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The Colby football team celebrates its WIAA Division 6 Level 4 playoff victory over Durand on Friday at Chippewa Falls High School. The Hornets are heading to the state finals for the first time since 2011. (Photo by Paul Lecker/Zaleski Sports)

By Paul Lecker

Zaleski Sports

CHIPPEWA FALLS – The Colby High School football team is heading back to the state finals for the first time in a decade after holding off Durand 28-24 in a WIAA Division 6 Level 4 playoff game Friday night at Chippewa Falls High School.

The Hornets came back from two deficits and a Mason Voss’ 32-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter helped put the game away and send Colby back to the state championship game for the first time since 2011.

Colby (12-1) will take on Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (11-2) in the Division 6 championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Thursday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on Bally Sports Wisconsin, and a live audio broadcast along with full postgame coverage will be at

“It was a great feeling to get to Level 4,” Colby coach Jim Hagen said. “My heart is still racing. I’m excited for these players, they’ve worked so hard. I’m so happy for our school and our community.”

Colby will be going to the state finals for the sixth time in program history and will be in search of its fourth title, having won a Division 4 championship in 1998 and D-5 titles in 2008 and 2011. Colby also was state runner-up in 1985 and 2010.

Colby's Caden Healy hauls in a long touchdown pass in the first quarter of the Hornets' win over Durand on Friday at Chippewa Falls High School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/Zaleski Sports)

“I really thought we could make a deep playoff run,” Hagen continued. “Once I saw our bracket, I thought we could get to Level 4. From there, I wasn’t sure. We’ve got some good football players that make plays when they have to.”

Both teams had just one possession in the first quarter. Colby was turned away near midfield and punted. Durand then drove 83 yards in 15 plays. Three passes from the state’s top rusher, Simon Bauer, totaled 50 yards and Bauer netted all but one of the other yards on the ground. He punched it in from the 1 on the second play of the second quarter, added a two-point run, and the Panthers led 8-0.

Colby came back strong with a long drive of its own, going 78 yards in 10 plays. After reaching the 25, Colby had three-straight penalties setting up a second-and-33 at the 48 before quarterback Brent Jeske hit Caden Healy with a deep pass down the middle for a touchdown to cut it to 8-7.

After forcing a punt, Brent Jeske ran 47 yards on the first play and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 44 seconds to go in the half, giving the Hornets a 14-8 lead.

Durand regained the lead early in the second half when Bauer ran in from the 2 and threw a two-point pass to make it 16-14.

Again, the Hornets responded. A 65-yard kickoff return by Mateo Lopez gave Colby a short field and three plays later Jeske ran in from the 5 to make it 21-16 and the Hornets would never trail again.

Colby running back Mason Voss rips around the right end on his way to a 32-yard touchdown run during the fourth quarter of the Hornets' WIAA playoff win over Durand on Friday at Chippewa Falls High School. (Photo by Paul Lecker/Zaleski Sports)

Colby turned Durand away on its next two possessions with interceptions by Healy and Lopez, the second pick setting up a scoring drive that ended with Voss’ long run down the right sideline that pushed the Hornets’ advantage to 28-16 with 11:05 remaining.

Durand methodically drove down the field, but Colby’s defense made them chew up more than 7 minutes before Bauer hit Ethan Fedie for a 16-yard touchdown pass to cut the Hornets’ lead to 28-24 with 3:56 to go.

After recovering a pop-up onside kick attempt at the 45, Colby made two first downs before turning the ball over on downs with just 14 seconds left. A final lateral attempt on the final play hit the ground and was recovered by Colby’s Cristo Lopez to end the game and start the celebration for the Hornets.

“At the end here we put the ball in the hands of our best players like Brent Jeske, Caden Healy and Mason Voss and they just find ways to make plays,” Hagen said. “Our offensive line played really well tonight.”

Colby held Bauer, who came into the game with 2,500 yards rushing this season, to just 136 on 31 carries. Only two of his runs were for more than 9 yards – the final two plays of the game when he gained 18 and 10 before the misplayed lateral that ended it.

“We knew we had to close him (Bauer) down, keep him to the inside, so that is where we flowed toward,” defensive lineman Andrew Jeske said. “We were trying to get some group tackles on him.”

Brent Jeske finished with 153 yards on the ground and 71 through the air, while Voss added 68 rushing yards for Colby.

Hornets 28, Panthers 24

Durand 0 8 8 8 - 24

Colby 0 14 7 7 - 28

Second Quarter

D – Simon Bauer 1 run (Bauer run), 11:09.

C – Caden Healy 48 pass from Brent Jeske (Tucker Brost kick), 6:56.

C – B. Jeske 1 run (Brost kick), 0:44.

Third Quarter

D – Bauer 2 run (Ethan Fedie pass from Bauer), 8:01.

C – B. Jeske 25 run (Brost kick), 6:37.

Fourth Quarter

C – Mason Voss 32 run (Brost kick), 11:05.

D – Fedie 16 pass from Bauer (Ethan Hurlburt pass from Bauer), 3:56.

Team Statistics

First downs: Colby 12; Durand 16.

Rushing (att-yards): C 43-248; D 43-153.

Passing (comp-att-yards-int): C 3-5-71-0; D 8-12-136-2.

Total yards: C 319; D 289.

Penalties (no.-yards): C 5-29; D 1-5.

Fumbles (total-lost): C 1-0; D 1-1.

Punting (no.-avg.): C 2-23.0; D 1-30.0.

Individual Statistics

Rushing: C, Brent Jeske 20-153, Mason Voss 12-69, Caden Healy 11-36. D, Simon Bauer 31-136, Dawson Hartung 10-11, Ryan Mason 1-4, Cody Wieland 1-2.

Passing: C, B. Jeske 3-5-71-0. D, Bauer 8-11-136-2, Gunnar Hurlburt 0-1-0-0.

Receiving: C, Healy 2-64, Lucas Karl 1-7. D, G. Hurlburt 3-51, Mason 2-11, Hartung 1-30, Ethan Hurlburt 1-22, Ethan Fedie 1-16.

Interceptions (defense): C, Healy, Mateo Lopez.

Fumble recoveries (defense): C, Cristo Lopez.

Records: Durand 11-2; Colby 12-1.