COLFAX — There was plenty of talk around town last week dealing with the fact that the Colfax football team hadn’t won a playoff game since the team played in the state championship in 1984.
That streak of 30 years turned into a 31 year streak, however, as the Vikings lost 42-22 to the Chequamegon Screaming Eagles at home Friday, Oct. 24 in the first round of the WIAA playoffs.
Colfax ended their season with a record of 6-3 and were 4-2 in conference, tied for second place.
The Eagles were 6-3 overall and 4-3 playing in the tough Marawood Conference and have been known for their hard nosed rushing game. But they surprised a lot of people with a solid enough passing game that kept the Vikings off balance and resulted in a couple of big scoring plays.
Colfax took the opening kickoff and moved the ball with some slick passing themselves as Jarrod Rudi connected with Sawyer DeMoe for a 13 yard gain and Jeremiah Wait for eight yards and a pair of first downs. But four running plays didn’t get them anywhere and they had to punt.
The Eagles took over at their own 24 and marched downfield all the way to the Viking one yard line. But on first and goal, the Eagles tried to pound the middle four times and hit a wall made up of Trevor Olson, Aliymu Davis, Jon Hayton and a host of other Vikings and had to give the ball up.
Colfax couldn’t build on that momentum however and had to punt again after three plays.
“That defensive stop was huge for us and we hoped our offense would build something off of it,” coach Mark Maloney said. “But we couldn’t get anything going.”
The Eagles started with a short field, at the Colfax 36 and it looked like the Vikings defense was ready to stop them again, but on third and three, Shane Wakefield found an open receiver for a 31-yard score. The extra point kick made it 7-0 with just 1:22 left in the quarter.
Colfax appeared to pick up a first down on a 20 yard run by Wait on their next possession, but a holding call nullified it and Colfax punted again.
Rudi sent off a boomer and pinned the Eagles at their own five, but in the blink of an eye on first down no less, Wakefield caught the Vikings secondary asleep and connected with Sam Lehman for a 95-yard catch and run, and the kick made it 14-0 at the 10:21 mark of the second quarter.
Both defenses were filling the running lanes, resulting in their respective punters getting a workout for most of the quarter before Colfax finally started to put something together offensively.
Starting at their own 35, Rudi connected with Jacob Steinke for a 32-yard reception, then found him again and although the ball was tipped, Steinke showed remarkable concentration and snagged the ball while on his knees for a 27-yard catch to the Eagles three.
On third and one, Andrew Adix plunged through the middle for the score, and Rudi’s kick made it 14-7 with 33 seconds left in the half.
“That was another momentum changer for us and I told the boys at halftime we needed to make a big defensive stop to start the second half so we could get the ball back to our offense,” Maloney said.
But Maloney’s speech must not have been as forceful as the one the Chequamegon coach gave his team as the Eagles stormed down the field in six plays to score on an 11-yard run and the kick made it 21-0 three minutes into the quarter.
Colfax picked up a pair of first downs on a 21-yard run by Wait and his two-yard run with an eight-yard gain in between from Adix. But on second and 13, Rudi was looking for a receiver in the middle of the field and it ended up in an Eagle player’s hands who took it to the endzone from 58 yards out. The kick made it 28-7 and seemed to stun pretty much everyone who was watching.
With the Eagles sending a pair of linebackers through the line on just about every play, the Vikings offensive line just couldn’t pick up all of them, and on fourth down they tried a fake punt but the ball was picked off again.
The Eagles made it 35-7 on a one-yard run after starting at midfield.
But the Vikings may have been down but they were not out yet. They started at their own 30 after the kickoff, and after two Wait runs that netted 12 yards, Rudi had time to find a receiver and located Steinke behind the defense for a 59-yard scoring strike. Rudi’s PAT made it 35-14 with 1:14 to go in the third.
Moving into the final quarter, the Eagles added yet another big play with Lehman busting through the middle for a 68-yard TD and a 42-14 lead.
With just over 11 minutes to play, Colfax controlled the ball for the next five with Rudi hitting DeMoe for a 15-yard gain and Adix for 12 more yards.
A pass interference and a facemask penalty on the Eagles put the ball at the 19, and with Rudi out with an ankle problem, DeMoe took over at quarterback. He gained six yards by dragging a few Eagles with him on a run then Wait zipped up the middle to the one.
On second down, DeMoe scored the final points of his high school career on a plunge, and the final points of the Viking’s season came on a DeMoe to Andy Larson two-point conversion pass.
The Eagles ran the ball for the next seven minutes to finish things off and now have the honor of heading to Stanley-Boyd to play the defending state champion Orioles.
“Chequamegon passed a lot more than we expected,” coach Maloney said after the loss. “They also changed their defense up and had some big kids up front. Lehman is a tough kid to tackle and it took more than one or two of our guys to bring him down.But our kids never gave up, even after having to play from behind all game,” he added.
Two of the 13 seniors on the team also commented on the game.
“We gave up three big plays at bad times that really hurt us,” Adix said. “We finally got our running game going late in the second half but it was too late. But we had a great season and our team stuck together through the ups and downs. We set the standards high for the underclassmen and I hope they continue to build off what we accomplished.”
Olson played both sides of the line and had his hands full all game.
“We made those big stops on the one yard line in the first quarter and we thought our offense would take over,” Olson said. “But we just couldn’t get our backs enough space to break any big runs. The season ended quicker then we wanted but we had a winning record and us seniors helped build a program that is pretty successful. We hope it continues,” he added.
Wait finished his final high school game with 71 yards rushing on 17 carries, giving him 1,194 for the season. Rudi completed 9 of 14 passes for 173 yards with Steinke snagging three for 118 yards while DeMoe caught two for 29 yards. Hayton collected eight tackles to lead the defense while Davis came up with seven.