CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Defense got the St. Mary’s Springs Ledgers to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, and defense is what made sure they took a gold ball representing a state championship back to Fond du Lac.
The Ledgers held a high-powered Regis team that came in averaging 43.5 points a game to just 134 yards of total offense and kept the Ramblers off the scoreboard to prevail, 7-0, in the WIAA Division 6 championship game on Thursday, Nov. 21, in Madison.
It was the sixth shutout of the season for Springs (12-2) and fourth in a row to close out the season after allowing a late touchdown in a blowout victory during Level 1 of the playoffs.
The championship was the 17th overall and third in a row for the Ledgers, who have won a state-record nine since joining the WIAA in 2000. Springs has eight titles since 2009, including five of the last six. Despite the bushel full of championship trophies the school has acquired in the 49-year head-coaching career of coach Bob Hyland, this is the first time the program has won three consecutive trophies in his tenure.
A game that was short on theatrics or much in the way of drama was really punctuated on the first drive of the contest.
The Ledgers converted seven first downs and took 19 plays to cover 80 yards in a possession that bled the first 10:09 of the game off the clock. It was capped by a 1-yard plunge by senior Marcus Orlandoni (20 carries for 75 yards) just two plays after David Mueller (14 carries for 59 yards) had converted a 4th-and-2 from the Regis 3-yard line.
“That’s what our offense is all about — just breaking them down play by play, a couple yards at a time until we score,” Orlandoni said.
It was hard to imagine that was going to be enough to win, but it turned out it be plenty.
“Are you kidding me?” Hyland said. “Not the way they move the ball. They never really broke out. That was a surprise. Their offense was so deceptive with who gets the ball and how many people they get in front of them.”
From that point on, the defenses for both teams took over, as the best scoring chance for either team the rest of the way came when Regis drove the Springs 34-yard line early in the fourth quarter before turning the ball over on downs.
The Ledgers sealed the victory when senior defensive lineman Connor Kollman recovered a fumble by Regis’ Gus Theisen with 1:38 left to play.
The turning point of the season for Springs came after the second game of the year, when they lost 14-7 in overtime to Division 5 semifinalist Amherst to fall to 0-2. The Ledgers had opened the season with a 21-14 loss to Division 5 finalist Lake Country Lutheran.
From that point on, the Ledgers allowed just 49 points in their final 12 games, all victories.
“It’s called experience, which we didn’t have early in the year,” Hyland said. “There’s a lot of young kids playing there and they have to learn their position, and we have to play as a team. That’s one of the things we emphasized after the second game of the year, and they showed it today. I can’t be prouder of this team.”
“That was really a gut check for us,” Orlandoni said. “We were able to improve every single week just a little bit. That’s why we came out on top at the end.”