In the end, there was too much size, too much speed and too much Matt Hubley.
The University of Wisconsin recruit ran for 199 yards to lift Catholic Memorial to a 42-7 win over Waupaca Nov. 16 in the Division 3 state championship football game at Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium.
It was the first loss of the season for the Comets, who came into the game with a 12-0 mark. The Crusaders finished 11-2.
Catholic Memorial scored on its first two possessions, but only led 14-0 at halftime. Hubley set up his first touchdown, a 2-yard-run, with a 56-yard run to the Comet 5-yard line. Waupaca received the opening kickoff, but turned it over on the first of Andre Bodden’s three interceptions.
The Crusaders struck again on their second drive, as Pat White connected with Bodden on a 77-yard pass to give Catholic Memorial a 14-0 lead with 3:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Brad Kocour picked off a Sam Menzies pass to set the Crusaders up at their own 42-yard line. However, the drive ended after the Comets blocked Mitch Meindel’s 33-yard field goal attempt.
The Comets drove from their own 20 to the Crusader 31-yard line, but Justin Dentici recovered Beau Ash’s fumble. The drive didn’t last long, as Waupaca’s Nate Jenson picked off White’s pass intended for Bodden.
“We had a little run in the second quarter,” coach John Koronkiewicz said. “We started to get some things going. We gave up some plays early in the game that we wish we had back. That kind of put momentum on their side. Obviously, they have big-play capability.”
Waupaca started two more drives in the first half, but gained only four yards on one and 14 on the other before punting.
“It was 14-0, we were in the game,” Koronkiewicz said. “We talked about it at halftime. The defense was going to have to come out and make a play. If they did that, the offense could move the ball.”
Hubley’s 70-yard TD run on the first play of the second half gave the Crusaders a 21-0 lead.
“We didn’t want to start the third quarter the way we did with that long touchdown run,” Koronkiewicz said. “It may not have been the key play, but it was a critical play.”
However, Waupaca answered the Crusaders with a 16-play, 76-yard drive that ended with Menzies’ 4-yard pass to Nate Nelson with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter. Ash’s extra point cut the lead to 21-7, but White tossed a 25-yard pass to Alec Kocour.
“Our defense had to come up with another stop,” Koronkiewicz said. “We gave up that fourth TD on a big play and they had that breathing room again. If we don’t give up that long run and do the same thing, the complexion of the game changes. When you get to that 28-7 mark, that was a game-breaker right there. Then the game got a little out of hand, not that we wanted it to. That’s the way things go sometimes. You have to take your hat off, tip it and say, ‘That was a fine football team we played.’
“We’d come back and get some things going, then we’d have a turnover or something like that, just not quite enough to get over the hump,” he added. “After that, it was just playing it out, doing the best you can and finish the season the way we started with the kind of effort that we expect from our guys.”
The Crusaders weren’t finished, as White and Meindel hooked up for a 21-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter and Bodden returned his third interception of the day 10 yards for the final score.
“From their offensive line to our defensive line, we’re probably outweighed by 100 pounds at times,” Koronkiewicz said. “You have to give our little guys credit. They’re tenacious in there. That’s the biggest offensive line we’ve seen all year. We’ve seen big, but not that big. Plus, they have an outstanding running back and their quarterback is an veteran guy that can stand in the pocket. It’s hard to get to that guy because of that big offensive front. If you give anybody that much time, they’re going to pick out some open receivers, which they were able to do.”
The Crusaders outgained the Comets 225-138 on the ground and 179-67 through the air. Menzies and Ash led the Comet ground game with 66 and 55 yards, respectively, while Jenson caught a team-high three passes for 44 yards.
“I could tell on film that they were an outstanding football team,” Koronkiewicz said. “We knew they might give us some trouble inside. You have to be able to step up and make plays. I don’t think we really made plays like we’re capable of making plays.”
“The hardest part about games like this is the season always comes to and end, whether you play in a state championship or not,” he said. “There’s a great deal of commitment on the part of your players and coaches that you miss. You miss that day-to-day contact. We have a wonderful group and a great coaching staff to work with. That’s hard to give up. You kind of wish that you had another week of practice even at this point. We’ll look back and find the positives in this season. There are lot of schools around the state that don’t have this particular opportunity. We’re still bringing home a silver football. We’re proud of that.”
The trip to state was Waupaca’s fifth overall and fourth in a decade. The Comets came up short in 1994 and 2002 and won Division 3 titles in 2006 and 2008.
“They were an outstanding football team,” Koronkiewicz said of the Crusaders. “They’re state champs and we’re runnner-ups. That’s not such a bad feeling.”