Mitch Meindel said he was lobbying to get the football the whole game, and he finally got his chance in the second half. He even got more than he bargained for.
Meindel caught two touchdowns, but nothing was bigger than his 33-yard field goal as time expired, lifting Catholic Memorial to a thrilling 24-21 upset win over Wisconsin Lutheran at Wisconsin Lutheran College on Friday. The Level 3 win in the Division 3 playoffs put the Crusaders into a state semifinal next week against Mt. Horeb/Barneveld.
“I was thinking it’s just like practice, just another kick,” said Meindel, whose liner went through without a doubt. “If I go through the motion, it will be good. I have nightmares about that kind of thing. It’s not what you want to do, but if you have to, you want to be able to produce.”
Meindel’s leg is his greatest attribute. Committed to kick for North Dakota next year, Meindel also happens to be a tremendous punter. He already had a 56-yard punt earlier in the game when he sent a 64-yard boomer down to the Wisconsin Lutheran 1-yard line with 8:51 to play.
On 4th and 1 from the 10 and leading, 21-14, Wisconsin Lutheran (10-1) elected to go for the first down and fell short, with Justin Dentici and Jake Drwila stopping the rushing attempt.
“He’s done that historically in the past,” Memorial coach Bill Young said, referring to Wisco coach Kirk DeNoyer. “I thought they were just going to try and draw us offsides. It was just phenomenal.”
Memorial (9-2) faced its own fourth down play from the 1-yard line four plays later, but John Clark plunged in to tie the score at 21-21. Memorial fell earlier in the season to Mukwonago, 14-13, after a failed two-point conversion late in the game, but this time, the Crusaders played it safe.
That decision paid off handsomely when Alec Kocour intercepted Wisconsin Lutheran quarterback Zach Evans on a tipped pass with 2:50 to play on the Wisco 40-yard line.
“I saw the quarterback drop back and when he threw it, I didn’t think 86 (receiver Anthony Carver) could get to it, but I could tell he was going to get a hand on it,” Kocour said. “I played the tip and it came right to me.”
The diving catch set up the final drive, where the Crusaders used six plays to inch into Meindel’s range and drain the clock. Meindel was momentarily taken off the field from his receiver position to practice on the sideline.
“That’s average, that’s my comfort range right there,” Meindel said. “If it had been 10 yards more, it would have been nerveracking.”
It was the first time Memorial led all night. The Vikings looked like the powerhouse they are in the first half, taking a 14-0 lead and holding CMH to just 58 yards of total offense. Running back tandem Adihia Bell and London Townsend both gashed CMH for touchdowns.
“We figured out everything in the lockerroom,” Kocour said. “We knew we had to take care of the edge. Our defensive line played solid and our linebackers were filling the holes.”
CMH finally got on the board with 7:08 to go in the third quarter, when quarterback Pat White found Meindel wide open for a 71-yard touchdown reception. The ball slipped out of Meindel’s hands on the 1-yard line, but he quickly pounced on top.
“I was telling coach to give me the ball the whole game,” Meindel said with a smile. “They were triple teaming Andre (Bodden) on the other side, so I was one on one the whole game. I thought I could get him and I did.”
After a 3-and-out, the Crusaders had another long touchdown play negated by an illegal procedure, but Memorial was able to keep the drive alive and scored on a 31-yard reception from Meindel to tie the game.
Lutheran responded, with Townsend covering the final 11 yards of a drive that featured two 15-yard CMH penalties. The Vikings re-claimed the lead at 21-14 with 10:30 to play.
“It was just one of those things where we kept plugging along,” Young said. “We had those deer eyes (in the first half). It was ugly, but I can’t say enough about my kids and coaches.”
Said Meindel, “We figured at halftime it was only 14. We have an explosive offense. We can score quickly, and we did. … We knew we had a good team at the beginning of the year and now we have a chance to prove it.”
Young, who guided the Crusaders to the state championship game two seasons ago, turns 62 on Sunday.
“This is a pretty darn good birthday present for me,” he said.