SLINGER — The Markesan prep football team knew just how good Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs was heading into a WIAA Division 6 semifinal game on Friday.
The Hornets knew they had to bring their A game, but the Ledgers were just better. Springs finished with four turnovers and forced Markesan to punt or turn the ball over on downs in a 21-9 victory to advance to the state finals.
The Ledgers (13-0) are on their way to Camp Randall Stadium for the 10th time since joining the WIAA in 2000 and will have a chance to win their seventh state championship.
“They’re very good,” Markesan head coach Travis Winkers said.
After the game, Springs head coach Bob Hyland — the winningest coach in Wisconsin prep history, now in his 47th season — was complimentary of the Hornets (11-2), who were playing in the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
“He said we had a really good team — ‘keep getting it,’” Winkers said. “I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll get to your level.’ He goes, ‘You’re there.’ It’s a nice compliment, but we’re not there until we can beat them.”
The only time Markesan got any real movement on offense was in the final minutes, already down 21-3. Quarterback Carson Clark connected with Zac Triggs on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute, 4 seconds left in the game.
Markesan recovered an onside kick at the 50 yard-line and got to the Springs 17 on a screen pass to Austin Triggs from the 50 with 3 seconds left, but it was too little, too late.
Triggs and Clark are part of the senior class of 15 that helped lead the Hornets to a very special season.
“They’re great,” Winkers said. “I mean, when I first started (five years ago), we had three seniors, then four seniors and now we have 15, 12 a couple years ago. We keep moving it up. They keep doing a good job and take the underclassmen under their wings and the kids want to come out for football.
“That’s them. It’s not us; it’s them. It’s a very special group.”
Springs scored on its first drive after forcing a Hornets punt. Running back Marcus Orlandoni zoomed around the Markesan defense to the left for a 14-yard touchdown run with 6:49 left in the first quarter to go up 7-0.
After both teams traded fumble recoveries, Markesan got the ball at its own 37 yard-line and drove down the field, getting on the board on Bryce Plagenz’s 32-yard field goal with 2:06 left in the quarter.
The Ledgers followed with a scoring drive punctuated by Clay Schueffner’s 5-yard with 9:48 left in the first half.
Markesan had a hard time getting any momentum going on offense as the Hornets only gained five first downs in the first half. Springs totaled six, but turned the ball over twice. Triggs had an incredible interception with 50.6 seconds left in the half, but his offense couldn’t do anything before the clock ran out.
Markesan turned the ball over four times, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once.
“They’re huge,” Winkers said. “You can’t turn the ball over like that. It’s dumb mistakes against a really good team is going to be a turnover. We may have gotten away with those against some other teams. We’re not going to get away with it against Springs.”
Springs didn’t let up in the second half. On the Ledgers’ opening drive, Schueffner ran in from 6 yards out on a fourth-and-1 to make it 21-3.
Winkers said he was proud of the way his team played all season.
“It’s very special,” he said. “I’m proud of them. I told those guys I will see how good of a job I did 20 years from now. I think it’s going to be pretty good because I think they’re going to be pretty good human beings. We want to win games, we want to make it to state, but we want to raise good men and that’s ultimately our job.”
ST. MARY’S SPRINGS 21, MARKESAN 9
Markesan 3 0 0 6 — 9
Fond du Lac Springs 7 7 7 0 — 21
FDLS — Marcus Orlandoni 14 run (kick good), 6:49, 1st.
M — Bryce Plagenz 32 field goal, 2:06, 1st
FDLS — Clay Schueffner 5 run (kick good), 9:48, 2nd
FDLS — Clay Schueffner 6 run (kick good), 7:16, 3rd
M — Zac Triggs 45 pass from Carson Clark (pass failed), 1:04, 4th
First downs — M 15, S 14. Rushes-Yards — M 29139, FDLS 58-276. Passing (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — M 12-35-3, FDLS 3-9-1. Passing yards — M 232, FDLS 27. Fumbles-Lost — M 1-1, FDLS 3-2. Penalties-Yards — M 5-35, FDLS 4-30.
Rushing: M — Austin Triggs 3-37, FDLS — Marcus Orlandono 16-82. Passing (Comp.-Att.-TD-INT, Yds): M — Carson Clark 12-35-1-3, 232. FDLS — Mitch Waechter 3-9-0-1, 27. Receiving: M — Drew Bernhagen 4-86, FDLS — N/A.