With 29 seasons of experience as the face of the Waupaca football program, John Koronkiewicz knew exactly what to tell his crestfallen players following their 42-7 WIAA Division 3 state final loss to Catholic Memorial at Camp Randall Stadium early Friday afternoon.
“We played as long as we could possibly play. And there aren’t many schools in the state of Wisconsin that can say that,” Koronkiewicz told his players. “There are only 14 schools that played either (Thursday) or (Friday). And we were one of those schools. It’s a great accomplishment for any program, anywhere.”
Koronkiewicz made sure the players didn’t hang their heads. How could they? The truth was that the Comets ran into a talented Catholic Memorial team that was playing at the top of its game.
Waupaca, known for defense and a churning ground game, fell victim to the Crusaders’ immensely talented skill players and behemoth offensive line.
The Comets fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, with Andre Bodden’s 77-yard touchdown pass from Pat White a backbreaker with 3:27 left in the quarter.
Matt Hubley scored Catholic Memorial’s first touchdown from two yards out early in the first and had a 56-yard run during the drive as the Crusaders led 14-0 at the half.
It was those big plays that proved to be Waupaca’s undoing as Hubley added a 70-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter.
“Early in the game, I think we gave up some plays that we wish we had back,” Koronkiewicz said. “That kind of put momentum on their side. Obviously, they had big-play capabilities.
“We had a little run in the second quarter where we got things going. We didn’t want (them) to start that third quarter the way they did with that long touchdown run.”
Waupaca put together a 16-play, 76-yard drive that was capped with Sam Menzies’ four-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Nelson late in the third quarter.
That’s as close as Waupaca would get, however, as White connected with Alec Kocour on a 25-yard touchdown pass and Mitch Meindel on a 21-yard score on back-to-back series for Catholic Memorial.
Bodden added a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown late to ice the scoring for the Crusaders.
White finished eight-of-nine for 179 yards passing and three touchdowns and Bodden tallied 103 yards on three catches. Hubley finished with 199 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Menzies led Waupaca with 66 yards on 22 carries, with Beau Ash chipping in 55 yards on 12 carries. Waupaca also had five turnovers.
“It’s been a long four years even though it feels like it’s gone by in a minute,” Ash said. “I wish I could still be out here playing with these guys. I’m going to miss them a lot.”
It was the Comets’ fifth state appearance and fourth in the last 10 years. Waupaca won titles in 2006 and 2008 and the program remains strong under Koronkiewicz.
“Coming into the season, you never know what kind of team you’re going to have, but with Waupaca tradition and with (Koronkiewicz) as coach, he’s always able to put a good team out there,” Menzies said. “Week-by-week, he prepares us for each team separately. He goes through their plays and we watch film together.
“And that’s part of why we have success is that we have such great camaraderie and such a good sense of team.”
CM – Matt Hubley 2 run (Mitch Meindel kick)
CM – Andre Bodden 77 pass from Pat White (Meindel kick)
CM – Hubley 70 run (Meindel kick)
W – Nathan Nelson 4 pass from Sam Menzies (Beau Ash kick)
CM – Alec Kocour 25 pass from White (Meindel kick)
CM – Meindel 21 pass from White (Meindel kick)
CM – Bodden 10 interception return (Meindel kick)
|Total net yards||205||404|
Rushing – Waupaca, Menzies 22-66, Ash 12-55, Nelson 3-15, Maloney 1-2. Catholic Memorial, Hubley 19-199, Clark 5-21, Kocour 3-10.
Passing – Waupaca, Menzies 6-18-4-67. Catholic Memorial, White 8-9-1-179.
Receiving – Waupaca, Nate Jenson 3-44, Hoffman 2-19, Nelson 1-4. Catholic Memorial: Bodden 3-103, Meindel 2-34, Kocour 1-25, Schmidt 1-15.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; on Twitter@PCRicardo