Gillingham

Big Foot’s Jack Gillingham, shown in action last year, was the team’s most dynamic playmaker during the Chiefs’ 21-14 loss to East Troy.

The Big Foot Chiefs finally got a chance to play on their new turf field Sept. 6, after months of inclement weather caused construction delays that led to the team’s first game being held at Delavan-Darien High School.

Hosting East Troy, one of the Rock Valley Conference title favorites, Big Foot was not able to christen the field with a win, falling 21-14.

On East Troy’s first offensive play, quarterback Mac Dudkiewicz hit receiver Skyler Matson for an improbable 80-yard touchdown to make it a 7-0 game early.

While the game was scoreless for the rest of the first quarter, early in the second, Dudkiewicz tossed another long touchdown — this time a 95-yarder to Jordan Matson to extend the score to 14-0.

Chiefs head coach Mike Welden believes the excitement of playing in a new stadium may have been the cause of his team’s early miscues.

“I think the kids were excited to play in the new complex, but it might have worked against them that first couple of series, because they were too excited to be out there,” Welden said. “They wanted to make a big play instead of just doing their job.”

The Chiefs were able to calm down and focus on the task at hand for the rest of the game, but the damage of the two long touchdowns had already been done.

Receiver Owen Martin got the team on the board late in the first half on a six-yard rush, trimming the Chiefs deficit to 14-7.

Early in the second half, though, East Troy was able to lengthen its lead back to double digits with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dudkiewicz to Skyler Matson.

Once again, Big Foot clawed back to within a score, this time on a seven-yard rushing touchdown by running back Cole Vance to make it 21-14.

While Vance’s score came in the third quarter, neither team got on the board in the fourth, and the Trojans closed it out for the seven-point win.

With the exception of the two long touchdown bombs, Big Foot’s defense played quite well, picking up four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Linebacker Dan Hereley set the tone for the group with 16 tackles, 13 of which came unassisted, and two sacks.

Big Foot’s defensive front was able to cause havoc, but Dudkiewicz still had a great game with 302 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one interception.

“We were able to get a lot of pressure on their quarterback, but if we couldn’t sack him, he was usually able to get the pass off and find someone open somewhere out there,” Welden said. “I credit East Troy and their quarterback; he’s a really good player.”

Big Foot’s top offensive weapon was receiver Jack Gillingham, who led the team in receiving yards with 77, as well as rushing yards with 116. While receivers do not typically run the ball much, Welden got creative with jet sweeps and loaded backfield play calls to try to get the dynamic senior the ball by any means necessary.

“He’s our best player. We’ve got to get the ball in his hands as much as we can on offense. And that’s just one of the ways we find him: Get it to him, and have him make some plays,” Welden said.

The Chiefs had their taste of new stadium energy in the game against East Troy, and they will need to use the lesson learned just one week later when they face Whitewater in a game at Perkins Stadium, where the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team plays.

Besides the excitement of playing on a college field, both teams are in a bit of a must-win situation as they near the halfway mark in the season. Both squads are at 1-2, and a win would put them in position to continue to rise up the conference standings, while a loss would situate them near the bottom, and create an uphill climb to make the playoffs.

Kickoff at Perkins Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 13.

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