The Onalaska High School football team put a memorable season in its history last fall with an amazing group of wide receivers, an accurate quarterback and an offense that could trample just about anyone.
The Hilltoppers, who won last year’s MVC championship, might continue to trample teams this year if Friday’s night’s 41-19 nonconference victory over River Valley is any indication.
Two Coulee Region teams squared off with teams that qualified to play for state championships at Camp Randall Stadium last November.
Westby beat Division 6 runner-up Darlington 15-14 on a last second field goal, while Onalaska scored six touchdowns in a new offense to take out last year’s Division 4 runner-up.
“It’s huge because I think it really helps as a confidence-booster for the kids,” Onalaska coach Tom Yashinsky said. “We had some things happen at our scrimmage that were more self-inflicted things, but we thought we could still have a pretty explosive offense when we got some things figured out.”
Senior quarterback Noah Skifton played a big hand in the victory by completing 16 of 22 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 149 yards and highlighted that with a 59-yard gain.
“He was 16-for-22, and three of them were drops,” Yashinsky said of Skifton. “That’s a pretty good first game as a starting quarterback. The only time he got into trouble was when he tried to do too much.
“They (River Valley) didn’t open up big holes for him. He made good throws.”
Skifton’s performance — coupled with Nathan Lubinsky’s 114 rushing yards and three touchdowns and Ray Heilman’s 173 receiving yards and two TDs — was made possible by an offensive line that has quickly figured out what’s expected of it.
Seniors Parker Clark (left tackle), Aaron Brownell (left guard), Jared Verdon (center) and Austin Hayes (right tackle) teamed up with junior Jimmy Decker (right guard) to pave the way for 586 yards of offense.
“We shuffled the lineup around to get where we are with it,” Yashinsky said. “Four of those guys (with Hayes as the exception) only play offense, and that can be a big advantage for us.”
DAVIS TO VISIT DOCTOR THIS WEEK: Central sophomore Jordan Davis caught three passes for 85 yards and touchdown while being on the field for seven offensive snaps Friday night, but an ankle injury may have ended his season.
Central coach Tony Servais said there is no fracture in Davis’ left ankle and no surgery required, but that another visit to doctors this week will paint a clearer picture for his recovery.
“The fact that there is no surgery is a good thing, and there is no fracture,” said Servais, whose team opened the season with a 45-7 win over Eau Claire North and plays Eau Claire Memorial (1-0) at Carson Park on Thursday. “We will see what he finds out this week. I hope he can come back, but we aren’t going to put him on the field until he is 100 percent anyway.”
Davis, who helped the Red raiders win a WIAA Division 2 state basketball championship in March, injured his left ankle while making a 33-yard catch at the 1-yard line during Central’s second possession on Friday.
BEHAN ROMPS: G-E-T’s Ben Behan, who is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,220 yards and earned second-team All-Tribune honors, started his senior season with a bang on Thursday night.
Behan, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, rushed for 168 yards and scored four TDs on just 11 carries against Nekoosa. He also caught two passes for 49 yards in the Red Hawks’ 43-0 season-opening win over the Papermakers.
“Ben is the real deal. He just understands what the guys in front of him are trying to do,” G-E-T coach Jon Steffenhagen said. “The thing that is unique about Ben is that he doesn’t outrun a block. If you have a 250-pound (blocker) in front of you, stay behind him. He is patient in what he does.”
Behan understands the offense very well, Steffenhagen said, in part because he studies it. And he also spends considerable time in film study.
“I preach a lot about watching film. It is so accessible these days,” Steffenhagen said. “I can see how much film each player watches, and Ben watched 11 hours of film (on Nekoosa).”