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AQUINAS 28, MAYVILLE 26

WIAA football: La Crosse Aquinas tops Mayville to win Division 5 state title

From the COLLECTION: Aquinas Blugolds: State champs in Division 5 series
  • Updated
November 18: Mayville vs Aquinas

The Aquinas High School football team celebrates winning the WIAA Division 5 state championship on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

MADISON — For nearly the entire game, the Aquinas High School football team’s defense struggled to keep Blake Schraufnagel and Mayville’s rushing attack in check.

The junior running back, along with senior counterpart Ty Hockers, helped erase the Blugolds’ 16-point first-half lead and were instrumental as the Cardinals drove down the field while looking for the tying score late in the fourth quarter.

Hockers eventually found the end zone from 3 yards out with less than 2 minutes to play to pull Mayville with two points, and Schraufnagel had the ball in his hands on the two-point conversion as he barrelled toward the goal line.

But the 6-foot-1, 180-pound back was met at the 1 by Aquinas senior defensive back Ethan Schamberger, who stood Schraufnagel up. Schraufnagel tried to spin out of the tackle and reach for the end zone, but junior linebacker Calvin Hargrove flowed from the middle of the field and leveled Schraufnagel before he could cross the plane.

“We were struggling to stop their tosses, and then they’d pound it up the middle,” Hargrove said. “Finally, when it most importantly mattered, we made the biggest stop of probably our entire lives right there.”

“I thought (Schraufnagel) was going to make it in,” Mayville coach Scott Hilber said. “That kid did make a heck of a play. That kid is going to make me second guess myself on my call the rest of my life.”

That stop proved to be the difference as the Blugolds held on for a 28-26 victory in the WIAA Division 5 state championship on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

With the win, Aquinas finishes the season with a perfect 14-0 record. It’s the program’s second WIAA state title; the first came in 2007.

“I have no words,” senior running back and linebacker Joe Penchi said. “It’s the biggest accomplishment of my life.”

Junior quarterback Jackson Flottmeyer was stellar, completing 16 of his 24 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. Both of the touchdowns went to senior wide receiver Quinn Miskowski, who finished with three catches for 99 yards, and came at critical times.

The first came on the game’s opening possession and gave the Blugolds an early 8-0 lead. The second came late in the third quarter after Schraufnagel and Hockers flipped Mayville’s 16-point deficit into a four-point edge.

Schraufnagel had touchdown runs on back-to-back possessions — including one after Adison Mittlestadt intercepted Flottmeyer — to respond to a Penchi touchdown that gave Aquinas a 16-0 lead with 11 minutes, 52 seconds left in the second quarter, and Hockers found the end zone from 1 yard out midway through the third quarter to put the Cardinals (11-3) up 20-16.

Schraufnagel finished with 38 carries for 205 yards and two scores, while Hockers added 55 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.

“It’s all on the O-line,” Schraufnagel said. “They make my job very easy.”

But that’s when the Blugolds’ big-play ability started to make an impact.

Flottmeyer found Miskowski behind the defense down the middle of the field for a 56-yard touchdown to give the lead back to Aquinas, and the two connected deep down the left sideline for a 36-yard gain on the first drive of the Blugolds’ next possession.

“I know Quinn is built to make those plays. He’s very clutch,” Flottmeyer said. “And our offensive line did an amazing job blocking for me. It was awesome.”

Sophomore running back David Malin followed with a 25-yard rush two plays later to give Aquinas first-and-10 from the 11, though the Blugolds nearly came up empty on the drive.

Consecutive carries by Malin pushed Aquinas to the 2, but Hargrove was stopped short of the chains on third down. Flottmeyer kept on fourth down to pick up the first, though, and Hargrove found the end zone on the next play to give the Blugolds a 28-20 lead with 11:47 left in the fourth quarter.

Hargrove, who also had an interception, finished with 23 yards on nine carries, while Malin added 49 yards on eight carries.

Aquinas had the opportunity to put the game away after senior defensive back Michael Lium intercepted Mittlestadt on the ensuing drive, and the Blugolds looked primed to do so after Flottmeyer hit senior Jack Gagermeier over the middle of the field for a big gain. But Gagermeier fumbled, and Mayville recovered.

The Cardinals proceeded to march down the field, with Schraufnagel and Hockers carrying the load as they moved deep into Aquinas territory. A 13-yard pass from Mittlestadt to junior Bradley Bushke took Mayville into the red zone, and Hockers scored his second touchdown of the game to cut the Blugolds’ lead to 28-26 before the two-point conversion.

But Schamberger and Hargrove stopped Schraufnagel short of the goal line on the two-point try to preserve Aquinas’ lead with 1:41 to play.

“I thought it was me and one guy, and all of a sudden there were four guys on top of me,” Schraufnagel said. “Playing it back, I could’ve maybe ran it outside. I shouldn’t be ashamed because we had a hell of a season.”

Senior Chris Wilson recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Blugolds were able to run out the clock to put the finishing touches on their state title.

“I can’t really describe it,” Flottmeyer said. “When I came into high school, I had one goal. And it was to leave with a state championship. I can’t describe how this feels because I didn’t think it would happen, but it did.”

The Blugolds advance to the state title game for the first time since 2007.

Eric Lee can be reached at eric.lee@lee.net or via Twitter @ByEricLee

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Sports reporter

Eric Lee is a sports writer with the La Crosse Tribune. He can be reached at 608-791-8228.

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