by Kelsie Hoitomt
SCHOFIELD – The Glenwood City Football team has fought their way through the Division 7 bracket to earn their trip to the WIAA State Tournament for the first time in 15 years.
In a bittersweet, emotional victory, the Hilltoppers beat the undefeated Hilbert Wolves 28-8 on the D.C Everest High School field in front of a stands jam packed with Topper fans.
The Toppers’ first half performance was lackluster to say the least with the Wolves shutting down the running plays and recovering an interception and a fumble.
However, the Hilltoppers were able to rekindle their fire after Nick Mrdutt tossed up a pass to Matt Schouten in the end zone. Schouten caught the ball off the helmet of a Wolves defender, with 30 seconds left in the first half.
The halftime break proved to work out to the Toppers’ advantage, as they were unstoppable in the second half of the game.
The Toppers held the Wolves to less than 50 yards on offense with the Wolves being allowed under 20 yards in the second half alone.
The Wolves received the kick off to start the third quarter, but between the Hilltoppers’ defensive line stopping their running game and a sack on quarterback Brady Gruett by Isaac Tuttle and Adam Holmquist, they were forced to punt after three plays.
The Hilltoppers controlled over seven minutes of the clock in the third quarter as the Wolves were only in possession of the ball twice.
The Toppers’ second touchdown of the game was scored with 19 seconds left in the third quarter with the ball resting on the one yard line. Mrdutt kept the ball and forced his way across the goal line and then Tuttle took to the outside of the end zone for the two-point conversion to put the Toppers ahead 14-8.
The Wolves first possession in the fourth quarter would end after a wild snap went over the head of Gruett for a loss of ten yards.
The Hilltoppers’ following drive would result in a gain of only ten yards which brought out punter Richard Ross. The punt was caught and then dropped, which was then recovered by Hilltopper Chris Wagner to give the Toppers the ball back near the ten yard line.
Adam Holmquist and Tuttle would carry the ball to the one yard line once again and Mrdutt would hold onto the ball for his second touchdown. Jeff Kopacz would score the two-point conversion with five minutes left in the game to put the score at 22-8.
The momentum would continue after a fumble by the Wolves was recovered by Adam Holmquist on the 37 yard line.
Holmquist picked up another two yard gain and then the ball was handed off to Tuttle who bolted through the line and into the end zone for a 35 yard touchdown run.
The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but the Hilltoppers were now ahead 28-8 with three minutes left in the game.
The defense was relentless and continued to beat down an exhausted Hilbert team, which again resulted in another Wolves punt.
With the Toppers in possession of the ball and the clock under two minutes, Mrdutt would run two plays and then take a knee for the victory.
Cheers filled the air and the boys quickly took off their shoes and ran towards the stands where the fans were awaiting their traditional high fives.
With the captains of each team and their coaches on the field, they were awarded their semi-final plaques by the WIAA’s Leann Kitchell.
“I was very happy with how our kids played disciplined defense all day. Hilbert came into the game averaging over 30 points a game and we held them to under 50 yards of total offense. The boys trusted the game plan and they read their keys which allowed them to play fast football. I was proud of how the kids responded in the second half. We made a couple of adjustments at halftime on offense and the kids executed them very well,” explained head coach Shane Strong.
The halftime break aided in the Hilltoppers’ 274 total rushing yards with Tuttle leading the game with 138 yards. Holmquist rushed for 60 yards, Kopacz rushed for 52 yards and Mrdutt had 24 rushing yards.
Mrdutt had only ne completion on four attempts, but it was when it counted most for the touchdown to Schouten for 23 yards.
The Hilltoppers’ defense held the Wolves to a total of 48 yards rushing with Hilbert’s Austin Schaffer earning the majority of those yards with a total of 27. Gruett had zero completions on three attempts.
The Hilltoppers will face the Potosi Chieftains in the State Tournament at UW-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium this Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m.
Advanced tickets can be bought for $8.00 dollars in the Glenwood City High School office until Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m.