By Paul Lecker
MADISON – There were no noticeable jitters, no early mistakes, no easing into the game.
From the opening kickoff of the WIAA Division 6 state championship game on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium, the Colby football team showed it was ready to play.
The Hornets scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and rode their stellar defense the rest of the way, defeating Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs 22-7 to capture the fourth state title in program history.
Colby, which also won a Division 4 title in 1998, and Division 5 championships in 2008 and 2011, finish the season 13-1 and on top of the state in Division 6.
“It doesn’t even seem real,” Colby senior quarterback/defensive end Brent Jeske said. “It’s a dream, a dream come true.”
Colby head coach Jim Hagen echoed those thoughts.
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” Hagen said. “It doesn’t surprise me that we’re here. I knew we had a pretty good team coming into this year, and we lived up to all of the hype and expectations. I couldn’t be more proud of our players and our coaches. They worked hard.”
Caden Healy returned the opening kickoff 52 yards to the St. Mary’s Springs 35, setting up Colby with a short field. Five running plays later, quarterback Brent Jeske rolled around the right end and scored from the 4 to give the Hornets a quick 7-0 lead.
After forcing a punt on the Ledgers’ first possession, Colby went right back on the attack driving 48 yards in six plays with Brent Jeske ended it on a 1-yard plunge and the Hornets led 14-0 less than 7 minutes into the game.
“We talked about that all week, we knew we had to come out fast,” Brent Jeske said. “They’ve got a good team so we knew we had to come out fast and we did. We executed.”
Early in the second quarter St. Mary’s Springs reached the Colby 37 after a 34-yard run by Isaac Hyland, but on the very next play quarterback Cullen King fumbled and Brent Jeske scooped it up and ran 63 yards for another touchdown, putting Colby on top 20-0 in seemingly in control.
St. Mary’s Springs scored on a 52-yard run by Levi Huempfner with 3:42 to go before halftime and the Hornets took a 20-7 lead into the break.
Last week in a Level 4 playoff game, St. Mary’s Springs came back from a 24-0 deficit to defeat Darlington 35-24. The Hornets were well aware and weren’t about to let that happen again.
Colby’s defense dominated in the second half, allowing the Ledgers to cross midfield for just one play (a penalty on the next play pushed them back).
The Hornets didn’t do much on offense either in the second half, but with the way the defense was playing, it was just a matter of time before they would finish off a state championship.
“We have some guys that know how to win, and when the game is on the line, they take care of things,” Hagen said. “The bigger the game, the bigger the challenge, they are up to that challenge.”
Andrew Jeske put the finishing touches on the win with a safety, tackling King in the end zone with 4:27 remaining in the game. Colby picked up three first downs on its ensuing possession following the free kick to run out the clock.
“It felt like, to me, the nail in the coffin,” Andrew Jeske said of the safety. “I was so excited. It was an emotional moment.”
Brent Jeske finished with 130 yards rushing and Healy added another 75 as the Hornets racked up 236 yards on the ground. Tristen Stange led the Colby defense with eight tackles.
Hornets 22, Ledgers 7
Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs 0 7 0 0 - 7
Colby 14 6 0 2 - 22
C – Brent Jeske 4 run (Trevor Brost kick), 10:02.
C – B. Jeske 1 run (Brost kick), 5:04.
C – B. Jeske 63 fumble return (kick blocked), 11:21.
F – Levi Huempfner 52 run (Cole Rottman kick), 3:42.
C – Safety, Andrew Jeske tackled Cullen King in end zone, 4:27.
First downs: St. Mary’s Springs 9; Colby 15.
Rushing (att-yards): SMS 29-168; C 56-236.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): SMS 5-16-39-0; C 3-9-40-0.
Penalties (no.-yards): SMS 5-40; C 5-42.
Fumbles (total-lost): SMS 3-1; C 1-0.
Rushing: SMS, Isaac Hyland 15-91, Levi Huempfner 9-83, Nate Meuller 1-0, Cullen King 4-minus 6. C, Brent Jeske 25-130, Caden Healy 15-75, Mason Voss 12-43, Team 3-minus 4, Tevin Rue 1-minus 8.
Passing: SMS, King 5-16-39-0. C, B. Jeske 3-9-40-0.
Receiving: SMS, James Bohn 3-37, Josiah Moul 1-7, Lucas Rameker 1-minus 5. C, Healy 3-40.
Records: Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs 11-3; Colby 13-1.