Catholic Memorial hit Ellsworth with everything in its arsenal in the first 11 minutes of the Division 4 football state championship game on Thursday, Nov. 18, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Offense, defense and special teams all contributed as the Crusaders jumped out to a 21-point lead.
It turned out they would need all of that cushion as the plucky Panthers made a game of it before halftime, but the Crusaders eventually prevailed 21-12 for their third consecutive championship (there were no state championships in 2020 because of COVID-19) and fifth since 1982. It was the school’s ninth state title overall (they won four in now-defunct WISAA).
For veteran coach Bill Young, in his 44th season guiding Catholic Memorial, it was his third perfect season as head coach; the Crusaders finished 14-0.
“This group of seniors, they carried us all year,” Young said. “These kids worked extremely hard all season and got better. Our senior class was the difference this season.”
Despite doing everything they possibly could throughout the season, there was one sentiment still echoing from the ranks of the blue and yellow: they wanted more.
“I’m sad to see it end,” Young said. “I really love these kids.”
Memorial’s Charlie Jarvis sealed the win when he picked off Janke at the Crusader 5-yard line with 2:57 remaining.
“I wish we had more games honestly,” Jarvis said. “I love this sport. This is the best way for it to end.”
The Crusaders took the opening kickoff and went 69 yards in five plays and grabbed the game’s first points when Corey Smith took a triple-option pitch and 41 yards down the left sideline — aided by a great downfield block by Bennett McCormick.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Crusaders recovered an onside kick. A 24-yard pass from quarterback Rory Fox to McCormick on 4th-and-4 got Memorial to the Ellsworth 11-yard line. Two plays later, Fox scored from 5 yards away on an option keeper up the middle to give the Crusaders a 14-0 lead before the Ellsworth offense had even stepped on the field.
The Panthers showed some promise on their opening drive, taking the ball to the Memorial 30-yard line before stalling out on downs.
Fox hit OB Allen with a 27-yard pass down the left side to give Memorial a 21-0 lead with 1:35 left in the opening quarter. Marvell Lee intercepted Ellsworth quarterback Jack Janke with nine seconds left in the first quarter.
By the time the opening quarter onslaught had ended, the Crusaders had outgained Ellsworth 197-26.
The Panthers scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, but missed both two-point conversions, keeping CMH’s lead at two possessions.
“Our defense has been outstanding all year long,” Young said. “We take a lot of pride in it. Our kids are really well-prepared and were ready to play a great game.”
The closest Memorial came to scoring in the second half was when Fox was intercepted in the red zone late in the third quarter.
For the game, Memorial’s yardage edge ended up being 330-237. Fox led the Crusaders with 90 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Smith had 81 yards on 11 carries.
For Ellsworth, Ashten Quade had 88 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and Janke had 53 yards and a score on 12 carries.