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September 11, 2012 | 05:06 PMWILLIAMS BAY — It was anything but a smooth home opener for the Williams Bay football team Friday night.
Maybe it was the slick conditions caused by an earlier rain, but for some reason the Bulldogs could not hold onto the ball in the first half. And before they knew it, the game was virtually over.
Randolph jumped out to a 48-7 halftime lead en route to a blowout 55-13 victory in Trailways South action. In the first quarter alone, the Bay muffed a kickoff return and two punts which led to two touchdowns.
On one punt, the ball went over the Bay punter's head. He kicked at it on the ground but was unable to kick it out of the end zone. A Randolph defender fell on it for a touchdown.
It was the Bulldogs' 39th straight loss dating back to 2007.
But the Bay (0-3 overall) faced a formidable foe in Randolph, which is ranked No. 4 in Division 7 in the Wissports.net coaches poll. Bay coach Derek Diehl said his club was outmatched.
"The weather played a factor," he said. "We had a problem executing the center-to-quarterback exchange. They played the nose tackle on our center, and it made our center nervous. I knew what we were in for in our first three games. We're playing very senior-heavy teams. We have to start some freshmen, and we are playing against grown men."
The Bay showed some life late in the first quarter. First, on a double-pass play, Jacob Clark came down with an improbable 35-yard grab over three defenders to set up the Bulldogs in Randolph territory.
Then, a 30-yard John Higgins run set up quarterback Jake Sutter's 27-yard touchdown pass to Higgins, cutting the lead to 28-7 near the end of the first quarter. Higgins was playing in his first game of the season after sitting out the first two games with a knee injury.
He led the Bay with 14 tackles and 58 yards rushing.
"We're a different team with him on the field," Diehl said. "He's still not 100 percent."
Randolph was able to pull away after that. The Rockets reeled off 20 second-quarter points to seal the victory.
In the fourth quarter, Bay quarterback Jake Sutter found Ryan Bonamarte with a 76-yard touchdown strike. Bonamarte added a two-point run to make it 55-13.
Higgins, the team's normal long snapper, sustained a wrist sprain during the game. Diehl said the Bay had to use a backup snapper, and it affected the punting game.
Sutter passed for a season-high 161 yards in the game. But Randolph racked up 243 yards on the ground compared to the Bay's 43. Diehl said the Bay often gave Randolph a short field to work with.
Randolph's Thomas VanderGalien rushed for 204 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
The Bay dropped to 0-3 overall, but the 13 points was a season high. Diehl saw some bright spots in the loss.
"The offensive line did a good job in the passing game," he said. "Sutter played really well and made some good decisions with the football."
Bonamarte paced the Bay with 85 yards on two catches.
Jacob Clark added two catches for 37 yards.
Diehl, a first-year coach with the Bulldogs, said the team is progressing nicely despite losing three games by an average score of 49-6.
"We are moving the ball," Diehl said. "We ran for almost 200 yards against Johnson Creek. We're limiting penalties and protecting the football. We've had some good plays, but the execution isn't there yet. The community sees a difference. They are congratulating us because they see the boys playing better. Our playmakers are young. We are steadily progressing."
It doesn't get any easier for the Bay Friday.
The Bulldogs travel to Rio (3-0), one of the top teams in the Trailways South.
"They are going to be good," Diehl said. "We're confident on what we can do well. It will be a good week defensively for us. We have to get our running game going and give 110 percent effort."