The Catholic Memorial football team has long been known as a running team and a program with a number of WISAA titles to its name, but never a WIAA gold ball since the governing bodies merged in 2000.
Friday was a good time for a shift in identity.
Matt Hubley still ran for close to 200 yards, but with Pat White’s three passing touchdowns and receiver/defensive back Andre Bodden’s huge game, the Crusaders won their first WIAA state championship in a Division 3 blowout over Waupaca, 42-7. Memorial did not allow a point in the second half at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison and turned a close first half into a laugher.
“It’s special for us,” said Bodden, who finished with three interceptions and two touchdowns, one on both sides of the ball. “We wanted to win for coach (Bill) Young. Everything he’s done for us and the program, we owe it to him.”
Young won four titles in WISAA play, the last in 1996, but hadn’t come away with gold in his previous two appearances at Camp Randall, most recently in 2010. The contest took a serious shift in Memorial’s favor when Hubley, committed to play in the secondary for the University of Wisconsin next year, broke a 70-yard touchdown on the first play of scrimmage in the second half, giving CMH a 21-0 lead.
“There was a big hole our offensive line created,” Hubley said. “I had great downfield blocking from the receivers and a lot of daylight. It definitely gave us a lot of momentum, but it wasn’t over.”
Waupaca churned out a 16-play drive that culminated with a touchdown to make it 21-7, but the fourth quarter belonged to the Crusaders. White connected with Alec Kocour (25 yards) and Mitch Meindel (21 yards) for touchdowns in the final period, and Bodden put the icing on top with a 10-yard interception return for touchdown.
“Our passing game struggled in first part of year, but we picked it up,” Bodden said. “Pat gained more confidence. As the season wore on, he became more comfortable. As the playoffs have gone by, we started passing a little more because teams started stocking the box, so it’s hard to run. Our receivers have done a nice job getting open and Pat has done a nice job getting us the ball.”
White and Bodden connected for 77 yards on a touchdown in the first quarter – the longest touchdown reception in Division 3 title game history, topping a 74-yard connection by Iowa-Grant in 1977.
“I was really happy, coach let us open up the playbook,” White said. “It’s our last year and he let us go crazy. We started to evolve our playbook near the end to open up the passing, because we knew we could pass.”
There was plenty to go around, however. Hubley finished with 199 yards on 19 carries, with two touchdowns. Bodden, who tipped a long pass from Waupaca’s Sam Menzies and then recovered for an interception to stop the Comets’ first drive of the game, made three catches for 103 yards.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders’ defense allowed the Comets inside the Catholic Memorial 30-yard line just once and finished with six turnovers.
“Opening the third quarter with that touchdown, I think took them down a little bit,” said Justin Dentici, who led the team with 11 tackles. “And we shut them down in the second half. That was the turning point I think, it pumped us all up.”
For Young, in his 35th year of coaching, it was a rare opportunity to add something new to his mantle.
“We were playing with really eight seniors this year, and every one was a big time player for us,” Young said. “We talk about being able to make plays when you need to down the stretch in big games, and that was the case today.”
In five playoff games, the Crusaders (11-2) defeated three previously undefeated teams, including Waupaca, Pewaukee and Wisconsin Lutheran. The team’s Level 4 opponent, Mount Horeb/Barneveld, had just one loss to three-time defending D2 state champion Waunakee (by a 13-10 count, no less). The Crusaders won that game, 35-7.
There was a time when the outlook wasn’t so rosy. After falling to Division 1 finalist Arrowhead by a lopsided count and dropping a 14-13 battle to Mukwonago in the third and fourth weeks of the season, CMH was standing at 2-2.
“It feels great to play here, especially to get a second chance and win this time,” Hubley said. “Being 2-2, it made us realize what we had to do. We found our identity against Muskego (in Week 5); we had to pound the ball, pound the ball and we got better throughout the season and started rolling. That’s how we got to the state championship.”
Said Young, “We were kind of nicked up at the start. Arrowhead’s an outstanding team. They blew our doors off. We lost to (Mukwonago) by one, and then we got hot. It’s the old adage, it’s not always the best team it’s the team that’s playing the best. We had some outstanding players, great coaches … and our kids just did a wonderful job and we got better each week.”
Now, the Crusaders are the best team in Division 3.
“We really wanted this,” Dentici said. “It’s been our dream.”
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