By Kelsie Hoitomt
MADISON – The road home from Camp Randall Stadium was a more somber trip this time around after the Glenwood City football team lost their Division 7 State Championship title to the undefeated Black Hawk Warriors this past Thursday.
Despite the 44-22 loss, the Hilltoppers were able to hold their heads high as they received the runner-up trophy with the silver ball attached, showing that their effort and attitude had more than paid off.
“I know there are a lot of tears and we feel sad, but we should feel some happiness too because we lived it. We have lived something unbelievable and we will never forget it,” shared Coach Shane Strong.
At 10:00 a.m., Kurtis Paulson kicked the ball to start the game with Isaac Tuttle on the receiving end. Tuttle ran the ball 24 yards to put the Hilltoppers on their own 36 yard line to begin their first drive of the state championship game.
Tuttle rushed for an additional five yards, but two incomplete passes would force the Hilltoppers to punt the ball away.
The Black Hawks’ following possession ended in a fumble after their quarterback, Heath Butler, was stripped of the ball by Nick Mrdutt during the tackle.
The Hilltoppers were given the ball at their own seven yard line, but they were unable to move the ball for a first down, which sent Tuttle back to punt again.
The Warriors called a fair catch on their own 48 and quickly moved into Hilltopper territory after three plays and a penalty gave them a first down on the 38 yard line.
Tyler Peterson caught a 15 yard pass to put the ball on the Hilltoppers’ 24. Butler and Tanner Sweeney moved the ball to 17 and then it was Jayden Rufenacht with the sprint to the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but the Warriors were on the board 6-0 with three minutes left to play in the first quarter.
The Hilltoppers made little headway on their following possession as the ball was fumbled on the first play, which set the Warriors on Glenwood City’s 37 yard line.
The turnover sent the Warriors down the field in four plays and into the end zone for their second touchdown from a five yard run by Sweeney. Sweeney carried in the conversion to put the score at 14-0 with a minute still left on the clock.
This time the Hilltoppers answered back after Tuttle found an opening down the right side of the field and sprinted 68 yards into the end zone for the touchdown on the first play of the possession.
The conversion pass was unsuccessful, but the scoreboard now read 14-6 with the Hilltoppers closing in.
The second quarter would begin with the Toppers in possession of the ball on their own 23 yard line. The drive ended in a punt, which put the Warriors on their own 27.
The Warriors punted the ball away themselves and Tuttle called a fair catch to put the team on their own 40.
After 11 plays, 60 yards and six minutes, the Toppers were in sight of the goal line once againTuttle rushed for 15 yards to put the team in Black Hawk territory. Mrdutt held onto the ball for a seven yard gain and then launched a pass to Jeff Kopacz for another pick up of seven yards.
With the ball on the 35 yard line, Tuttle and Mrdutt worked together to move the ball to the one yard line.
Mrdutt held onto the ball for the touchdown and then it was Tuttle with the two-point conversion to the tie the game at 14-14 with 54 seconds left in the first half.
Before the quarter ended, the Warriors scored once more after Sweeney had a 38 yard return to the Hilltoppers’ 37 to start the drive. Butler then completed a 12 yard pass to Seth Butler to put the ball on the 25.
With 21 seconds left, Heath Butler connected with Peterson in the end zone for a 24 yard touchdown reception. The conversion was successful and the score going into half-time was now 22-14.
The Black Hawks ran away with the ball in the second half of the game as they scored two unanswered touchdowns in third quarter.
The Warriors received the ball to open the second half on their own 35.
On the first play, Sweeney jumped over the middle of the pile and sprinted down the field for a 65 yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion was successful to put the score at 30-14.
“They came out and ran a cut/dive that they had been running the whole game and we had been bottling it up pretty well and Tanner Sweeney made a great cut and busted away for a touchdown run. Good athletes do that if you give them space. Tuttle shows that when he gets some space, he is the same kind of kid,” said Strong.
The Toppers punted the ball on the following drive, which set the Black Hawks on their own 35.
On the first play, Heath Butler connected with Brett Lovelace for a 65 yard pass completion and touchdown reception. Butler ran the ball in himself for the two-points to put the score at 38-14 with nine minutes still remaining in the quarter.
On the following drive, the Hilltoppers came in sight of the goal line, but a pass was intercepted in the end zone to give the Warriors a touch back.
Another pass was caught by a Black Hawk defender to give the Warriors the ball on their own 37 to start the fourth quarter.
“Black Hawk forced us into some situations, we are not a passing team, the turnovers hurt us, but our kids were trying to make plays in a situation that they were not used to. We are a running team and maybe I made some bad play calls too, its on me too,” said coach Strong.
From the 37, the Warriors went 63 yards in 10 plays to score their final touchdown of the game after Heath Butler ran 16 yards into the end zone. The conversion was unsuccessful, which put the score at 44-14.
With three minutes remaining in the game, the Hilltoppers’ junior varsity team took the field, which gave a handful of players their first taste of a state championship game on the Badgers’ field.
From their own 31 yard line, Nathan Mrdutt rushed for 12 yards to put the team on their own 43. Then it was Nick Schone with the quarterback keeper for a 22 yard gain to enter into Warrior territory.
Marcus Ullom held onto the ball for a 10 yard gain to put the ball on the 25. From there, Schone fired a pass to Jake Logghe for the Hilltoppers’ last touchdown of the championship game.
The two-point conversion was successful by Nathan Mrdutt, which set the score at 44-22 for the final of the Division 7 game.
A total of 15 seniors finished their high school football career in Madison that day with 23 wins in two years as well as a state championship and a state runner-up.
“They can be extremely proud,” expressed Strong. “I am very proud of them.”
As a team that day, the Hilltoppers rushed for a total of 265 yards with 66 yards of receiving as well. The Warriors finished with 282 yards of rushing and 126 of receiving.
For the Toppers, Tuttle had the game high with 152 yards on 18 attempts; averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Following was fellow senior Nick Mrdutt with 44 yards on nine attempts. Then it was Schone with 22 yards, Nathan Mrdutt with 19, Kopacz with 14, Ullom with 10, Billy Norenberg with three and Blayze Wood with one.
Logghe led the team in receiving yards with 25 on the one attempt. Following him was Todd Petersen with one reception for 19 yards, Donovan Fornal with one reception for 15 yards and Kopacz with the one reception for seven yards.
The Hilltoppers finished their season 5-1 in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference and were 12-2 overall for the 2013 season.
“I think what hurts is there is no moving on,” Strong said succinctly. “There is no game next week and these seniors are graduating and they are not playing another game for us. I think that hurts more than second place. But, all the memories that we made, no one can take that from us. We will live with that forever and that is what I feel good about.”