Pretty much the only thing Wapakoneta Redskins football coach Doug Frye was smiling about Friday night was the final score.
Frye’s Redskins trounced the Bellefontaine Chieftains 48-0 in the season opener for both teams at Harmon Field.
Wapak scored 21 points in the final four minutes of the first half to turn a 14-0 game into a rout.
In spite of what the scoreboard read, Frye saw room for improvement.
“I’m happy with the start,” Frye said. “But not pleased.”
The Redskins used two big plays from senior Kevin Kraft and a big game rushing by senior Connor Pickens to pull away to the win.
Kraft had a 30-yard fumble recovery and return for touchdown, and a 55-yard punt return for touchdown in a span of less than three minutes in the second quarter.
And Pickens rushed for 152 yards on 15 carries (10.1 per carry) and four touchdowns.
He had scoring runs of 1, 2, 20 and 7 yards.
“That’s a pretty decent start replacing Logan Erb,” Frye said. “But Logan had 1,800 [yards] last year. So he has a long ways to go yet.”
Offensively, the Redskins amassed 329 yards on the ground. Junior Josh Wendle carried the ball 12 times for 93 yards (7.8 per carry). And junior Jensen Merricle added 41 yards on seven carries (5.9 per carry).
“That was good to see,” Frye said. “Our kids got physical.”
Wapak opened the game with a solid 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive. Pickens carried the ball eight times as Wapak ran all 11 plays on the ground.
On first-and-goal, Pickens bounced off an initial hit at the line of scrimmage and stretched out into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.
Wapak started that first drive with excellent field position on its own 42-yard line after Bellefontaine was flagged twice for delay of game before the opening kickoff.
Chieftains coach Chris Schmidt took the blame for his team being late getting onto the field, saying he had miscalculated how much time they had remaining in the lockerroom.
“Critical mistakes at inopportune times,” Schmidt said. “I made a bonehead mistake myself and I take full responsibility for that. When you play a good team like this, you don’t have any margin for error.”
Among the lowlights for Wapak was a pair of dropped passes in the end zone — one by senior tight end Nic Sawmiller and one by Kraft — on its second possession. The second drop gave the ball to Bellefontaine on downs.
“I think [we need to improve on] finishing drives, and blocks and runs, and when you get opportunities in the red zone, making sure we take advantage of those,” Frye said. “We didn’t do a great job of that early in the game. And then we kind of woke up.”
The Chieftains moved the ball well on the ensuing drive, marching 62 yards before an errant snap on fourth-and-1 gave the ball back to Wapak on the Bellefontaine 40.
Four plays later, Pickens plowed into the end zone from two yards out and Wapak led 14-0.
After the two teams traded punts, the floodgates opened.
Kraft grabbed a loose Bellefontaine fumble and raced 30 yards untouched down the left side of the field for a touchdown with 3:43 left in the half.
The Redskins forced a three-and-out and, after a short punt, Pickens broke through the left side of the line for a 20-yard score with 2:37 to go.
The defense produced another three-and-out. Kraft fielded the punt at the Wapak 45, made a move to the outside and raced through the Chieftains coverage for a 55-yard score to give the Redskins a 35-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the half.
Suddenly a two-score game was a five-score game.
“At that point you’re getting into a hole that’s very difficult to get out of,” Schmidt said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
The Chieftains struggled to find any rhythm offensively. They fumbled the ball five times, twice on long snaps. They recovered both of those fumbles but lost a total of 49 yards on them.
“I was happy with the way our defense played overall,” Frye said. “I’m not pleased yet. But I’m happy with the start on defense.”
Wapak is 1-0 on the season. Bellefontaine is 0-1.
The Redskins have an important Western Buckeye League game in Week 2 as they host Elida (1-0) Friday night at Harmon Field.