With so many new faces around this fall, Whitefish Bay football coach Jake Wolter wasn't sure what he would get in terms of energy, execution and excitement.
He's starting to learn that it's going to be a lot.
After an amazing overtime defeat to powerful Brookfield Central in week one, the Blue Dukes spotted Slinger a touchdown in the first quarter in their second game on Aug. 26 but then proceeded to send the host Owls flying into the dark, looking for cover, as they scored 28 unanswered points in an impressive 28-7 win.
"What I really liked was how we were just so loose and competed so hard," Wolter said. "We competed hard and had fun."
The victory, fueled by junior quarterback Cade Garcia's 235 yards passing and two rushing TDs, evened Bay's record at 1-1 and will send them into the start of North Shore Conference play on a positive note. They will open league play on a heady and important note when they host always dangerous Cedarburg (0-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.
This contest always seems to have conference title and/or state playoff implications. The Bulldogs are coming off a thrilling, last-second loss to Sussex Hamilton.
"Even though they're 0-2, we're taking them very seriously," Wolter said. "We know what we'll get from them."
If the Blue Dukes come out with the same competitive intensity they did with Slinger, they should be all right.
Because things did not start well for Bay against the Owls. The Blue Dukes threw an interception on their opening drive and then watched as Slinger marched down the field 70 yards for a TD and a 7-0 lead.
"They just ran up and down the field on us on that drive," Wolter said. "I was worried. We're a young team, we could have looked down at our feet and folded, but instead we pulled ourselves together."
In a big way. Bay tied the score by the end of the quarter as Garcia finished a drive with a 1-yard TD run. Then in the second quarter, junior running back Bo Bassindale (13 carries for 47 yards), who had battled injury problems in the early going, finished off another march with a 5-yard scoring run for a 14-7 lead at the break.
Wolter said there were a couple of ugly possessions for both teams in the third quarter, but then the Blue Dukes concluded a sustained effort at the 11:38 mark of the fourth quarter on a 10-yard Michael Kirkendoll race to the end zone. Wolter said it was the best all-around game of his career for the senior back/receiver/defensive back.
Garcia then finished things off himself a short time later on an inside option play that broke and went for 55 yards and TD.
The junior multi-sport star is impressing a lot of people, including his coaches.
"Cade is developing into such a great signal-caller," Wolter said. "He's got such a good football mind that he'll come to the sideline and tell us what plays he thinks will work. He must have had a say in about 25-30 percent of the plays the other night."
Garcia was 14-of-23 passing for 235 yards and rushed nine times for his 90 yards. Junior end Alex Anthony caught eight balls for 122 yards, while Kirkendoll had six grabs for 113 yards.
"Anthony has such great ball skills," Wolter said. "He and Cade have developed a great connection."
Wolter was pleased with how the Blue Dukes went toe-to-toe with the much bigger Owls, and that was with key lineman Chris Caspari and Brady Weas still on the sidelines with injuries.
"The kids definitely stepped up and matched their intensity," Wolter said. "It's really great for our confidence."