Five different players scored touchdowns for the Western Dubuque football team as the Bobcats started district play with a solid 40-7 victory over Wahlert Catholic at the Rock Bowl in Dubuque Sept. 27.
Tommy DeSollar caught two touchdown passes from Calvin Harris who also connected with Bryce Ploessl, Logan Brosius and Will Burds as Harris tied a school-record five touchdown passes for the third time in his career. Jackson Burger scored the team’s only rushing touchdown on the night as the Bobcats overpowered the Golden Eagles.
“(Starting) 5-0 is pretty sweet,” said Justin Penner, head coach of the Bobcats who are ranked number one in Class 3A. “This is a different group of kids then I have ever coached before. They like to come to work every day. Their attitude is right on Monday and Tuesday. We don’t have to talk them into getting excited. They take care of that themselves.”
The Bobcats wasted very little time in showing their excitement on both sides of the football. After Wahlert earned a first down on the second play of their game-opening drive, the Bobcat defense tightened up forcing a punt that gave their offense a short field. Eight quick plays later and Harris ended the 36-yard drive when he threw a bullet to a sliding DeSollar in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass. A Gabe Ulrichs extra point made it a 7-0 lead for the visiting Bobcats.
All night long Western Dubuque took advantage of Wahlert miscues and their inability to get anything going offensively against the tough Bobcat defense.
The Bobcats’ third drive of the game started at the Golden Eagle 37-yard line after a bad snap gave the Wahlert punter little time to get off a kick. Harris quickly cashed in that opportunity but most of the work was done by Bryce Ploessl who bulled over a defender on his way to scoring a touchdown on a 36-yard screen pass. The extra point try from Ulrichs was wide right giving the Bobcats a 13-0 lead.
The defense continued to set the tone for the Bobcats as Sawyer Nauman got the ball right back after a strip-sack recovery at the Golden Eagle 11-yard line. Once again Harris found DeSollar at the goal line to give the Bobcats a 20-0 lead with 11:12 left in the second quarter.
The Bobcats took a 26-0 lead into halftime after Logan Brosius worked his way into the end zone to score on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Harris.
Getting the football in space to one of the many athletes on this team is one of the reasons Western Dubuque is enjoying so much success this year. Against Wahlert, the offensive play of choice in the first half was the screen pass. Two of the four touchdown passes thrown by Harris in the first half were on a screen pass.
“Our screen passing game was very effective tonight. It knocked them off balance a little bit,” said Penner. “It was nice to spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers. Nice to have all these guys step up and fill in for (Payton Quagliano) now that he’s banged up.”
Western Dubuque stayed aggressive to start the second half. After Will Burds nearly returned the kickoff for a touchdown, he finished the drive when Harris found him wide open between two defenders in the end zone on a 21-yard touchdown pass for a 33-0 lead.
The Bobcats finally returned to the ground game and started to enjoy some success running the ball when Burger entered the game. He broke free for 21-yards the first time he touched the ball and bulled his way across the goal line on a one-yard touchdown run. Urlich’s point after made it a 40-0 lead with 6:30 left to play in the third quarter.
“We adapted to what they were doing offensively and ran the ball much better in the second half,” said Penner. “A lot of what we were able to do tonight was because of our scout teams. The players on these teams are getting a lot better which is making our practices more competitive. Everyone got a chance to play tonight and that is making them better football players.”
With the win, the Bobcats remain undefeated at 5-0 and are now 1-0 in district play.
WD’s leaders were: passing — Harris 14-of-24, 208 yards, five touchdowns; rushing — Burger 11-for-53 yards and a TD, Hosch 7-for-28, Bryant 6-for-24, Kyle Schirmer 1-for-2; receiving — Burds 4-for-66 yards and a TD, Ploessl 3-for-54 and a TD, Brosius 2-for-26 and a TD, DeSollar 2-for-24 and two TDs, Hosch 1-for-22, Bryant 1-for-10, Cam Kluesner 1-for-6 and Kale Cartee 1-for-6; tackles — Burds 6.5, Sawyer Nauman five, Bryant and Carter Kluesner 4.5, Burger and Hosch three , Will Conlan 2.5, Cartee and Ploessl two, Caleb Nerney and Jonathan Savolt 1.5, Shane Beitzel, Caden Hickie, Cameron Kluesner, Dakota Lau, Cole Phillips, Dustin Wille and Logan Wiskus one, Brosius, Ryan Cook, Schirmer and Ulrichs 0.5 ; fumble recoveries — Burds and Garrett Pitz one each; kick-off returns — Burds 1-for-51; extra points — Ulrichs 4-of-5; punts — Ulrichs 2-for-76 yards.