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Colby quarterback Brent Jeske has run for more than 1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns this season as the Hornets ran to the WIAA Division 6 state championship game Thursday against Fond du Lac St. Mary's Springs in Madison. (Photo by Paul Lecker/Zaleski Sports)

By Paul Lecker

Zaleski Sports

COLBY – One good thing head coach Jim Hagen took from last year’s abbreviated, postponement-filled football season was the promise he saw in the Colby Hornets.

After a 5-1 season that ended in a forfeit postseason loss, Hagen made a proclamation to his team.

“Last year at our end of the year awards party, I challenged the players that if they get in the weight room and pass their classes, that we have a shot of going to state,” Hagen said.

The Hornets took those words to heart and made magical things happen on the field in 2021. On Thursday it will all culminate in the program’s first trip to the state finals in a decade.

Colby (12-1) will play state powerhouse Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (11-2) in the Division 6 championship game at 1 p.m. Thursday. will have an audio broadcast from Madison, and the game will be televised live on Bally Sports Wisconsin.

“I told those guys to keep it (his pledge) somewhere where they can look at it every day,” Hagen continued. “I’m not sure if they did or not, but I did. I had it on my dresser since last November and looked at it every day. We have a lot of good players and it came to fruition I guess.”

Colby head coach Jim Hagen has led the Hornets to their first state finals appearance since 2011. (Photo by Paul Lecker/Zaleski Sports)

St. Mary’s Springs has won state titles the past three seasons that the championship games were contested (there were no complete state playoffs in 2020), winning the Division 6 title in 2017, a Division 5 crown in 2018, and another D-6 championship in 2019, giving the Ledgers a state record nine state titles. The trip to the state finals ties St. Mary’s Springs with Edgar and Hartland Arrowhead for the most appearances at 13.

Colby, champions of the Marawood Conference, is making its sixth trip to the state finals. The Hornets won state titles in Division 5 in 2008 and 2011, and a Division 4 championship in 1998, while finishing runner-up in Division 4 in 1985 and Division 5 in 2010.

Colby is powered by a strong running game led by a dominate offensive line and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in quarterback Brent Jeske (1,472 yards, 21 touchdowns) and running back Mason Voss (1,029 yards, 16 touchdowns). Caden Healy has added another 692 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, and is the team’s top receiver with 13 catches for 329 yards and five scores.

Jeske also threw for 735 yards and nine touchdowns, and is big part of a dominant defense as he has six quarterback sacks and his brother Andrew Jeske a team-high 15 sacks and four fumble recoveries.

St. Mary’s Springs uses a strong running game as well under legendary head coach Bob Hyland, who is 490-112-2 in 51 years as the Ledgers’ head coach.

Running back Levi Huempfner has 1,012 yards and 15 touchdowns and Isaac Hyland has 844 yards rushing and nine scores. Quarterback Cullen King has thrown for another 755 yards and four TDs for the Ledgers, who also boast a four-star college recruit in 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive guard and defensive lineman Billy Schrauth, who is being looked at by a number of top-notch programs included Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

“We know the history (of Springs),” Hagen said. “Maybe the players not so much, but the coaches certainly do. We know they have a pretty good lineman on their team.

“Our defensive line is pretty special with the two defensive ends, the Jeske boys, and our defensive tackles, Corey Steen and Cristo Lopez, those are big guys. They are tough to move. We have a good run defense.”

Notes: The only other defending state champion from 2019 is Waukesha Catholic Memorial in Division 4. The Crusaders won the Division 4 title in 2019 and Division 3 championship in 2018. Catholic Memorial will play Ellsworth at 7 p.m. Thursday…The WIAA uses GoFan Ticketing for all digital and cashless tickets. Admission for a single game is $11 plus online fees for adults and students. An all-day pass for Thursday is $30 plus online fees, and $25 for an all-day pass for Friday's games. All tickets must be redeemed on a mobile device. To purchase tickets, visit the WIAA website at:

2021 WIAA State Football Championships

Nov. 18-19, at Camp Randall Stadium, Madison

Thursday, Nov. 18

Division 7: Coleman (13-0) vs. Reedsville (12-1), 10 a.m.

Division 6: Colby (12-1) vs. Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (11-2), 1 p.m.

Division 5: La Crosse Aquinas (13-0) vs. Mayville (11-2), 4 p.m.

Division 4: Ellsworth (12-0) vs. Waukesha Catholic Memorial (13-0), 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 19

Division 3: Rice Lake (11-2) vs. Pewaukee (11-2), 10 a.m.

Division 2: Waunakee (13-0) vs. Mequon Homestead (11-2), 1 p.m.

Division 1: Franklin (13-0) vs. Sun Prairie (13-0), 4 p.m.

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