MENASHA — Two quarters into its football season Kimberly was on the ropes, tied with Menasha at 24-all.
While the Papermakers’ offense was delivering haymakers, the defense was being punched around by quarterback Tyler Johnson and Co. As the third quarter started there was a thought the Papermakers might be ripe for an upset.
But in the second half, Kimberly flexed its muscle and lived up to the preseason hype. Behind running back J.P. Peerenboom, the Papermakers outscored the Bluejays, 21-6, in the second half and kicked off their season with a 45-30 win at Calder Stadium on Friday night.
“I think it was great for our team,” Kimberly coach Steve Jones said of playing Menasha. “The first half was tough. Menasha’s a great football team. It was a tough battle in the first half.
“I was really proud how our kids came out in the second half and really competed. We got the ground game going in the second half and were able to run the ball and the defensive line came to play in the second half.”
Like every season, Kimberly enters 2013 with high expectations, and is ranked No. 1 in the FOX 11 Top 11 poll, but for 24 minutes Friday it looked ordinary.
In the first half, Johnson scored on three TD runs of 4, 6, and 80 yards, respectively, and if it wasn’t for Spencer Hermus’ 81-yard kickoff return for a TD, the Papermakers could’ve trailed at the half.
In the second half, Kimberly showed why it is ranked No. 1. On the first drive of the third quarter, Menasha attempted a fake punt but Hermus was there and made an interception.
“We were kind of expecting that,” Hermus said. “I had my eyes on the key the whole time and I spotted it out of the backfield and was just waiting on it.”
On the ensuing drive, Scott Schreiber scored on a 3-yard sneak.
Then on Kimberly’s next drive, Peerenboom took a swing pass from Schreiber and galloped 50 yards for a touchdown, which included some great cut-back moves, and all of a sudden it was 38-24 Papermakers.
Kimberly then put the Bluejays away. After Menasha failed to get a first down on fourth down, Peerenboom scored on the next play on a 29-yard run up the middle, putting Kimberly up, 45-24.
Peerenboom had 141 yards on 18 carries in the game, but he only had 16 yards in the first half. Early on he was spinning his wheels, but Kimberly figured something out at halftime.
“Menasha did some great things to us the first half,” Jones said. “Our offensive line made some adjustments, did some good things and we were able to spring them. J.P really ran the ball well and our offensive line really came off the ball. I thought that was the key.”
Meanwhile, the defense also made a turnaround with Matt Weinhold spending almost as much time in the Menasha backfield as Johnson. Weinhold, a defensive lineman, spearheaded Kimberly’s attack with multiple sacks of Johnson as the Papermakers made life for the Menasha quarterback rough in the second half.
“Our defensive staff made some nice adjustments,” Jones said. “Our kids just came out and played with more passion. Menasha did some great things, but our defensive line did great and I think we forced them to throw a little bit more than they probably wanted to.”
Hermus also credited coaching for the improved defensive play.
“Our defensive coordinator did an excellent job,” Hermus said. “He worked our keys and made us get in the right spot more.”
So after a tough 24 minutes, Kimberly broke away and registered a win. The Papermakers finished strong, like all quality teams do in tough situations.
“It’s a good way to start the season,” Hermus said. “We didn’t expect to roll over this team, it’s a quality team. It shows just because we’re ranked doesn’t mean anything, we’re going to have a battle every time we come to the field.”
Kimberly found that out Friday … and survived.
- Notes: Schreiber was 5 for 11 for 91 yards and an interception, and also rushed six times for 98 yards, which included a 68-yard scamper. … Johnson had 19 carries for 180 yards and 3 TDs. … Cory Kuepper relieved Johnson late in the game and threw a TD pass to Emanuel Jenkins.
- Game ball: Peerenboom, who scored three TDs, including one on a 50-yard swing pass.
- Numbers game: 24 Points each team scored in the first half.
- Records: Kimberly 1-0, Menasha 0-1.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
Firefighters are battling a house fire in Kewaunee County.
Wind, snow, cold and ice played a role as firefighters battled a fire in downtown Ripon Wednesday morning.
Outagamie County's second largest employer is expanding, and veterans are encouraged to apply.
The State Building Commission has approved $5 million to help build the Wisconsin Maritime Center of Excellence in Marinette.
Fond du Lac police have released more information about the weapons they found in the apartment of a man who was at the center of a five-hour standoff on Monday.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is announcing a public meeting has been scheduled to provide road closure and design information for the Velp Avenue interchange area.