Janesville22.9°

Delavan-Darien’s success fueled by Fritzinger and Fowlkes

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JOHN N. BARRY
September 23, 2010
— Pick your poison.

That’s the no-win situation opposing football coaches have been in this season when preparing for Delavan-Darien’s dynamic duo of Justin Fowlkes and Austin Fritzinger.


Do you try and shut down the all-everything Fritzinger? The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior quarterback is a dual threat because of a college-ready throwing arm that goes along with his above-average speed as a rusher.


Or is the best game plan trying to put the clamps on Fowlkes? All the 5-7, 160-pound senior has done this season as the featured back is score 14 touchdowns in four games. He’s been even more of a nightmare for teams as a kick returner.


Thus far, there doesn’t seem to be any way of planning for the Comets’ spread offense. Delavan-Darien is averaging 44 points a game in racing to a 4-0 record, including a 2-0 mark in the Southern Lakes Conference.


The success begins with the dynamic duo.


“Those two really complement one another well in our spread offense,” Delavan-Darien coach Steve Tenhagen said of Fritzinger and Fowlkes. “When we have double-option stuff going on, where we have reads off of those two, it makes it awfully hard for the other team to defend us.


“And the offensive line has been outstanding, too. Everybody has contributed to our success, but Justin and Austin get most of the headlines.”


Fowlkes earned All-Southern Lakes first-team honors last season at wide receiver, but has made a smooth transition to tailback. He credits a rigorous off-season workout schedule for the extra bounce in his step. Tenhagen agrees.


“The first thing I noticed with Justin this year is that his burst is as good as I’ve seen,” Tenhagen said. “When he changes direction and you see that burst, that’s what is most impressive.


“We’ve seen linebackers look like they had the angle on him. And the next thing you know, he’s by them.


“He reminds me of the way Reggie Bush ran when he was at USC. It’s tough to compare a high school kid with a college kid, but that’s who comes to mind when I watch Justin run.”


Fowlkes has 739 yards rushing this season and is averaging 184.7 yards rushing per game. As a kick returner, he has one touchdown on a 90-yard kickoff return on the first play of the season against Whitewater.


How come no other kick returns for touchdowns? Teams are afraid of him. Not one kickoff or punt has come anywhere near Fowlkes since the opening kickoff of the season.


“That doesn’t bother us at all,” Fritzinger said of the constant pooch kicks and punts because of Fowlkes’ presence on returns. “It seems like we start every drive in great field position. And with our offense, that’s even better.


“But I wouldn’t kick to Justin, either. He’s unbelievable.”


Fritzinger hasn’t had to be unbelievable this season, just efficient. Despite earning All-Southern Lakes first-team honors last season at quarterback, he has done most of his damage this season on the ground.


The spread offense is predicated on throwing. The Comets, however, with a rushing average of nearly 375 yards a game, are throwing only about 20 percent of the time.


“Teams don’t want Austin to throw the ball because they know he’ll pick them apart,” Fowlkes said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons on the team, and Austin knows there are going to be games where we have to throw the ball more. He doesn’t care about who scores or any of that.”


That brings Delavan-Darien its first big Southern Lakes test Friday night. The Comets travel to Waterford to play the defending conference champion Wolverines (3-1, 2-0).


And that prompts the obvious questions:


Can the Wolverines slow down Delavan-Darien?


Will they kick to Fowlkes?


Is Fritzinger going to need to throw more than five passes?


The dynamic duo can’t wait to provide the answers.



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