BLOOMER — Coming into the 2017 season, the Bloomer football team had a smattering of question marks in several areas.
Who would replace 1,000-yard rusher Collin Bungartz? Would the Blackhawks be able to reverse a late-season skid that saw them lose three of their final four games? They were important questions, and Bloomer has answered them emphatically this year.
The Blackhawks are 4-0 for the first time since 2009, and have an average margin of victory of just over 19 points following last week’s 30-16 win over Northwestern.
“We have a nice group of kids,” coach John Post said. “We’ve got some nice speed. We have smart kids. They’re young, but they work hard and want to improve.”
The offense has been a big part of the team’s success so far. The Blackhawks have scored 30 or more points in every game, led by the dual-threat attack of cousins Zach and Caleb Ruf.
Zach, the quarterback, has thrown for six touchdowns and 607 yards, while being intercepted just once. He has also rushed for six scores and 354 yards.
Caleb, a running back, has rushed for four touchdowns and 370 yards, good for an average of 92.5 yards and a touchdown per game.
A familiarity between the offense’s most recognizable playmakers has paid dividends on the field.
“They’re cousins, and in fact Caleb’s brother is one of my assistants. He kind of coached him while he was in school,” Post said. “There’s competition amongst them, but one blocks for the other so that’s how it works.”
The Blackhawks’ depth goes beyond the Rufs, too. Philip Jorstad has rushed for 50 or more yards in two of Bloomer’s wins, and has carried the ball in for three scores. Aaron Price has caught three touchdown passes in the young season.
“We try to get everybody involved and take their role and get better,” Post said.
As is often the case in Bloomer, the offensive line has consistently helped the team establish its gameplan, which has led to some explosive performances in the rushing game. The Blackhawks have rushed for 959 yards this season, which puts them at an average of just under 240 per game.
Perhaps overshadowed by the team’s offensive fireworks is a solid defense. Since surrendering 38 points to Somerset in week one, the Blackhawks have held opponents to an average of 12 points per game—including holding Spooner to six points while playing on the road. There haven’t been any drastic changes to the unit, just some ordinary adjustments.
“It was simple things. Some of it was personnel shifts, just not being 100 percent assignment-sound maybe,” Post said.
This Friday, they’ll face a potent Cumberland team on the road in Heart O’ North Conference action. The Beavers are 3-1, and have not scored fewer than 40 points in a game this season.
“They’re definitely talented. They’re a good team, they’re good at what they do. A lot of athletes in space is always difficult to contend with,” Post said.
As for right now, Post said he’s still not entirely sure where his team stands in the grand scheme of things. Starting 4-0 is an impressive feat, but the Blackhawks are equally concerned about finishing the season strong.
“I’ve been very fortunate here to get good kids,” he said. “To say a 4-0 start (is my best at Bloomer), well, (in previous years) our losses may have been one to Somerset, that kind of thing where we played good competition and got beat...The proof is at the end when you make the playoffs and see what happens.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully have a decent team at that point of the season, and like everyone else hopes, make a run to take the quality of your program forward and be playing in November.”