All the odds were stacked against the Amherst football team Thursday.
Senior quarterback Chris Zblewski was out with a fractured fibula, forcing senior Caleb Glennon into the pressure situation of all pressure situations.
The Falcons were making their first appearance on the ultimate stage, while Lancaster stood on the opposite sideline with six gold trophies to its credit.
In what has been a magical season for a program long mired in obscurity, Amherst refused to accept anything but a dream ending to the best season in school history.
Behind a state championship caliber defense that turned in a performance for the ages, the Falcons will bring home the gold trophy after knocking off the Flying Arrows 19-7 in the WIAA Division 5 state championship at Camp Randall Stadium.
“This is crazy man, I’m so happy right now,” said senior linebacker Max Strand, who realized the Falcons were about to be able to call themselves state champions when Joel Biadasz hauled in his second touchdown reception to put them up 19-7 with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter.
“We were trying to play it cool on the sidelines, but in the back of our heads we were saying, ‘We did it.'”
Emotions nearly got the best of Glennon, who turned in a virtuoso performance in the absence of Zblewski, completing 13 of 21 passes for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
One Amherst player after another, along with head coach Mark Lusic, expressed they had the utmost confidence the senior wide receiver turned quarterback would get the job done.
Still, considering the circumstance, Glennon was nearly overcome with emotion as the clock was winding down.
“It’s just amazing. I was starting to cry, I was speechless,” said Glennon, who played with an injured shoulder throughout much of the playoffs. “We talked about (playing for a state championship) before the season and we never talked about it again.”
Rather, coach Lusic would tell anyone who was listening that his defense was the foundation on which championships are built.
He won’t get any argument from Lancaster, which watched its high-powered offense — one that came into the state final averaging 43.7 points a game — score just one touchdown.
“We couldn’t make a play and couldn’t complete any passes and then they were able to create havoc with our running game,” Lancaster coach John Hoch said. “We couldn’t get anything going.”
And the Flying Arrows needed to reach deep into their bag of tricks to even get on the scoreboard, using a double-pass halfback option to tie the game at 7-7 late in the third quarter.
The rest of the night belonged to a dominant Amherst defense that held the Flying Arrows 0 for 5 on fourth down conversions in the opening half. Lancaster could only muster 215 yards of total offense.
It’s not like the defense played over its heads. Amherst was simply doing what it had done all season long, while allowing just 27 points with its first-string unit on the field.
“I’ve been telling people for weeks this is a championship defense. They have been lights out all season,” Lusic said. “I’m kind of numb right now.”
The Falcons could have flinched when Lancaster tied the game up.
Instead, Glennon and the passing game hit back, marching 73 yards in nine plays, with Glennon hitting Strand on a 6-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to make it 13-7.
From there, it was up to the defense to finish the job, and with the help of two late interceptions, the verdict was sealed.
Then it was only a matter of watching the clock wind down before the Falcons could begin a state championship celebration.
“I’m a little sore, but I’d rather be sore after a win that after a loss,” said senior defensive back Ryan Makuski, who finished the year with a state-best 14 interceptions. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. I’m a state champion, and you can’t beat that.”
A – Joel Biadasz 40 pass from Caleb Glennon (Garth Groshek kick)
L – Troy Baker 36 pass from Nate Tranel (Hunter Budack kick)
A – Max Strand 6 pass from Glennon (kick failed)
A – Biadasz 15 pass from Ryan Makuski (kick blocked)
Rushing: Amherst – Caleb Glennon 20-27, Connor Zblewski 8-21, Ryan Makuski 2-4, Jon Konkol 1-1. Lancaster – AJ Day 12-(minus-11), Troy Baker 8-65, Tyler Glass 11-26, Kile Jerrett 1(minus-4), Brett Snider 2-(minus-5).
Passing: Amherst – Caleb Glennin 13-21-0-129, Ryan Makuski 1-1-0-15. Lancaster – AJ Day 5-19-2-108, Nate Tranel 1-1-0-36.
Receiving: Amherst – Joel Biadasz 5-93, Max Strand 1-6, Ryan Makuski 7-38, Jon Konkol 1-1. Lancaster – Troy Baker 2-70, Hunter Budack 3-65, Kile Jerrett 1-9.
Records: Amherst 13-0; Lancaster 12-1.