DARLINGTON – Senior Kordell Stillmunkes ignited the Cuba City offense on Friday night as the Cubans torched the host Darlington Redbirds, 33-0, in their SWAL opener at Martens Field on Sept. 1.
Stillmunkes ran for two first-quarter touchdowns and threw a long touchdown pass to lift the Cubans out to a 21-0 halftime lead, and the Cubans’ defense made sure that lead stood by holding on to shut out the Redbirds for the first time in 45 games.
“It was very important (to grab an early lead) because it builds confidence in our team. We were both 0-2 coming in. I felt the team who scored first could put the dagger in,” said Cuba City head coach Guy Kopp. “The guys just had to believe in themselves and let our skilled athletes take advantage of what we have.”
Stillmunkes got the Cubans (1-2 overall, 1-0 SWAL) moving early, ripping off a 60-yard run to put his team inside the Darlington 5-yard line. He scored from two yards out a short time later to put the Cubans ahead to stay less than two minutes into the game.
Kaleb Polzin added the first of three first-half extra point kicks to push the lead to 7-0.
Stillmunkes tacked on a dazzling 61-yard TD scamper midway through the first quarter to extend the Cubans’ lead to 14-0, and then he used his arm to increase the advantage to 21-0 when he hit a wide open Ben Marti for a 68-yard halfback option touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.
“That was Kordell doing what he can do. He did some of that by himself, but he still has an offensive line. They really came off the ball and opened holes like they didn’t do the first two weeks,” admitted Kopp.
Darlington (0-3, 0-1) was able to move the ball themselves at times, but they couldn’t find a way into the end zone the entire night.
“We moved the ball at times and we looked good at times, but that’s just it– it was only at times,” noted Darlington head coach Scott Zywicki. “We didn’t play the way we are capable of playing tonight. Cuba City played much better than we did and they were much more physical than us. They got after us and we had some of our typical breakdowns. That’s why we had the lopsided score.”
The Redbirds looked poised to fight their way back into the game on their opening possession of the second half, driving from their own 21 to inside the Cubans’ red zone before back-to-back penalties put a halt to their scoring threat.
Taking over on downs at their own 19, the Cubans responded with an 18-play drive that ate up nearly nine and a half minutes of the game clock and ended with a 21-yard Andy Clendenen to Brayden Holzemer TD pass that put Coach Kopp’s crew up 27-0 with just 10:35 remaining in the game.
The ‘Birds got right back into Cuban territory thanks to a 53-yard kickoff return by Kameron Blosch to the CC 35, and they pounded it down to the 12 before fumbling away a snap to end another scoring threat.
Even when things went wrong for the Cubans, the ball continued to bounce their way. Two plays after Paul Burrows’ fumble recovery, Stillmunkes broke loose on another long run and appeared headed back into the end zone. A Darlington defender caught up to him from behind and knocked the ball from his hands, however the ball bounced right to teammate Mason Erschen, who took it the final 20 yards to pay dirt to put the Cubans up 33-0.
“We have a lot of issues to correct. I’m going to be hard on them this week. We’re going to stop making those mental errors one way or another,” Zywicki commented.
The Cubans finished the game rolling up 397 yards of total offense, including 309 rushing yards on 30 carries, as they put a five-game losing streak against Darlington to an end.
Stillmunkes carried it 22 times for 277 yards and two touchdowns, while completing his one pass attempt for 68 yards and another score. Clendenen went 2-for-6 for 20 yards and a score as the Cubans added 88 yards through the air.
The Redbirds gained 300 yards– 183 rushing and 117 passing– on the night but were held off the scoreboard for the first time since the 2013 WIAA Division 6 state championship game when they fell to Shiocton, 35-0.
It was the first shutout in SWAL play for the Redbirds since 2012 (Fennimore, 27-0) and their first shutout at home since 2006 (Iowa-Grant, 21-0). The ‘Birds have not started off 0-3 since the 2006 season.
Blosch led the team in rushing with 79 yards on 14 carries, and had seven catches for 53 yards. Quarterback Blake Whalen went 13-for-23 through the air for 117 yards and ran 12 times for 66 yards. Grady Rielly added 49 rushing yards on 10 totes, and Stryker Fitzsimons hauled in five catches for 37 yards.
“We’re reaching and trying to play this game in a finesse manner, and that’s not going to work,” said Zywicki. “We’re now into the fourth week of the season. It’s time for us to grow up and be mature, and do what’s expected of us.”
Darlington resumes one of the state’s longest running rivalries on Friday, Sept. 8, when they head to Mineral Point to face the Pointers (2-1, 1-0) in a key SWAL contest.
It will be the 117th meeting between these two schools with the Redbirds holding an 88-23-5 all-time mark over the Pointers, including 10 consecutive wins.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Cuba City….. 14 7 0 12 – 33
Darlington…. 0 0 0 0 – 0
CC – Kordell Stimmunkes, 2 run (Kaleb Polzin kick)
CC – Stillmunkes, 61 run (Polzin kick)
CC – Ben Marti, 68 pass from Stillmunkes (Polzin kick)
CC – Brayden Holzemer, 21 pass from Andy Clendenen (kick failed)
CC – Mason Ersschen, 20 run (kick failed)
Team Stats: First Downs– CC 8, D 15. Rushing– CC 30-309; D 42-183. Passing– CC 3-7-0, 88; D 17-23-0, 117. Fumbles-Lost– CC 1-0; D 1-1. Penalties- CC 6-45; D 6-34.
Darlington Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Kameron Blosch, 14-79-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Blake Whalen, 17-23-0-0, 117. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Blosch, 7-53-0.