By Paul Lecker
COLBY – Sometimes statistics don’t tell the entire story in the game of the football.
Colby committed four turnovers in the first half, Auburndale had one. That is one stat that didn’t matter much on Friday.
The one that tells the story: rushing yards. Both teams had 41 rushing attempts, but Colby finished with 421 and Auburndale had just 65 as the Hornets fought off the mishaps and went on to a 45-19 victory in a WIAA Division 6 Level 3 state quarterfinal at Colby High School.
Colby (14-1) moves on to a Level 4 D-6 state semifinal game against Durand (11-1). The two No. 1 seeds will play Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. at Chippewa Falls High School. Durand topped Unity 36-16 on Friday.
“The state’s leading rusher (Durand's Simon Bauer has 2,497 yards and 38 touchdowns rushing this season), we’ll have our hands full in that game,” Colby coach Jim Hagen said. “It’s going to be a slugfest. We haven’t been to Level 4 since 2012, so this is just so thrilling for our players, our school, our community and our alumni.”
Auburndale’s Alex Willfahrt picked off a pass on the second play of the game and the Eagles drove down to the Colby 20 before turning the ball over on downs and four running plays netted minus-2 yards.
Colby took control with its running game, moving 78 yards in nine plays – all runs. Quarterback Brent Jeske ran four times for 28 yards and Mason Voss carried the ball the final four plays for the rest, ending the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run and the Hornets led 6-0.
After a three-and-out, the Hornets only needed two plays to find the end zone again as Jeske weaved in and out of traffic, broke a few tackles and scored from 73 yards out to push their lead to 12-0.
Auburndale responded with a 68-yard scoring drive of its own. Trayton Weber hit Alex Willfhart for 33 yards on the second-to-last play of the first quarter.
Weber connected with Tim Schmitt for a 25-yard pass on the first play of the second quarter and two plays later it was Weber-to-Schmitt again for a 17-yard touchdown and the Eagles were back in it at 12-7.
The Eagles intercepted another Jeske pass at its own 13 on the next drive, but couldn’t move the ball. Colby refocused and pounded the ball on the ground again, and again.
Jeske capped a 41-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run and he found pay dirt again on Colby’s next drive as Colby opened up a 25-7 lead that they held into halftime.
“It’s so difficult to match that kind of talent,” Auburndale coach Jay Anderson said of his opponent. “We came in with pretty good energy and a pretty good game plan. It's tough to match what they have.”
Jeske and Lucas Karl had rushing touchdowns sandwiched around a Weber-to-Willfahrt 3-yard touchdown pass for the Eagles in the third quarter before Colby put the game away for good with an 11-yard touchdown run by Caden Healy on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Evan Scholl ran for a 5-yard TD in the final minute for Auburndale to end the scoring.
Weber finished with 152 yards passing, going 9-for-18, but the Eagles just couldn’t get the running game going, averaging a paltry 1.6 yards per carry.
After posting two road wins in the playoffs and reaching Level 3, Anderson was happy his team got a chance to make the postseason run it did.
“It was really thrilling to get into this level of the playoffs,” Anderson said. “That game last week down in Markesan was really something. We were missing three starters on both sides of the ball and didn’t have any substitutions. We went into that first game thinking that we really got a low seed. I’m glad that we came out with energy and battled against what is a really nice team. It’s been a nice run, I’m proud of my guys and really happy to be coaching this team and to get this far in the playoffs.”
Jeske ended up with 211 rushing yards on 18 carries, Healy added 97 on eight totes, and Voss had 79 more on 10 rushes for Colby.
“Our defense has played well all year long,” Hagen said. “There have been times that we have had our backs up against the wall and we find ways to stop people. Three turnovers in the first half were hard on us, one was right before the half on a Hail Mary so I really don’t count that one.
“We needed a game like this. We had to compete for four quarters, make some adjustments along the way and I’m glad they didn’t make it easy for us. Hats off to Coach Anderson and those players. Fortunately, we have enough talent, some speed and depth, that we could overcome some of those things that happened early in the game.”
Hornets 45, Eagles 19
Auburndale 0 7 6 6 - 19
Colby 12 13 13 7 - 45
C – Mason Voss 11 run (kick missed), 5:00.
C – Brent Jeske 73 run (kick missed), 1:28.
A – Tim Schmitt 11 pass from Trayton Weber (Jesse Fowler kick), 10:54.
C – B. Jeske 3 run (run failed), 5:18.
C – B. Jeske 1 run (Tucker Brost kick), 1:45.
C – B. Jeske 5 run (kick missed), 8:59.
A – Alex Willfahrt 3 pass from Weber (kick blocked), 4:14.
C – Lucas Karl 5 run (Brost kick), 2:09.
C – Caden Healy 11 run (Brost kick), 11:45.
A – Evan Scholl 5 run (run failed), 0:27.
First downs: Auburndale 9; Colby 17.
Rushing (att-yards): A 41-65; C 42-421.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): A 9-18-152-0; C 0-3-0-3.
Total yards: A 217; C 421.
Penalties (no.-yards): A 5-27; C 3-29.
Fumbles (total-lost): A 3-1; C 2-1.
Rushing: A, Evan Scholl 22-25, Tim Schmitt 4-13, Trayton Weber 13-12, Terrance Roberson 2-5. C, Brent Jeske 18-211, Caden Healy 8-97, Mason Voss 10-79, Brody Decker 1-29, Lucas Karl 1-5, Ivan Haemer 1-4, Tucker Meyer 2-1, Gavin Voss 1-minus 5.
Passing: A, Weber 9-18-152-0. C, B. Jeske 0-3-0-3.
Receiving: A, Schmitt 5-65, Lucas Yeske 2-51, Alex Willfahrt 2-36.
Interceptions (defense): A, Blake Raab 2, Willfahrt.
Fumble recoveries (defense): A, Schmitt. C, Tristen Stange.
Records: Auburndale 10-4; Colby 14-1.