Freedom had a long offseason to prepare for Friday night’s bout with Little Chute. That preparation paid dividends in a 19-13 come-from-behind win over their rival in overtime in front of the home crowd.
“It’s a great start to the year,” said Freedom head coach Frank Mattea after the thrilling win. “I’m very proud of them with how they competed. They never gave up. Little Chute gave us everything we wanted and then some and we just hung in there, and hung in there, and hung in there.”
As if losing the County Highway “N” sign in the regular season wasn’t enough last year, Little Chute also eliminated the Irish in level-3 of the playoffs.
After the Mustangs fumbled on their opening overtime possession, it was Matt Verhasselt’s 10-yard touchdown scamper that sent Freedom to victory.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Verhasselt said of the win. “First half was a little rough, but all the conditioning stuff we did in practice really pulled through in the second half and overtime and we got the win.”
Verhasselt completed 11-of-19 for 188 yards and a touchdown to Caden Hofacker from 21 yards out, while also rushing the ball 16 times for 60 yards.
“This team, we’re a senior packed team,” he said. “We’ve got some huge playmakers, but we’re in it for the long haul. We’ll grind it out any day, any time and that’s what we did today.”
Little Chute took the 13-7 lead in the fourth quarter on a Charlie Hietpas touchdown and forced a Freedom fumble while the Irish were driving, but Jacob Balthazor came away with a big interception that eventually led to an 11-yard touchdown run by Dakota Brockman.
Brockman finished with 52 yards on the ground.
Little Chute was led offensively on the ground by Charlie Hietpas, who had 122 yards.
“We all knew Little Chute was going to be a big game, but it’s just the start of our season, just the first game. We plan on keep going up, getting better and better, and just take on the next opponent.”