This isn’t the way the Dukes wanted to open the season.
After not renewing contracts with Norwayne, Edison, and Rocky River in order to schedule teams that the Dukes felt they could be competitive with, they once again found themselves on the wrong end of a lopsided score as the Chippewa Chips came to town for a 69-26 season opener blow-out.
“We started seven sophomores tonight,” said Sean Arno, who dropped to 2-9 entering his second year as the Dukes’ coach. “That makes a big difference when you are going against a team with more varsity experience on their side. This is the only time I’m going to use that as an excuse. After tonight, those sophomores have game experience under their belt. If they couldn’t play, they wouldn’t be in there.
“Bottom line is that we have to get better across the board.”
One of those sophomores is quarterback Tristan Arno, who looked like the proverbial rookie under center with an up-and-down performance.
Down 7-0, he engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a 45-yard run by junior Nate Nocella down to the one yard line. A quarterback keeper by Arno put the Dukes on the board and they trailed 7-6 after failing the two-point conversion.
On the drive, Arno completed three of four passes for 18 yards and ran for another 10 as the Dukes moved down the field with ease.
Chippewa scored on the ensuing possession and then took advantage of a Dukes miscue to record their third touchdown of the evening.
Lined up in a punt formation on a fourth-and-27 from their own 12 yard line, the Dukes snap went over the QB’s head and was recovered in the end zone by Chippewa for the touchdown. The ensuing PAT gave the Chips a 21-6 advantage with 3:17 left in the first quarter.
Undeterred, the Dukes answered with a little trickery as senior Ethan Thomas took the handoff and hit junior Max Carevic for an 82-yard touchdown. Another failed two-point conversion left the Dukes down 21-12.
With some momentum on their side and sensing an opportunity, the Dukes successfully executed an onside kick and recovered the ball at the 48 yard line. Unfortunately for the Dukes, Arno was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage to end the drive before it started.
Chippewa took over on its own 42 and needed only one play — a 58-yard touchdown pass — to effectively seal the game. With the PAT, the Chips led 28-12 and were never threatened again by the Dukes.
“That was a huge momentum shift,” said coach Arno of the interception. “I think if we go down the field and score, it’s a different ballgame. I’m not saying we win the game but we would have been in it with some momentum and confidence on our side. After the interception, I think we stopped playing hard and they just ran over us.”
Chippewa added a pair of running touchdowns by quarterback Bailey Breitenstine for a 41-12 lead before the Dukes breached the end zone again. With 2:57 left in the first half, Arno found sophomore Parker Rieske for a six-yard score to make the score 41-18.
Chippewa added two more touchdowns before the half, including one off a turnover on another errant snap, to take a commanding 55-18 lead into the locker room.
Sophomore Trevor Porter would hook up with Arno in the fourth quarter for a 17-yard touchdown reception to close out the Dukes scoring for the night.
Nocella led the Dukes on the ground with 77 yards on 17 carries. Freshman Antonio Hernandez added seven yards on five carries while sophomore Everett Kropff talled five yards on four carries.
At QB, Arno went 13-of-23 for 177 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. He also had 13 rushes for -64 yards.
Thomas finished with 82 yards passing on his lone attempt and a touchdown. Trevor Porter led all receivers with 131 yards on six catches.
Carevic finished with 82 yards on his one reception. Reiske had two receptions and 19 yards while Thomas had 15 yards on a pair of catches.
Overall, the Dukes finished with 279 yards of total offense while giving up 476 yards (228 rushing, 248 passing) to Chippewa.
This Friday, the Dukes host Patriot Athletic Conference opponent Columbia. The Raiders (1-0) walloped Independence 48-7 with a balanced attacked as they scored the first 48 points of the game.
Kelsey Levya | Wellington Enterprise Coach Ryan Quinn takes a knee to talk to the players during a time out.