WIAA Division 6 Championship: Stratford 7, Edgar 3
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Stratford prep football team may have been guests at Camp Randall Stadium on Thursday, but Tigers senior Ryan Schalow took ownership of a small piece of turf.
Schalow's personal playground was the corner of the south end zone, where the running back/defensive back made the two crucial plays that allowed Stratford to defeat Edgar 7-3 and win its sixth consecutive WIAA Division 6 championship, an unprecedented run in state annals.
Schalow caught a pass from quarterback Mason Nesbitt for the game's only touchdown in the first half, then secured the win with an interception at almost the exact same spot with 53 seconds to go.
"I just knew I needed to get my feet in bounds both times and that's what happened. That's all I could do and that's what happened," Schalow said. "We're happy with the victory here. That's six in a row and you feel good about it."
Edgar (13-1) was threatening late thanks to a 46-yard connection between quarterback Justin Sinz and Pat Lemmer. Stratford defensive back Jay Wussow went for the interception and Schalow overpursued, letting Lemmer scamper down the sideline until he was stopped by Alex Kitchner at the Stratford 23.
The Wildcats moved the ball down to the 12, before Sinz went looking for Lemmer again. The quarterback was hit as he threw by Ben Frodl, and Schalow was able to leap in front of Lemmer in the front corner of the end zone and come down with the pick.
"I read the wheel route right away. I didn't know where he was going to throw it to," said Schalow, who also rushed for 83 yards. "I didn't know I was in but I looked at the ref and he said I was in and it was a touchback. That was a big relief."
Schalow had given the Tigers (13-1) all the offense they would need early in the second quarter, when he hauled in Nesbitt's pass on a rollout to the right from the 15-yard line and just barely got a foot down in the end zone.
The double play-action call ended a 7-play, 72-yard drive.
"I thought it was overthrown," Nesbitt said. "I think God kept it in the end zone with a little extra wind or something because I thought it was going to be out of the end zone for sure."
The Stratford victory avenged a 16-8 defeat at the hands of Marawood Conference rival Edgar on Oct. 17, a loss that snapped the Tigers' 29-game overall winning streak and 76-game winning streak against Wisconsin opponents.
Both coaches promised another defensive slugfest, and their teams did not disappoint.
Edgar took an early 3-0 lead, scoring on a drive in which the Wildcats lost yardage.
On Stratford's second play from scrimmage, Edgar defensive end Tom Nichols batted down Nesbitt's lateral pass, and Sinz alertly recovered and returned the ball to the Stratford 7.
But the Tigers' defense forced Edgar back two yards in three plays, and the Wildcats had to settle for Sinz's 26-yard field goal.
"It certainly would have been better to get eight points there," Edgar coach Jerry Sinz said. "But credit their defense, they stopped us there."
Edgar finished with just 142 yards of offense. Until the Wildcats' march in the final minutes, they had not mounted a drive of more than 29 yards all day.
Stratford didn't fare much better, amassing just 202 yards. The Tigers were 1-of-10 on third-down conversions, and 1-of-5 on fourth-down conversions.
"I can't say enough about the defensive effort," said Stratford coach Cal Tackes. "These were the two best defensive teams that I saw all year. It's really nice to still see some defense played in high school football."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)