Bluejays end up conference champs
By Greg Seubert
In the end, there was too much Riley Zirpel.
The sophomore ran for 215 of Menasha’s 254 rushing yards Oct. 14 and the Bluejays capped an unbeaten regular season with a 28-20 win over Waupaca.
The win also gave the 9-0 Bluejays the Bay Conference championship, while Waupaca fell to 5-4 and lost for the fourth time in five weeks.
Menasha came into the game as the state’s second-ranked team in Division 2, but the Comets gave the Bluejays all they could handle.
Waupaca had a chance to take the lead on its first drive, but the Bluejays blocked Hayden Neidert’s 47-yard field goal attempt.
The Bluejays then drove 70 yards and opened the scoring with Alex Zeinert’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Luke Romnek with 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Menasha took a 14-0 lead with 9:27 to go in the first half on Zirpel’s 32-yard run, but the Comets got on the scoreboard on Neidert’s 39-yard field goal with 4:22 remaining.
Brandon Anderson returned Menasha’s second-half kickoff 92 yards to set the Comets up at the Bluejay 1-yard line and Brenden Canterbury scored on the next play to cut the lead to 14-10 17 seconds into the half.
However, the Bluejays answered with a pair of touchdowns later in the quarter to go up 28-10. Zeinert connected with Lasia Moua on a 24-yard pass with 3:15 on the clock Zirpel found the end zone from 3 yards out with 34 seconds remaining.
Neidert capped a 64-yard drive with an 11-yard run with 10:12 remaining in the game to cut the Bluejays’ lead to 28-17. Waupaca drove inside the Menasha 10-yard line on its next drive, but the Bluejays recovered Canterbury’s fumble at the 7-yard line.
Waupaca took over at its own 18-yard line after a Menasha punt with 1:30 remaining and cut the lead to 28-20 with Neidert’s 38-yard field goal with 21 seconds to go.
The Comets tried an onside kick to keep the ball, but the Bluejays recovered and ran the clock out.
The Bluejays held the Comets to 85 rushing yards on 29 attempts, but Canterbury ended up with 73 of those yards.
Neidert completed eight of 20 passes for 132 yards.
Both teams had already qualified for the WIAA state playoffs. The WIAA is expected to release Level 1 matchups Sunday, Oct. 16.