WILLIAMS BAY — Man down, game lost.
That was pretty much what happened when Williams Bay quarterback John Higgins went down Friday night.
The Bulldog’s all-everything, was injured in the third quarter of the Bulldog’s loss to Randolph.
The Bay and Randolph were tied when he went out, but the Bulldogs couldn’t withstand losing Higgins, their top rusher, passer and tackler.
In the end, the Bay tumbled 49-27.
“Losing Higgins was the key,” coach Derek Diehl said.
The impact of losing Higgins was obvious in the stats. Even after leaving with more than a quarter to go, Higgins ended up leading the Bulldogs with 72 yards rushing on 10 attempts, 112 yards on 4 of 16 passing and had a team-leading 14 tackles.
Randolph opened the game with a 68-yard dash by running back Duke VanderGallen, who ended up with 208 rushing yards. VanderGallen scored again on a 7-yard TD pass.
But the Bulldogs came charging back with a 47-yard pass from Higgins to Jonah VanVleet.
Randolph added another score but Higgins answered with a 19-yard run for a TD with 25 seconds left in the half.
So the Bulldogs went into the break with the scoreboard showing only a 21-14 deficit.
Higgins made it 21-all with a 12-yard TD run to open the third quarter.
The Bulldogs were moving down the field and Diehl said he felt confident that they were going to be able to use no-huddle and exploit some holes in the Randolph defense.
But those best laid plans fell apart just as the Bay seemed to be moving in for another TD.
In the shadows of the goalpost, Higgins rolled to his right and went into his passing motion only to be nailed by a Randolph defender in mid-throw.
He let out an audible cry and crashed to the turf with what appeared to be a rib injury. When he got up and was escorted to the sideline by medical personnel, he said that he wanted to go in again — a plea vetoed by Bay coaches.
After that play, Nate Perkins was hurried in to replace Higgins at the QB spot. He ended up 1 for 3 passing and tossed an interception.
The team looked in disarray at times after Higgins left— with penalties and missed assignments — before partially regaining its footing late in the game.
Randolph scored two more times in the fourth quarter against the undermanned Bulldogs, but the Bay ended the game on a high note with a 42-yard TD scamper from the 5’5”, 130-lb. Michael Guss.
Lack of depth clearly hurt the Bulldogs. With fewer than 30 players on the team, Diehl said, filling holes is difficult.
The Bay was further depleted when lineman A.J. Sanders was ejected from the game for allegedly fighting.
Immediately after the game, Diehl called Sanders “a good kid” but wasn’t about to second guess the officials. But after watching the film of the game he had a different opinion.
“(The) player ejection was a bad call,” Diehl said. “Nothing on film showed any reason for the ejection.”
Nonetheless, WIAA, the governing body of high school sports in Wisconsin, doesn’t review such calls, according to Bay’s athletic director, Mike Coolidge. As a result, Sanders will have to sit out the Rio game.
Diehl called Rio another tough opponent. It has a 2-0 Trailway Conference record, which puts them one game ahead of the Bay. Rio, 2-2 overall, beat Johnson Creek 24-8 last week. The Bay had disposed of Johnson Creek 45-20 the week before.
While the Bay will be missing Sanders, they should have Higgins back Friday.
“He feels pretty good this morning so we are not worried,” Diehl said in an email Monday.
The Rio game will be played at Williams Bay starting at 7 p.m.