Bangor vs. Black Hawk

Bangor coach Rick Muellenberg hugs Caleb Miedema after the Cardinals’ 37-14 victory over Black Hawk at Camp Randall Stadium Thursday.

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune

MADISON — It was a story of the touchdown, the interception, the stop and the Horstman.

The Bangor High School football team might not be a two-time WIAA Division 7 state champion without getting any of those Thursday morning at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Cardinals started fast and ended with a dominant performance over the last 18 minutes on the way to beating previously unbeaten Black Hawk 37-14 for its second Division 7 state championship in three years.

It was a victory, like most for Bangor (14-0) this season, that was earned in many ways.

But there were four specific elements that will always be remembered when the result is discussed by players, coaches or fans.

The touchdown came just 36 seconds after kickoff and the interception with 40 seconds left in the second quarter.

The stop ended the first drive of the third quarter, and the Horstman — well, Carter was a recurring character who had a hand in everything else that happened.

“This feels just as good as it did the first time,” Bangor coach Rick Muellenberg said with an undried tear still under his left eye. “After winning once, we felt like we had the program in a position to get back here again.

“Our goal was to get back here and play for a championship, and we played well in a lot of areas to win it.”

It started with the touchdown, and that was provided by senior Luke Reader, who cut between two good blocks on the left side and raced 57 yards to the end zone on the second snap of the game.

The momentum was established and confidence reassured less than a minute after the game began.

“We were a little surprised to get a big play,” Bangor offensive lineman Garrett Krueger said. “We knew we could move the ball, but we didn’t think we’d be able to get a lot of big plays and to get one early was pretty big for us.”

The interception was executed by Caleb Miedema, and it came when the Warriors (13-1) were protecting a 16-8 lead late in the second quarter.

Black Hawk drove from its own 20-yard line to Bangor’s 16, where it gained a first down with 48 seconds left. After a timeout, quarterback Michael Flanagan looked for a receiver in the front corner of the end zone, but Caleb Miedema intercepted the pass to escape danger.

“I saw that play three times on that drive before,” said Miedema, who intercepted his sixth pass of the season. “I stuck with the tight end on it, and the quarterback overthrew it a little bit.

“It was a relief (to stop the potential tying touchdown) and gave us confidence going to halftime.”

The stop came when the Warriors threatened to tie the game early in the third quarter.

Black Hawk put together another long drive. This one took it from its own 33 to the Cardinals’ 1 over a matter of eight plays, and Brody Milz finished it with a 1-yard touchdown run to get the Warriors within 16-14.

An attempt at a two-point conversion followed, and Milz was stuffed well short of the goal line.

“It was huge because we still had the lead,” Reader said. “Not letting them tie the game put the momentum back on our side after they scored.”

Horstman, a sophomore on a team dominated by a senior class that went 51-2 over the last four seasons, inserted himself in the story regularly.

He followed an Adam Tallman interception — his sixth of the season — with a 52-yard touchdown run to give the Cardinals an early 16-0 lead. He added touchdown runs of 16 and 15 yards in the third and fourth quarters to help Bangor build a 29-14 lead and finished with 144 rushing yards as Bangor piled up 423 on the ground.

Along the way, he recorded nine solo tackles and eight assists.

“He was our leading tackler all season,” Muellenberg said of Horstman, who also plays linebacker. “He had 19 tackles last week (in a 30-7 semifinal win over Abbotsford), and he’s a tremendous player for a sophomore or for any level.

“In terms of running the ball, there were times earlier this season where we wanted him to be more patient with blocks, and he did a better job of that down the stretch. What we saw today from him was the culmination of a lot of hard work he did along those lines.”

Horstman’s day came to an end when he nearly sacked Flanagan and forced an interception — this one by Drew Johnson — that allowed Bangor to run out the clock.

An ankle injury brought the training crew out to the field, but he eventually got up, walked off the field and accepted congratulations on a big day from teammates.

“This is something I tried to envision when I watched the team here two years ago,” Horstman said of Bangor’s 2015 championship win over Pepin/Alma when he was an eighth-grader. “I wanted it to be me. I wanted us to do it again, and now we did.”

Photos: 2017 Bangor championship season