CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Luke Fox and his Catholic Memorial teammates wanted no part of a repeat of what happened in Camp Randall Stadium in 2018.
While the Crusaders ended up winning the Division 3 state championship, they needed one of the greatest comebacks in state history (rallying from 24 points down) to pull off the victory.
On Thursday, Nov. 21, the Crusaders left nothing to chance, claiming their second consecutive state championship and third in four years with a 35-0 dismantling of Kiel in the WIAA Division 4 championship game.
“There’s never been a comeback like that before, and we had that to fall back on,” Fox said, admitting his team had learned the lesson from that game. “The whole game, we kept putting up points. I kept coming back to the huddle and saying, ‘That’s not enough. You remember last year.’”
Overall, it is the fourth WIAA state championship for Memorial (all since 2012) and eighth overall (including four in WISAA between 1979 and 1996). In Coach Bill Young’s 40-plus year career at the school, this is the first time Memorial has repeated as state champions.
“I’ve been blessed to be in a great environment, great kids, great support,” said Young, the winningest high school coach in southeastern Wisconsin. “It’s all about the kids.”
Like a poker player slowly revealing each card of royal flush one by one, the Crusaders unveiled their array of offensive weapons a little at a time throughout the game. In all, the Crusaders finished with 474 yards of total offense, including 280 through the air and 194 rushing.
Besides Fox, considered by many to be the best quarterback in the state, the Crusaders unleashed 5-foot-9, 180-pound sophomore running back Obacoso Allen (16 rushes for 53 yards and a touchdown, and two catches for 36 yards and a touchdown), receiver Joe Sikma (five catches for 138 yards and a touchdown), Alex Oechsner (three catches for 32 yards and a rushing touchdown) and Daniel Fynaardt (four catches for 51 yards), among others.
Fox was at the helm of it all, though, completing his storied career with 253 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-23 passing, and rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
“Luke Fox will go down as the best skilled kid I ever coached,” Young said of his lefty signal-caller, who will attend Duke University on a baseball scholarship.
“He’s too nice,” Fox said of his head coach. “But it means a lot. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. He prepares us so well.”
The offensive explosion began on the first play of the game. After Kiel’s opening kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Crusaders great field position at their own 35-yard line, Fox found Sikma all alone behind the Kiel secondary for a 65-yard scoring pass just nine seconds into the game. Oechsner put the Crusaders up 14-0 less than five minutes into the game when he scored from 4 yards out on a jet sweep to the left side.
Memorial extended the lead to 27-0 by halftime when Allen bulled in behind his massive offensive line from 2 yards out early in the second quarter, and Fox scored on a 12-yard scramble with 2:37 left in the half.
The Crusaders got a running clock when Fox faked the hand-off to Allen on a play-action pass, and the sophomore running back slipped out to the flat and hauled in a 23-yard scoring catch from Fox with 3:17 left in the third quarter. Memorial cleared its bench with 11 minutes left to play, allowing reserves to play the rest of the way.
Not to be overshadowed by the offense was a vicious defense that held the Raiders (averaging 37.5 points per game) to 88 yards total, including just 33 on the ground and forcing quarterback Mitchell Mahler into an 8-for-25 showing for just 51 yards. Sergio Carini led the way for the Crusaders with nine tackles (one for loss) and a sack, while Cole Dakovich had two tackles for loss and a sack.
In the first trip to the state finals in school history, the closest Kiel got to the end zone was the Catholic Memorial 37-yard line after a muffed punt.
Memorial was considered overwhelming favorites to win Division 4 when the playoffs began after dropping down from Division 3. They didn’t disappoint, beating their five playoff opponents 228-21.