The Bulldogs found their rhythm against Polson Friday night, coming away with a solid 28-15 home victory.
It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to make up for last week’s scoreless opener.
On the first offensive play, Devin Beale found the right sideline and raced 63 yards for a touchdown to put the Dogs up early.
Beale found the end zone again later in the quarter, rushing up the middle from the 11 yard line. That was set up after freshman quarterback Fynn Ridgeway found Zach Veneman down the seam for a diving catch.
Polson did get on the board in the second quarter, though it was Whitefish that got them there. Plagued by snapping troubles throughout the first half, the Dogs sent a long snap out the back of their own endzone on a punt attempt for a safety.
Jaxsen Schlauch and Ian Calaway both came up with interceptions in the first half, while Ridgeway himself gave one away to Polson’s Ryker Wenderoth.
Polson made things interesting early in the third. After Whitefish muffed a hand-off, the Pirates snatched up the fumble and ran in for their first touchdown of the night. A failed two-point conversion had them down just 14-8.
Whitefish got back at it, however. Zach Veneman found the endzone from just 9 yards out later in the quarter.
In the fourth, Ridgeway capped off a long Whitefish drive with a connection to Schlauch off a slant from 10 yards out.
Polson got on the board again later in the quarter on a 37-yard pass from quarterback Bo Kelley, but an interception by Bodie Smith put the Pirates away for good.
Altogether the Dogs had 468 yards of total offense to Polson’s 159. The Dogs rushed for 343 yards on 40 attempts and converted 31 first downs in the game.
Ridgeway finished the game 9 for 20 for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Head coach Chad Ross said it was a big turnaround compared to week one.
“Defensively, we played just so much better than last week,” he said. “Polson only ran four offensive plays in the first quarter. We just did a great job on third down defense, we just got off the field so much better than we did against Libby.”
In particular, the team has found their quarterback in Ridgeway. Last week he split snaps with Chad Queen, but Queen has since moved to center.
Ross said the coaching Ridgeway is getting from Mac Roche and Ryan Boyle is huge.
“[Ridgeway] throws a great ball. He’s going to get better every week, and that’s exciting to see. His improvement is going to be exponential,” Ross said.
Along with Roche and Boyle, Ross singled out the rest of his coaching staff, who had to fill in for him while he was away for a family matter during the first week of practice.
“They just did a great job. I just really appreciate them picking up the pieces and putting things together. It’s nice I can have confidence in them,” Ross said.
Whitefish goes on the road against Columbia Falls next week.
Ross said he’s excited for what will be a competitive battle in a rivalry that hasn’t been competitive the last few years.
“It’s going to be a great game. It really hasn’t been a game for four years. We destroyed them in 2015, they destroyed us since. They’re rebuilding, but they’re so well coached. It should be a four-quarter game that should be fun to watch,” he said.
That game will start at 7 p.m. in Columbia Falls.
Polson 0 2 6 7 — 15
Whitefish 14 0 7 7 — 28
W — Devon Beale 63 run (Carlitos Bertleson kick)
W — Beale 11 run (Bertleson kick)
P — Safety, errant snap on punt
P — 28 yard fumble return
W — Zach Veneman 9 run (Bertleson kick)
W — Jasxen Schlauch 10 pass from Fynn Ridgeway (Bertleson)
P — 37 pass from Bo Kelley