WIAA State Football Championship Preview

THE CHAMPIONSHIPS: The 46th Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Football State Championships will be held Thursday and Friday, Nov. 17-18, at Camp Randall Stadium on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

ADMISSIONTICKETS: 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:  wiaawi.org/Tickets. Children 2-years old or younger do not require a ticket.

CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE:

Thursday, Nov. 17

Div. 7 – Regis (13-0) vs. Shiocton (11-2) – 10 a.m.

Div. 6 – Mondovi (12-1) vs. Stratford (10-2) – 1 p.m.

Div. 5 – Aquinas (12-1) vs. Mayville (13-0) – 4 p.m.

Div. 4 – Catholic Memorial (13-0) vs.  Columbus (13-0) – 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 18

Div. 3 – Monroe (13-0) vs. West Salem (12-1) – 10 a.m.

Div. 2 – Kettle Moraine (10-3) vs. West De Pere (12-1) – 1 p.m.

Div. 1 – Kimberly (12-1) vs. Mukwonago (12-1) – 4 p.m.

ON THE AIR:  The championship games of all seven divisions will be televised live on either Bally Sports Wisconsin or Bally Sports Wisconsin Extra. The Divisions 2-7 games will air on Bally Sports Wisconsin and the Division 1 game will be live on Bally Sports Wisconsin Extra. Access your cable listings for the channel in your area. The finals will also be streamed live on the Bally Sports app with registration and cable system authentication and digitally on Bally Sports Wisconsin Plus through subscription to the service. To subscribe, visit ballysportsplus.com.

CAMP RANDALL MEDIA PARKING: UW Transportation Services will have attendants selling parking for $10 at Lots 17 (just north of Camp Randall Stadium) and 20 on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday.  UW Transportation Services is requesting exact change or credit/debit card for parking payment.

LAST YEAR RECAP: Franklin won the Division 1 championship by defeating Sun Prairie 38-17. In Division 2, Waunakee downed Homestead 33-21 in the final, and Pewaukee was a 15-6 victor over Rice Lake to win the gold trophy in Division 3. Catholic Memorial won its second consecutive title in the Division 4 with a 21-12 triumph over Ellsworth, and Aquinas downed Mayville 28-26 to win the Division 5 title. Colby prevented St. Mary’s Springs from capturing its fourth straight title, winning the Division 6 championship with a 22-7 victory over the Ledgers. Reedsville won Division 7 with a 17-0 shutout over Coleman.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS HISTORY:  The WIAA began sponsoring the playoff tournament series in 1976. The first two championships featured four divisions. In 1978, the field expanded to five divisions. The playoffs were again expanded to include six divisions in 1981. In 1996, the playoff field was further expanded to 192 teams qualifying for the post-season. In 2002, the tournament expanded to its current seven-divisions format with 224 teams. The championships have all been at Camp Randall Stadium since 1982. The finals were not conducted in 2020 during the COVID pandemic. St. Mary’s Springs has won the most championships with nine. Edgar, Kimberly, Lancaster, Stratford and Waunakee are next on the list with seven. Arrowhead and Homestead have each won six titles. D.C. Everest, Menomonie, Monroe and Osseo-Fairchild have all won five. Arrowhead, Edgar and St. Mary’s Springs leads the membership in title game appearances with 13. Darlington is next with 12, and Lancaster and Waunakee hav 11. Kimberly and Stratford now have 10 appearances in the championship game.

DIVISION 1 NOTES:  Kimberly returns to the championship game for the 10th time seeking its eighth State title. The Papermakers won five straight championships from 2013-17 with the first of that string coming in Division 2 and the next four in Division 1. During a seven-year span, they did not lose a game in the playoffs from Level 3 of the 2012 postseason until the championship game in 2018. Their two other championships were in Division 2, winning back-to-back crowns in 2007 and 2008. Kimberly’s two runner-up finishes were in Division 2 in 2009 and in Division 1 in 2018. The Papermakers tied for first in the Fox Valley Association with Neenah this year. They rolled past Bay Port 42-21 at Level 4 to advance to the championship final. Mukwonago advances to the title game for the second time. The Indians only other experience in the championship game came in 2004 when they won the Division 1 championship with a 17-6 win over Marshfield. This fall, they are the co-champions of the Classic Eight Conference with Muskego. The Indians defeated Hamilton 47-21 at Level 4 of the playoffs to gain their berth in the championship final. They have averaged 43 points-per-game through the first four levels of the playoffs.

DIVISION 2 NOTES:  Kettle Moraine returns to the championship game for the first time since its only other appearance in 1988, which resulted in a 20-7 victory over New Berlin West to win the Division 2 title. This season, the Lasers tied for third in the Classic Eight Conference standings, which was won by Division 1 finalist Mukwonago and Muskego. They won their match-up with Mukwonago this season, and their three defeats came to perennial strong programs in Arrowhead, Fond du Lac and Muskego. The Lasers defeated Brookfield Central 7-0 at Level 4 to advance to the final. They allowed 84 points in their first three games of the season, but just 68 points in the 10 games after that. Moreover, they have allowed opponents just 13 points combined in their last three playoff games. West De Pere is back in the title game for the fifth time and for the first time since 2018, which resulted in a runner-up finish in Division 3. The Phantoms’ three other experiences came in succession from 2009-11. Their string of appearances resulted in back-to-back Division 3 titles in 2010-11 and a runner-up finish in 2009. They earned their return to Camp Randall with a 26-7 victory over Kaukauna at Level 4. They were runners-up in the  North Division of the Fox River Classic Conference this year behind Bay Port, which advanced to Level 4 of the Division 1 playoffs.  The Phantoms have outscored their four playoff opponents by an average of 35.3-6.5 points per game.

DIVISION 3 NOTES:  Monroe celebrates its ninth appearance in the State championship game, which comes 26 years since its last experience in 1996. The Cheesemakers were a juggernaut over the decade spanning 1986 to 1996. They advanced to the title game eight times during that period. The Cheesemakers gained possession of the gold trophy in Division 2 in 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1992. They added a Division 3 title in 1994. Their three runner-up finishes came in Division 2 in 1987, 1995 and 1996. Monroe was the champion of the Rock Valley Conference this season. They cruised to a 48-6 win over New Berlin West in their Level 4 game to advance to the title tilt. The Cheesemakers have held their opponents to single digits in nine games this season, including seven shutouts. They have outscored opponents through their first 13 games, 571-89. West Salem embarks on its fourth experience in the State finals. The Panthers’ previous three appearances came during a six-season stretch from 2002-2007. They won the Division 4 championship in 2007. Their two other finals experiences resulted in runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2005. The Panthers are the champions of the Coulee Conference this season. They have not permitted an opponent to score more than 14 points in a game this year, winning 12 in a row after a season-opening loss to Onalaska. They gained a measure of revenge with a 37-14 triumph over the Hilltoppers at Level 4 to earn their berth in the championship game.

DIVISION 4 NOTES: The two-time defending champion, Catholic Memorial, is making its ninth appearance in the State final in pursuit of the program’s sixth championship. The Crusaders won the Division 4 title last season and in 2019 after moving down a division from Division 3, where they won State titles in 2012, 2016 and 2018. In addition, the Crusaders were runners-up in Division 2 in 2001 and in Division 3 in 2010 and 2015. Before joining the WIAA, the Crusaders won WISAA titles in 1979, 1989, 1993 and 1996. They were also runners-up six times. This season, they finished atop the Parkland Conference standings. They advance to the championship game after a 20-14 victory over Two Rivers at Level 4. The Crusaders are outscoring their opponents by an average 42-11 points per game this year. Columbus advances to the finals for the fourth time. The Cardinals’ previous three appearances came during the early and mid-90s. They won the Division 4 championship in 1990 and again in 1996. They finished runner-up in their appearance in 1995. The Cardinals are the champions of the Capitol Conference this season. They advance to the championship final after doubling-up on Freedom 32-16 in their Level 4 match-up. It may be fair to say the Columbus has yet to be challenged during its first 13 games this season. The closest an opponent has been all season was the 16-point spread in the Level 4 game. Their average margin of victory has been 39 points this season.

DIVISION5 NOTES:  The title game features a rematch of the teams that played in last year’s title game. Defending champion Aquinas will be making its third State Championship game appearance in pursuit of its third State title. In addition to last year, the Blugolds won the Division 5 championship in 2007. As a former member of WISAA, the Blugolds won Division 2 titles in 1993 and 1995. This year, they finished runner-up in the Coulee Conference behind West Salem, which has advanced to the championship game in Division 3. The 28-14 loss to the Panthers accounts for the lone Blugolds’ defeat this season. They continue their quest for back-to-back State championships following their 44-19 victory over Kewaunee at Level 4.  Aquinas has averaged 42 points a game this year, including five games over 50 points. Last year’s runner-up Mayville is making its sixth finals appearance. The Cardinals’ lone title came in Division 4 in 1994. In addition to 2021, they were also runners-up in Division 4 in 1991, 1992 and 2006. Mayville was the champion of Wisconsin Flyway Conference this fall. The Cardinals defeated Prairie du Chien 26-21 in their Level 4 game to earn the rematch with Aquinas. They are averaging a robust 43 points per game this season, and the defense boasts a pair of shutouts in the playoffs.

DIVISION 6 NOTES:  Mondovi will play in the championship game for the second time in program history and for the first time since 1990 when the Buffaloes finished runner-up in Division 4. This season, they finished second in the Cloverbelt Conference behind Regis, who has qualified for the Division 7 championship game. The 37-14 setback  to Regis during the season is the only blemish on the Buffaloes’ ledger this year. They earned their berth in the title game by downing Darlington 14-7 in its Level 4 contest. The Mondovi defense have held nine of its 13 opponents under 10 points this season. Stratford is no stranger to the big game as the Tigers return to the championship final for the 10th time and for the first time since 2019. They are the only program in State history to win six straight titles, all coming in Division 6 from 2003-08. The Tigers also won the Division 5 crown in 1986, giving them seven championships overall. They recorded runner-up finishes in Division 5 in 2018 and 2019. This season, Stratford tied Wittenberg-Birnamwood for the title in the Large Division of the Central Wisconsin Conference. The Tigers defeated perennial power St. Mary’s Springs 20-14 in the State semifinal to advance to the championship final and contend for their eight State title. The vaunted Stratford defense has surrendered an average of eight points per game this season, having held opponents under double-digits in eight games throughout the course of the regular season and playoffs.

DIVISION 7 NOTES:  Regis returns to the State final for the seventh time and for the first time since 2019. The Ramblers have won two State titles since joining the WIAA in 2000. They earned the Division 7 championship in 2003 and was crowned the Division 6 champion in 2016. One of their four runner-up finishes came in Division 7 in 2002. The other three were in Division 6 in  2009, 2012 and 2019. As a former member of WISAA, they won three Division 3 championships, coming in 1992, 1993 and 1999. This season, they are the champions in the Cloverbelt Conference standings. The Ramblers advance to the title game following a 43-7 trouncing of Bangor in their Level 4 game. Following a 13-6 win in their season opener, the  smallest margin of victory in their remaining 12 wins this season has been 23 points versus Mondovi, who has advanced to the title game in Division 6. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 44-10 per game this season, including a 51-13 averaged during the playoffs. Shiocton returns to the State final for the fourth time and for the first time since 2013 when they won the Division 6 championship for the program’s lone title. The Chiefs posted runner-up finishes in their other two final appearances in Division 6 in 1983 and 2011. This season, they placed third in the Large Division of the Central Wisconsin Conference behind co-champions Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Stratford, which has advanced to the championship game this season in Division 6. They earned a berth in the title game following a 21-19 victory over Cashton in their Level 4 match-up. Two of the Chiefs’ four shutouts this year came in Levels 1 and 2 of the playoffs, and they have outscored their post-season opponents 116-33 on the path to the championship game.

EIGHT-PLAYER RECAP:   Newman Catholic (12-0) won its second consecutive State 8-Player Football Tournament championship with a 54-0 thrashing of Belmont (10-2) South Wood County Stadium last Saturday. The Fighting Cardinals’ defense and the Braves’ costly turnovers early in the game propelled Newman Catholic to a 47-0 halftime lead, which implemented the running clock throughout the second half. Belmont gained just 13 yards of total offense in the game and turned the ball over five times. The Fighting Cardinals compiled 320 yards of total offense in the game, including 234 yards rushing. They held a 14-2 advantage in first downs and accumulated more than double the possession time of Belmont. Thomas Bates and Conner Krach each eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. Bates rushed for 108 yards and two scores, and Krach ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Krach also completed 4-of-6 passes for 86 yards and a pair of scores. Bates caught three passes for 81 yards and an additional two touchdowns. Ed Gustafason led the Fighting Cardinals’ defense with nine tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage to go with two fumble recoveries and a pass deflection.