MADISON, Wisc. – Members of the Kimberly (Wisc.) football team made a beeline toward a cheering and delirious red-clad faithful after shaking hands and saying good game to a very worthy opponent near midfield.
A different season, but the same happy scene.
Shaking off a rough first half behind stalwart play on both sides of the ball, the Papermakers rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit with 29 unanswered points in earning a 29-14 victory over Franklin on Friday in the WIAA Division 1 state championship game at Camp Randall Stadium.
The title was Kimberly’s fourth straight, linking it with Stratford (six straight) as the only programs in state history to have captured at least four consecutive titles.
It also extended the Papermakers’ state-record winning streak to a remarkable 56 in a row, the longest active streak in the nation.
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Kimberly (14-0) turned a pair of second-half turnovers into touchdowns as it looked to bounce back from an error-filled first half in which it committed three turnovers of its own.
The first was a 10-yard pass from quarterback Danny Vanden Boom to tight end Boyd Dietzen midway through the third quarter for the Papermakers’ first score.
Kimberly’s offensive line crashed to the right and Vanden Boom rolled that way before turning to his left and finding a wide-open Dietzen on a beautifully-executed misdirection play.
The second was a 24-yard run by DJ Stewart with 5:19 remaining in the game, a touchdown dash that capped the scoring and cemented yet another championship victory.
Kimberly tied it at 14-14 when Vanden Boom uncorked a dart to Alec Rosner over the middle of the field. Rosner caught the pass with defenders surrounding him and raced in from 49 yards out with 2:52 to play in the third quarter.
Franklin looked to have reclaimed the lead and momentum on a 78-yard hookup between quarterback Max Alba and wideout Kyle Lewis, but an illegal man downfield penalty nullified the score.
Stewart’s 43-yard touchdown sprint on the third play of the fourth quarter, followed by a two-point conversion in which Adam Stage dived into the corner of the end zone, gave the Papermakers a lead they’d never relinquish.
Vanden Boom threw for 146 yards on 12-of-20 passing, while Stewart rushed for 108 yards on 19 carries and Rosner finished with 71 yards on three catches.
Overall, the Papermakers amassed 315 yards and limited the Sabers (12-2) to 257 yards and just 97 yards in the second half.
Tyler Staerkel, Alex Warzyn and Connor Zirpel tallied second-half interceptions for a Papermakers defense that forced five turnovers.