After his team scored the first of its two touchdowns in the game's final 5:45, Eric Fridl's kickoff blasted over the north end zone at Carroll University and struck the building behind it on the fly.
It was a clear demonstration of just how much the wind was in his favor. And boy, would that come into play later.
Fridl's 51-yard field goal with no time on the clock coasted through with plenty of room to spare, and Catholic Memorial capped a thrilling rally over Wisconsin Lutheran in Level 2 of the WIAA Division 3 football playoffs, 30-27. Max Cooper caught both touchdowns on home-run pass plays in that final stretch after Wisco appeared to take an insurmountable lead, and Fridl put the finishing touches with a redemptive blast of his foot.
"I just knew we had a lot of wind behind us, and I was one of the reasons we were put in that hole," Fridl said, referring to a muffed punt earlier in the fourth quarter. "Our offense put us in a situation where I could make the kick of my dreams, and I just took advantage of it."
Memorial (11-0) will face Kewaskum (10-1) next week back at Carroll. The No. 1 team in the state was put on the ropes early and looked to be in serious trouble when Wisco's Brian Corbins broke a 62-yard touchdown score that gave his team a 27-13 lead with the 5:45 left.
"It's a play here or there that has such a bearing on this game," CMH coach Bill Young said. "Our kids never quit, Cooper made some great plays, and we'll have to be a lot better next week, which we will be."
Wisco, which turned two short fields afforded by interceptions into early touchdowns -- both on fourth-down plays -- to grab a 13-0 lead, broke a 13-all tie early in the fourth when quarterback Zach Bloomquist lunged for the pylon on an 11-yard scoring run.
The teams traded stops, and it appeared Memorial would get excellent field position when Wisco punted from its own 16, but the same wind that benefited Fridl later in the game betrayed him when he tried to snag the short, twisting punt, and it bounced off him and back to Wisconsin Lutheran. The Vikings needed just three plays to turn the Crusaders' fourth turnover of the game into what appeared to be a back-breaking touchdown.
"A lot of teams probably would have quit there," Fridl said. "You're down 14 with 5 minutes left. There wasn't a single guy on my team who didn't say something to me when they walked by. 'Pick your head up, we're not quitting.' Just being a senior and having that senior leadership really paid off in the end."
On the first play thereafter, Cooper was open along the left sideline and went 63 yards for an answer that pulled the Crusaders back to within 27-20.
"We draw it up well in practice; the double moves work every time," Cooper said. "Our quarterback (Ben Nimz) has a great arm, and he gets open and throws a great ball, so it just works out perfectly. It's a blast. We know we can score a touchdown within an instant, one play. We have to score quick and get the ball back, so might as well throw it deep on first down and give it a shot."
Cooper, who now has 14 touchdown catches this year for a team that predominantly runs the ball, was wide open again for a 56-yard touchdown on the next series that was negated by a holding penalty. In fact, the Crusaders faced a 1st and 34 play on that drive, then picked up a pass interference penalty on a toss down the field on 4th and 5. That kept the drive alive for another touchdown score between Nimz and Cooper, a pass of 42 yards that tied the game with 1:18 left.
Catholic Memorial's Max Cooper catches a 46-yard touchdown pass after quarterback Ben Nimz escapes pressure, tying the game with 1:18 to go at 27-27 in a Level 2 playoff battle with Wisconsin Lutheran on Oct . 28.
"What can you say about Max Cooper?" Young said. "He's a jet, he can run like the wind. It was just an unbelievable victory for us. I'm so proud of our kids."
That played into Memorial's biggest defensive stand of the night, a three-and-out that put the ball back in the Crusaders' hands with 12 seconds left at the Wisco 47-yard line.
"Late in the game, everybody is feeling fatigued, but we know that right now if we don't step up and make a play, it's just 'pack up your stuff and go home and cry,'" defensive lineman Tevin Smith said. "I was thinking back to two years ago when they just ran over us (in a 22-0 loss to Wisco in Level 3 of the playoffs). I would not let the senior class go out like that, because we overcame so much this year, and this is a special group. I knew we could not let that happen."
Austin Young caught a 13-yard pass over the middle on first down, and the Crusaders spiked the ball with 1 second remaining.
Young said Fridl was still recovering from getting spiked in practice a couple weeks ago.
"Chris Fox, our team physician, got him sewed up and we got him out of the game last week when we went up big," Young said. "It was a cold-blooded kick for him."
Young also recalled the 2014 game, but the contest had shades of a 2012 battle when Mitch Meindel kicked a 33-yard game-winner to upset Wisco, 24-21, en route to the Division 3 state title. Fridl said he has hit upwards of 55 and 56 yards in practice.
"I just didn't know what to do," Fridl said of the aftermath. I ran. I don't know. I just wanted to be with my teammates. That was the best moment of my life."