September 11, 2014 at 1:57 p.m.

Wildcats roll to a 2-0 start behind Kimlinger's arm

Wildcats roll to a 2-0 start behind Kimlinger's arm
Wildcats roll to a 2-0 start behind Kimlinger's arm

In the Wildcat football team’s home opener, quarterback Joe Kimlinger and receiver Will Gillach hooked up for three touchdown passes as the Wildcats rolled over the Duluth Denfeld Hunters 35-8. After a three touchdown second quarter, the Wildcats led 28-0 at halftime.  They scored on their first drive of the second half to go up 35-0 and never looked back.   Kimlinger completed nine of 13 passes for 86 yards and four touchdowns for the game and Gillach caught a total of six passes for 64 yards and the aforementioned three touchdowns.  The game was Friday, September 5 at Chisago Lakes.
The Wildcat defense forced a three and out on the opening drive.  The Wildcats took over at the Denfeld 43 after a short punt and went on a four play drive.  On first down from the 33, Gillach carried the ball for a 20 yard gain.  After a Wildcat penalty moved the ball back to the 18, Virga took his first carry of the game all the way to the end zone.  The extra point attempt was blocked and the Wildcats led 6-0.  The Wildcat defense came up big on the next drive, too.  They allowed one first down before forcing another punt.  The WIldcats took over at their own 42 and went on a 13 play drive that took up the rest of the quarter.  Four different Wildcats – Kimlinger, Gillach, fullback Drake Gadbois and running back Trevin Nelson – combined to run the ball down to the 12 yard line, where the Wildcats faced third and one.   On the last play of the first quarter, Kimlinger hit Gillach for a three yard gain and a first down at the nine.  The teams walked all the way to the other end of the field.  On the first play of the second quarter, Kimlinger threw a touchdown pass to Michael Dunne.  Kimlinger ran the ball into the end zone for a two point conversion and the Wildcats were up 14-0.
Ethan Hickcox intercepted a pass on the first play after the ensuing kickoff and the Wildcats took over at their own 32.  Virga ran for 29 yards on the next play and it looked like the Wildcats were heading for another score.  But after moving the ball down to the 11, a couple of penalties moved the ball back to the Denfeld 39 and the Wildcats were forced to punt.  After picking up one first down, the Hunters faced fourth and one from their 32.  Their pass attempt fell incomplete and the Wildcats took over on downs.  Three plays later, fourth and 11 at the Denfeld 33 the Wildcats decided to go for it and it paid off.  Kimlinger connected with Gillach on a short pass and Gillach didn’t stop running until he had reached the end zone.  After Bryce Thompson’s extra point, the Wildcats led 21-0.
The Wildcats got the ball back on their own 45 with just under two minutes left in the half.  The Wildcats moved the ball into scoring position, with the longest play being a 14 yard run by Kimlinger.  Kimlinger threw an eight yard touchdown pass to Will Gillach with under five seconds left in the half and, after Thompson’s extra point, the Wildcats led 28-0.
The Wildcat first team offense put any thoughts of a Denfeld comeback to rest on the first drive of the second half.  Austin McCurdy returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the Denfeld 44.  Virga gained 18 yards on first down.  Two plays later, Kimlinger threw an 18 yard touchdown pass to Gillach and, after the extra point, the Wildcats led 35-0.  
Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said “In just about any game, the first drive of the second half sets the tone for the rest of the game.  To be up 28-0 and come out and score on the first drive score certainly puts you in the driver’s seat.”  The Hunters finally got on the scoreboard on a 73-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for the final points of the game.
Virga led the Wildcats in rushing, with eight carries for 91 yards.  He was followed closely by Kimlinger, who had ten carries for 81 yards.
The big lead gave the Wildcats the chance to substitute freely in the second half.  “Games like that give you an opportunity to get more guys some playing time,” said Weiss.  “Some of our regulars this year benefitted from that type of playing time last year.  Take Alex Axtell, for example.  In addition to regular playing time on the JV last year, he got a lot of experience in games like this and both he and the team are benefitting from that this season.  It’s a win-win all the way around.”
Weiss talked about some of the players that stood out.  “I thought Jake Klein played very well as an offensive and defensive lineman.  Luke Koskie also graded out to a very good game when we evaluated the line play.  And Ethan Hickcox had another interception.  What was even more impressive though, was when Denfeld was at our 30 yard line and threw the ball into the end zone.  Ethan could have intercepted it, but he just knocked it down because if he would have caught it, it would have been a touchback and we would have gotten the ball at the 20.  Instead, we got it at the 30, the original line of scrimmage.
“That’s a very heads up play.  It’s one thing to learn in practice about making those plays, but it’s another thing to remember to execute it in a game.  Bryce Thompson had a similar play last week,” the coach added.
Tomorrow (Sept. 12) night, the Wildcats (2-0) take on Duluth East (0-2).  The Wildcats easily took care of Duluth East last season, 65-8.  
In two games so far this season, the Greyhounds have yet to score a point but have given up a total of 99 points in their two losses.
It looks like an easy win for the Wildcats, but Weiss refuses to take anything for granted.  
He said “It’s a danger in any sport at any time to go into a contest feeling too comfortable.  We have talked to our guys and told them that whether we are playing the top team in the conference or a team at the other end of the standings, we need to execute and play the right way.  If we do those two things, we will be fine.”

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