FOOTBALL: Dukes fall to Normandy in season opener, fans enjoy new bleachers


The final score may not have been what the Wellington Dukes or their fans wanted Friday night, but having permanent seating in place for the first time in nearly two years helped ease the sting of defeat.

After a close first half, the Normandy Invaders sprang ahead to defeat the Dukes 42-21 in the season opener.

Finishing touches on the 1,100-seat metal bleachers were completed in the past two weeks, ending the lengthy process of replacing wooden seats that were condemned in late 2015 after a fan’s foot broke through a floorboard.

“It’s a sigh of relief,” said Dukes athletic coordinator John Bowman. “A lot of work went into this and it’s built a lot of excitement. I’m impressed with what we have down here and I think the fans are too. We’re all looking forward to the season.”

“Tonight’s a big wow for me,” said district superintendent Ed Weber. “I want to thank the board of education for their vision and investment in the children of this community. Our staff deserves a lot of thanks along with Mr. Bowman’s leadership. There’s more great things to come.”

On the field, Normandy struck first with an eight-yard touchdown run courtesy of quarterback Ryan Dengler. Wellington countered in the second quarter when Ben Higgins connected with Parker Rieske on a 14-yard pass for six.

Dengler found Matt Ashe deep down the sideline on a 70-yard strike to put Normandy back in front.

With 2:35 left in the first half, Higgins threw another touchdown — a perfectly placed, 37-yard corner fade to Mason McClellan.

Dengler broke loose for another scoring run, this time covering 48 yards to give Normandy a 21-14 lead with 7:59 remaining in the third quarter. Wellington again tied the score quickly and again did it through a great throw from Higgins, scrambling away from heavy pressure and releasing off his back foot to connect with Zach Constantino from 22 yards out.

Ashe got behind the Wellington defense for a long touchdown pass again early in the fourth quarter to give Normandy a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

A fumble gave the ball back to the Invaders inside the Dukes 10-yard line and Dengler quickly notched another rushing touchdown. After an interception, one last Normandy score sealed up the victory.

Higgins, a sophomore, completed 22 of 32 passes for 213 yards and the three touchdowns.

“I think they wore us out a little bit,” he said. “We definitely got more tired as the night went on. We were neck and neck with them until halfway through the third. We just couldn’t move the ball very well after that. We’re going to be working hard during practice. We have to be better conditioned and not be tired.”

His passes were well-distributed.

Mason Wright caught a team-high seven passes for 62 yards, followed by six apiece for Rieske and McClellan.

“They started blitzing their linebackers more and it slowed us down,” said Rieske, who also nabbed an interception in the first half. “We’re going to be working on execution and getting everything done right.”

The Dukes and first-year head coach Roy Moore will welcome Mapleton to Wellington next Friday.

“We’re looking to run the ball more this year, but we couldn’t block their pressure to open holes for our running game,” Moore said. “We just got outplayed. Normandy is good team. We need to execute better than we did today and that’s what we’ll be working on.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

.neFileBlock {
margin-bottom: 20px;
}
.neFileBlock p {
margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
}
.neFileBlock .neFile {
border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa;
padding-bottom: 5px;
padding-top: 10px;
}
.neFileBlock .neCaption {
font-size: 85%;
}

Fans make their way into new, 1,100-seat bleachers Friday during the Dukes home opener, a 42-21 loss to the Normandy Invaders.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0222.jpgFans make their way into new, 1,100-seat bleachers Friday during the Dukes home opener, a 42-21 loss to the Normandy Invaders.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

Junior lineman Joseph Stout takes on a pair of Normandy defenders in the trenches.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0235.jpgJunior lineman Joseph Stout takes on a pair of Normandy defenders in the trenches.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

Quarterback Ben Higgins readies for a snap. The sophomore threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0248.jpgQuarterback Ben Higgins readies for a snap. The sophomore threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

The Dukes student section enjoys their new seats.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0242.jpgThe Dukes student section enjoys their new seats.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

Normandy quarterback Ryan Dengler breaks loose for a long run.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0225.jpgNormandy quarterback Ryan Dengler breaks loose for a long run.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

WHS cheerleaders pass along encouragement during the first half.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0238.jpgWHS cheerleaders pass along encouragement during the first half.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

First-year head coach Roy Moore watches early action unfold.
http://www.thewellingtonenterprise.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2017/08/web1_IMG_0228.jpgFirst-year head coach Roy Moore watches early action unfold.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise

By Jonathan Delozier

jdelozier@aimmediamidwest.com