff and marched 71 yards in just eight plays to take a 6-0 lead. The score came on a 23-yard run by sophomore Tyler Courtier with 8:35 left in the first quarter.

The Beavers answered with a nice, 10-play drive that started at their own 10-yard line. Westerwelle picked up six yards on first down and Ernstmeyer picked up a pair of first downs as Reedsburg moved out to its own 40 in just seven plays. Scanlon got the Beavers to midfield and Westerwelle rumbled to the Fort Atkinson 40 - but two plays later the Beavers fumbled and the Blackhawks took over.

Fort moved to the Reedsburg 35 on its next possession, but the drive stalled when Blackhawk quarterback Drew Dunkleberger threw an incomplete pass on fourth down. The Beavers fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, and Fort recovered at the 37. But the Reedsburg defense held, and when the Blackhawks went for it on fourth and nine, Dunkleberger was tackled by Derek Tourdot after a short gain and Reedsburg took over at its own 30 with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

A personal foul against Fort Atkinson and an 11-yard run by Westerwelle got the Beavers into Fort Atkinson territory as the quarter ended, but the drive stalled and Fort Atkinson took over at its own 8 after a penalty on the punt return.

Fort Atkinson quickly moved to its own 32 on a 14-yard run by Courtier. But on the next play, a Dunkleberger pass was intercepted by Reedsburg's Justin Bergman, and the linebacker rumbled all the way to the Fort 25. The turnover sparked the Beavers' only scoring drive.

On fourth and six, Scanlon picked up seven yards to the 14. On the next play, Westerwelle was brought down at the 8-yard line. A five-yard face-mask penalty on the Blackhawks gave the Beavers a first and goal at the 3-yard line, and two plays later, Ernstmeyer rumbled in to tie the game at 6-6 with 5:38 to go in the half.

On their next possession Reedsburg started inside the 50 after an 11 yard Fort punt. With a little over 3 minutes in the half, Westerwelle stormed to the 31 on a 16-yard gain, Ernstmeyer picked up seven more yards and Bjorklund picked up a first down to the 19 with 1:43 to play. The Beavers fumbled on the next play, but recovered to keep the drive going. On second and 10, Scanlon was tackled for an 8-yard loss; Bjorklund was dragged down for a 5-yard loss on the next play. With 42 seconds to go, Bjorklund hit Ben Turner in the right corner of the end zone on fourth and 23 for what looked like a touchdown, but when Turner rose up with the ball, the back judge ruled the pass incomplete, negating the score.

Fort took over at its own 30 with 37 seconds in the half, but on third down, Dunkleberger fumbled and the Beavers took over with 14 seconds left. Westerwelle picked up 5 yards and the Beavers called timeout with 7 seconds to play, but Reedsburg couldn't get off a clean play as the clock ran out with the score tied, 6-6.

The teams traded possessions to start the third quarter, which saw a booming, 60 yard punt from Reedsburg sophomore Tyler Arneson after the Beavers failed to pick up a first down to start the half. On their next possession, the Beavers moved to the Fort 49 on a 20-yard slant pass from Bjorklund to the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Turner, who could develop into a threat for the Beavers in this, his first year of football.

"Ben has tons of potential as a receiver and he's been a nice addition to this offense," Pottinger said. "The learning curve is pretty steep with him not having played before, but he's a smart kid with a great attitude and work ethic."

Bjorklund picked up a tough first down on fourth and three to keep the drive going to the Blackhawks' 37, but two plays later Reedsburg fumbled again and Fort Atkinson took over at its own 37.

A key call by the officials played a role in the next Black Hawk drive. Starting at the Reedsburg 32, Dunkleberger threw an apparent incomplete pass, but the officials threw a flag, whistling the Beavers for a 15-yard interference call that put the Blackhawks at the 45-yard line. Two plays later, Dunkleberger hit Shiloh Weber with a 32-yard pass to the Reedsburg 23, and Dunkleberger picked up 10 more on the next play.

But the Reedsburg defense held the Blackhawks short of the first down, and on fourth and two, Fort Atkinson brought out placekicker Marie Fitzgerald, who booted a 22-yard field goal to put the Blackhawks up, 9-6, with 9:11 left to play.

Reedsburg took over at its own 35. The Beavers fumbled on their first play from scrimmage but recovered for a two-yard gain. On the next play, Reedsburg fumbled again when Bjorklund's pitch to Westerwelle went awry and Fort Atkinson recovered at the Beavers 40 with 8:44 left to play.

Five plays later, Dunkleberger lofted a pass to the left toward Weber, and Reedsburg's Matt Archambo tipped the ball straight up into the air. The ball fell into Weber's hands, and he strolled into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Blackhawks led, 16-6, with 6:16 to play.

The Beavers started at their own 26 but were called for a 15-yard illegal blocking penalty that pushed them all the way back to the 9-yard line. Facing a second and 27, Ernstmeyer picked up 10 yards and Bjorklund added five more, but Reedsburg was forced to punt on fourth and 12 at its own 24.

Fort Atkinson picked up a first down with 2:49 to play and ran out the clock, earning its first road victory since a 21-20 decision at Mount Horeb on Oct. 10, 2008.

Dunkleberger passed for 142 yards with one touchdown and one interception and completed 11 of 22 passes, with seven going to Weber. The Blackhawks totaled 290 yards of offense, including 145 yards on 36 rushing attempts and 145 yards passing.

For Reedsburg, Weston Ernstmeyer carried for 67 yards on 13 attempts and Luke Bjorklund completed one of four passes for 20 yards, but had one picked off.

Reedsburg now prepares for its first road game of the season, a 7:30 p.m. non-conference test Friday at Stoughton.

"I may sound like a broken record, but we need to get better at what I call the little details - things like lining up in the right spot, taking proper steps, reading keys, taking good angles and securing the football," Pottinger said. "Those little details make all the difference in this game, and we'll be a much better team when we take care of them."


Fort Atkinson 6 0 0 10-16

Reedsburg 6 0 0 0-6

Scoring summary: FA - Tyler Courtier, 13 run (kick failed). R-Weston Ernstmeyer, 1 run (kick failed). FA - FG, Marie Fitzgerald, 22. FAS - Shiloh Weber, 32 pass from Drew Dunkleberger (Fitzgerald kick).

Statistics: First downs - FA 13, Re 14. Rushing - FA 36-145, R 50-168. Yards passing - FA 145, R 20. Passes - FA 21-10-1, R 4-1-0. Fumbles - FA 1-1, R 8-4. Penalties-FA 8-53, R 2-30.

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