They came. They saw. But the team they followed all season long wasn’t able to conquer once more.
Waupaca football fans refused to let a 42-7 setback against Waukesha Catholic Memorial in Friday’s WIAA Division 3 state championship game at Camp Randall Stadium quiet their cheers and ruin their celebration.
When Comets coach John Koronkiewicz raised the silver runner-up trophy with senior captains Sam Menzies, Beau Ash, Sawyer Olson and Caleb Kiesow flanked on each side, they were serenaded with an ovation by the faithful that helped soothe the sting of defeat.
“In a small community like Waupaca, we all come out, and we all support each other — that’s one of the benefits,” said Menzies, who threw for 67 yards and a touchdown and added a team-high 66 yards rushing in the loss to cap a sensational senior season in which he also guided the Comets (12-1) to the Eastern Valley Conference championship.
“We have the best fans in the world, if you ask me.”
Waupaca blue colored the stadium’s east bleachers as fans situated themselves behind the Comets’ bench in anticipation of reveling in the program’s third state title and first since 2008.
Instead, a pair of big plays staked the Crusaders (11-2) to a 14-0 first quarter advantage and had Waupaca in rally mode throughout.
“They played hard, they played tough, they all love the game and they work well together,” said Natalia Vasquez, whose son, Brando, is a sophomore wide receiver and defensive back for the Comets. “Very proud of them. … Definitely a great way to end the season here, win or lose. These boys have a lot to be proud of themselves for.”
Waupaca’s Brent Montgomery was proud, too. That’s because he got to watch his son Marshall, a senior offensive and defensive lineman, play the final game of his high school career inside Camp Randall.
And that meant the kid was playing for a state championship.
“This is great,” said Montgomery, wearing his son’s No. 62 jersey. “This is his senior year and something he hoped he could do. So I’m sure he’s really happy he made it here to state.”
Waupaca senior Molly Guyer said the accomplishment of reaching the state finals overshadows Friday’s decisive outcome.
“It’s just awesome,” Guyer said as she was making her way out of the stadium with friends. “Just making it to state is such a great opportunity for us. Football is a big part of our community. We’re really lucky.”
Koronkiewicz, who has led the Comets to five state title games and two championships, thanked Comets fans for a season filled with fun and memories and called their feverish backing ” a special kind of situation.”
“We’re a small town,” he said. “Even in Division 3, we’re still a small town. People get behind their school, get behind their programs and get behind — in this case — their football team. They traveled very well the entire year, and they traveled well today, and we couldn’t expect any better support.”
— Brett Christopherson: 920-993-1000, ext. 207, or firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @PCBrettC