The Lake Geneva Badger football team left Bradford Stadium on Friday night with zero passing yards on one attempt.
In other words, it was vintage Badger football.
The Badgers shredded the Red Devils with their punishing, efficient flexbone offense and were nearly as dominant on the other side of the ball in cruising to a 42-14 non-conference victory.
Badger (2-0) rolled up 453 rushing yards on 45 carries, an average of 10.1 yards per attempt.
For a young Bradford squad, which dropped to 0-2 heading into its Southeast Conference schedule, Badger provided a harsh lesson.
The teams had played close games in four regular-season matchups each of the last four seasons — including Bradford’s 24-16 win at Badger last year — but whatever defensive plan the Red Devils had this time around against the Badgers’ flexbone deteriorated in an instant.
As in, right away, when Badger put together an 11-play, 72 yard touchdown march on its opening drive.
“When you have a lot of young kids, they tend to freak out a little bit,” Bradford coach Troy Bowe said. “They don’t execute the plan and don’t execute what they’ve been taught to do. When it’s happening fast and you don’t simulate that in practice, that’s what happens.
“Hey, they start 16 seniors. We start 16 underclassmen. It shows. Our youth really showed tonight. We had a lot of kids not making the right reads, and against them you have to make the right reads.”
That was no issue for Badger senior quarterback Grant DuMez on Friday night.
DuMez had a relatively quiet 55 yards and two short touchdowns on 11 carries, but he expertly made the right reads on where to distribute the ball as Badger destroyed Bradford on the interior and from both flanks.
Bruising 6-foot-1, 226-pound senior fullback Cole Gabor-Pullen rumbled for 188 yards on 14 carries — including touchdown runs of 32 and 69 yards, both times untouched — senior wingback Drew Laskowski went for 106 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and junior wingback Tannor Garrels had 82 yards and a score on just five attempts.
“It’s obviously a work in progress and it takes time, but I thought we were hitting on quite a few of our cylinders tonight,” Badger coach Matt Hensler said. “It was good to see Cole, our fullback, make a good run. It was good to see both running backs hit a big run.
“That was really good to see, and obviously all that stuff starts up front with our big thumpers doing their job.”
Gabor-Pullen agreed with that.
“It’s just the linemen,” he said. “Without the linemen, I am nothing. They killed them tonight. They were so good, and that’s what we do. We just pound it inside, and then we get those little quick-hitters on the outside.”
Meanwhile, Bradford struggled to block Badger’s defensive front, specifically senior linemen Christian Nickel, Dalton Creighton and Will Faul.
After Badger’s opening touchdown, Bradford senior running back Will Darden caught a swing pass to the left from sophomore quarterback Nate Olson and made a nice move, but after a 16-yard gain he was stripped of the ball and Badger recovered at its 41-yard line.
Four plays later, after Garrels’ 47-yard scoring run, the Badgers’ lead was 14-0 with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bradford gained just 85 total yards in the first half and averaged a paltry 2.6 per play.
“We’ve got get the ball to our playmakers on the outside and just go quick (offense),” Bowe said. “We struggled blocking them. Again, four senior D-linemen (and) a senior middle linebacker (for Badger).”
Down 21-0, the Red Devils — who where shutout, 15-0, in Week 1 at Waterford — finally got their first points of the season six-plus quarters into it.
With 5:27 left in the third quarter, Darden took a swing pass to the right, made a nifty cut to leave a defender in the dust, and raced to the end zone for a 36-yard score.
Olson added another touchdown on a 4-yard sneak with 2:34 left in the game.
Olson finished 18-of-35 for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Darden caught six passes for 68 yards and a score out of the backfield.
“We scored,” Bowe said. “It’s a positive, but we’ve got to be so much better.”
Indeed, in between Darden’s touchdown catch and Olson’s touchdown run, Gabor-Pullen ripped off a 69-yard touchdown run right up the middle and Laskowski came from the left wing and took a carry 72 yards to the house.
Both of those runs came on the first play of their respective drives, as Bradford’s defense completely broke under the pressure of Badger’s flexbone.
The Red Devils face another strong running opponent next in their SEC opener at Racine Horlick on Friday. And though its two losses came against teams who are a combined 4-0 and are favorites in the Southern Lakes Conference, Bradford has a lot of work to do after being outscored 57-14 in its two non-conference games.
“Our young kids (have) to learn to practice,” Bowe said. “They don’t practice well yet, but that comes with maturity.
“... We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to coach way better, and we’ve got to practice better. Our young kids have to learn how to practice, is the biggest thing. It can’t just be go through the motions. It’s got to be practice hard.”