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September 25, 2012 | 04:47 PMThe date was Oct. 13, 2007.
The Williams Bay football team edged Green Lake, 21-20, in Trailways Conference action.
A seemingly normal game, it has plenty of significance to football lovers in the Bay. It was the last time the Bulldogs won a football game on the field. They have won by forfeit, but they have not recorded a victory to the screeching tune of 40 straight contests.
Dave Wiedenhaupt was the Bay coach back then. Starting in 2008, former Bay standout Buddy Breen took over the program. However, Breen suffered through four straight winless seasons. And, most of the time, the Bay wasn't competitive against bigger, deeper, more athletic Trailways foes.
This year, change has been the name of the game. First-year coach Derek Diehl brought his winning pedigree (two playoff seasons with the Lake Geneva Generals) and a new system and attitude, but the results haven't been much different on the field.
The Bulldogs are 0-5 to start the season and are losing by an average margin of 41 points per game.
However, there could be reason to believe the Bulldogs are close. In a 41-0 loss at home Friday to Fall River, the Bay only trailed 12-0 until just before halftime.
The Bulldogs' defense came up with several big plays, but the offense couldn't finish drives and convert opportunities into points. Down 12-0 late in the second quarter, the Bay had a first and 10 at the Fall River 17, but two holding calls, an incomplete pass and a costly sack of Bay quarterback Jake Sutter thwarted a golden opportunity.
The Pirates took a 21-0 lead into halftime before sailing to victory.
The hardest part of the schedule is over for the Bay. The Bulldogs fell to the top four teams in the Trailways South, Randolph, Johnson Creek, Rio and Fall River, in the last four weeks.
Out of any game in the past five years, this Friday may be the Bay's best chance at finally winning a game and removing the Geneva Lake-sized monkey off its back. The boys will travel two hours north to Oakfield to take on another winless opponent, the Oaks.
First off, nothing about the mascot Oaks is intimidating. I can see it now, "We will protect you from the sun," would be the faithful's strongest battle cry. A Bulldog would have one heck of a time chewing on a tasty oak.
All jokes aside, the Bulldogs have a very good chance to win this game. Oakfield is in the same boat as the Bay this season. Thanks to an enrollment drop-off, Oakfield boasts 169 students (24 more than the Bay) and has fallen into the Trailways South Conference.
The Oaks are also 0-5 and haven't been close in any of their games. Oakfield has lost its games by an average of 32.2 points per game. While a bit better than the Bay, the Oaks' season high for points is 14, one more than the Bay (13 against Randolph). However, the Oaks have reached double digits twice compared to the Bay's once.
In a battle of beatens, what will be the difference?
The young Bulldogs only feature seven seniors and 27 players total. On the other side, Oakfield also features a lot of youngsters, with nine seniors and only 23 total players.
The Bay has size on its line and several skilled players, but penalties and fumbles have had a way of stopping promising Bulldog drives. Six turnovers, including four interceptions, plagued the Bay offense Friday night.
However, the Oaks could be ripe for the taking. The team's lone offensive threat comes from running back Taylor Schaefer, a 5-foot-8, 140-pound speedster who has ran for 443 yards and three touchdowns this season.
The Oaks rely on the run game, with 602 yards on the ground compared to only 139 passing. The Bulldogs are more balanced, with 324 via land and 322 by air.
Sutter has thrown for 322 yards this season, and the senior gunslinger is dangerous in the shotgun formation with his downfield tosses. Also, sophomore John Higgins is a bruising running back who can bulldoze a smaller cornerback and even catch the ball out of the backfield.
Jacob Clark is the team's leading rusher with 126 yards. Clark, Ryan Bonamarte and Michael Guss are all threats to score in the passing game.
I'm not saying you have to make the two-hour trip to a town just south of Lake Winnebago, but this should be an interesting tilt. Both teams are young and in desperate need of a win this season. Oakfield won a game by one point last season to cap off a 1-8 regular season. A win against a similarly futile opponent could be just what the Bay needs to turn things around and promote a winning culture.
With games remaining against Hustisford and Cambria-Friesland, it could be a tall task to pull off a victory. However, the Bay will face a weak Kenosha Christian Life squad for the last game of the season.
Although Friday against Oakfield may not be a must-win, it could be the turning point for a program searching for a huge, positive step in the right direction. Don't be surprised if the Bay comes home victorious.