Catholic Memorial won its first-ever WIAA state championship thanks to a stout defense that forced five turnovers and a big-play offense that carried the Crusaders (11-2) to a 42-7 win over Waupaca in the Division 3 championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Friday.
The win gave Crusaders coach Bill Young his first WIAA title after the 35-year head coach won four WISAA private school titles, the last coming in 1996.
“It’s huge. To finally get a gold ball, it’s just something special,” said Young, whose team lost in the WIAA final in 2001 and 2010. “It’s an incredible group of kids and it’s just great for Catholic Memorial.”
University of Wisconsin recruit Matt Hubley rushed for 199 yards and two scores for the Crusaders, a bulk of those yards coming on one second-half rush.
On Catholic Memorial’s very first play of the second half, Hubley raced 70 yards for a touchdown. He put on a significant juke move near the Waupaca sidelines when it looked like he was going to get bounced out of bounds after a 15-yard gain, and then turned up field.
The touchdown gave Catholic Memorial a 21-0 lead and Waupaca never recovered.
“There was a big hole the offensive line created, great downfield blocking by our receivers and just a lot of daylight,” Hubley said.
“It was the greatest feeling in the world. I couldn’t ask for anything better than this. … It means a lot to us. We wanted this for our coach, for our school and for ourselves.”
As big as Hubley’s run was, perhaps no play was bigger — certainly none was longer — than Andre Bodden’s 77-yard touchdown catch from Pat White with 3 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter. Bodden got behind his defender, and White dropped the deep pass right in his arms to give the Crusaders a 14-0 lead.
The play was the longest pass play in D3 state championship history, surpassing a 74-yard connection by Iowa-Grant’s Chris McClimans and Kevin Carr in the 1977 title game.
Bodden finished with three catches for 103 yards.
“Our passing game struggled in the first part of the year but we picked it up and Pat gained more confidence,” Bodden said. “So as the season wore on, he got more comfortable."
Earlier in the first quarter, Hubley scored on a 3-yard run with 6:39 to go, two plays after he rushed for 56 yards down the right sideline.
That six-play touchdown drive came just minutes after Bodden made an acrobatic interception of a pass from Waupaca’s Sam Menzies. Bodden tipped the ball into the air, got turned around and then caught it while falling to the ground.
“We have a lot of playmakers and to do what we did against a good team like Waupaca, it just put a cap on a wonderful year for our kids,” Young said.
Waupaca did score a touchdown late in the third quarter when quarterback Sam Menzies found Nathan Nelson open for a 4-yard score with 2:55 left in the third, but Catholic Memorial responded with three more scores, including an interception return for a touchdown by Bodden with 4:34 left.
White, the Crusaders senior quarterback, finished 8-for-9 with 179 yards and one interception and tied a D3 state final record with three touchdown passes.
The championship victory seemed unlikely for the Crusaders, who were just 2-2 four weeks into the season. They lost consecutive games to Division 1 state finalist Arrowhead and Mukwonago in Classic 8 Conference play, but rattled off nine straight victories.
Catholic Memorial came into Friday’s game tied with D7 finalist Glenwood City for the most losses (two) among all 14 championship game participants. The Crusaders’ opponent Waupaca, however, was one of 10 undefeated teams playing for a title.
“We were kind of nicked up at the start,” Young said. “Arrowhead’s an outstanding team. They blew our doors off. We lost to (Mukwonago) by one, and then we got hot. It’s the old adage, it’s not always the best team it’s the team that’s playing the best. We had some outstanding players, great coaches … and our kids just did a wonderful job and we got better each week.”
Added Bodden: “We had our doubts, but we hung in there as a team and that just got us through the whole season we came together and have been playing really good football.”