Waukesha players had their fingerprints all over a monumental day for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh football team Dec. 10.
The Titans (13-1) took down John Carroll University (Ohio) by a 10-3 count in the NCAA Division III national semifinal, earning a spot in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl – the D3 national championship – for the first time in program history. Competing Friday in Salem, Virginia, with a 6 p.m. kickoff local time, UWO will meet Mary Hardin-Baylor of Texas (14-0) for all the marbles.
Needing a touchdown to tie the game, JCU took the ball at its own 20 with 1:48 to go and no timeouts, but the Blue Streaks got as far as the Oshkosh 35-yard line. But Branden Lloyd sacked quarterback Anthony Moeglin near midfield as time expired.
The 13 total points marked the lowest-scoring semifinal in NCAA Division III history. The previous low was points in both 1984 and 2011. Waukesha North graduate Jake Thein was a big part of that defensive puzzle, recording six tackles for the winners.
North’s CJ Blackburn, a senior who has been a consistent contributor on offense this year, finished with two carries for 9 yards in the win. Blackburn’s biggest game this year came in the regular season against the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, when he racked up 162 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, but a partial tear of his ACL in the regular-season finale appeared to be the end of his season. He sat out the squad’s first two playoff games before returning in the quarterfinal against St. Thomas (Minnesota).
Waukesha West alumnus Evan Thammahong caught one pass for 8 yards against John Carroll. West’s Dallis Ramos-Deleon finished with three tackles.
Blackburn heads into the title game with 30 catches for 383 yards this season to accompany 193 rushing yards. Thammahong has caught 20 passes for 169 yards. Thein is seventh on the team with 53 tackles, and Ramos-Deleon has 40.
Other local players on the team are sophomore offensive lineman Austin Vetta (Waukesha South) and junior tight end James Kitscha (South).
Oshkosh is ranked fourth in the country, and Mary Hardin-Baylor heads into the battle as the top-ranked squad. Its greatest triumph came Saturday, as well, when it knocked off Mount Union, 14-12, and kept that program from the Stagg Bowl for the first time since 2004.
In that 2004 contest, MHB fell to Linfield College of Oregon in its only other trip to the title game.
Oshkosh’s lone loss came in early September against UW-Whitewater, a perennial national-championship contender that scored in the final minute for a 17-14 win over Oshkosh. Since, the Titans have won nine straight, including a pair of convincing playoff wins, a quarterfinal win over returning national finalist St. Thomas, 34-31, and then the win over JCU.
The Stagg Bowl will air live on ESPNU.