FREWSBURG - There were more questions than answers in the leadup to the Frewsburg and Randolph Class D football showdown on Friday night. Chief among them: How would the teams, each of them packed with young and inexperienced players, perform in the heat of battle?
And after 48 minutes of hard-nosed, smash-mouth football, one team is beginning to find answers; the other, however, is still searching.
It seems Frewsburg's youngsters - in terms of experience - are going to be just fine.
The Randolph Cardinals visit the Frewsburg Bears in Section 6 Class D football
Led by Nick Munella, who was making his first varsity start at the quarterback position; Bryce Peterson, who didn't catch a single pass last season but troubled the Cardinals' cornerbacks for much of the game; and Devone Adelgren, who finally, after last season struggling to find touches in a crowded backfield, is the feature back, the Bears built a three-touchdown advantage by the end of the first half on the way to a 35-24 victory over rival Randolph.
"It's always nice when you lose 13 seniors off a team and then open up (the next season) with a win," Frewsburg coach Terry Gray said, "because until you play your first game, you don't know what you have. We needed this game to set our identity, and I think we did that.
"I'm proud of them. This was a great first start."
Bryce Peterson of Frewsburg grabs a pass in the Bears’ Class D?win over Randolph on Friday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
The same can't be said for Randolph.
On the Cardinals' second play from scrimmage Frewsburg forced a fumble. And though Randolph recovered enough to force a Bears three-and-out, on their very next offensive play the Cardinals fumbled once again - this time, however, inside their own 10-yard line.
It was that second fumble that led to the first of Adelgren's three opening-half touchdowns, as the 5-foot-6, 160-pound tailback ducked his head on third down and goal and barreled his way into the end zone for the early 6-0 lead.
By game's end, Randolph would fumble the ball seven times, losing four.
"We've got to clean it up," Randolph coach Pat Slater said. "We just can't do that. The turnovers will kill you, they always do."
Frewsburg pushed its advantage to 14 early in the second when Munella fired a 28-yard play-action pass to Peterson, who finished with a team-high three catches for 68 yards, to cap a seven-play, 85-yard drive.
Munella, the 6-foot senior, went 7-for-15 with 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both in the first half. Most impressive, perhaps, was that three of those seven completions went for 30 yards or more.
"We expect good football out of everyone, but he's still got to go out and do it," Gray said of his quarterback. "This was his first game, and I'm really proud of him for stepping up and taking over the reigns for two good quarterbacks (Thad Johnson and Preston Wiltsie). For him to be under their tutelage and to come into the first game and do that, yes it's expected, but yes we're also very proud because it could have gone the other way."
After another touchdown run by Adelgren midway through the second period made it 21-8, Randolph came through with what appeared to be a big play and a possible momentum changer as running back Jordan Dowiasz took a pitch up the right sideline for 83 yards and a touchdown. But the score was called back due to holding, and on the ensuing play the Cardinals fumbled yet again.
That allowed Adelgren, from seven yards out, to score another touchdown. He finished with 105 yards on 25 carries.
"Our inexperienced showed early," Randolph coach Pat Slater said. "We made too many mistakes and they capitalized on them. Got to give them credit for that. They capitalized on the mistakes and put (the ball) in the endzone."
As Frewsburg eased back on the throttle in the second half, Randolph began to settle. They held the Bears scoreless in the third quarter and then, midway through the fourth, pulled to within 11 points behind Jared Pitchford's 16-yard run, which saw the junior start right before reversing field on the way to crossing the goaline.
On the very next Frewsburg possession, the Cardinals intercepted Munella, putting them at the Frewsburg 38 with less than four minutes remaining.
"That was a good thing," Slater said. "We could have dropped our heads at halftime and said forget this, but the kids pulled it together and they still played hard through the end."
But any thoughts of a comeback would be short-lived as Randolph quarterback Mitch Maycock threw a pass down the middle of the field that was deflected by safety Munella straight into teammate Robbie Stearns' arms. Stearns took the interception 56 yards up field and, with just a little more than three minutes remaining, all but clinched the victory.
NOTES: Randolph was led by Dowiasz, who carried the ball 14 times for 90 yards with one touchdown. ... Maycock threw for 84 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Alex Miinte. ... Seven Frewsburg defenders made four tackles or more, with Zach Haller and Austin Lynn adding two forced fumbles apiece.
Randolph0 16 0 8 - 24
Frewsburg6 28 0 0 - 35
Frew - Adelgren 6 run (kick failed).
Frew - Peterson 28 pass from Munella (Adelgren kick).
Ran - Dowiasz 45 run (Maycock pass).
Frew - Adelgren 16 run (Adelgren kick).
Frew - Adelgren 7 run (Adelgren kick).
Rand - Miinte 6 pass from Maycock (Dowiasz run).
Rand - Pitchford 16 run (Maycock pass).