Nov. 15, 2023
By David Nordby & Christopher Johnson
The Brillion News
This is an abbreviated version of what appears in the Nov. 16, 2023 print edition of The Brillion News.
For the fourth time in program history, the Wrightstown football team will compete in the state championship game this Thursday at 4 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, joining teams that won state titles in 1998, 2006 and 2011.
The 2023 Tigers’ march to the Division 5 state title game has included dominant performances in all three phases of the game. Last Friday night’s Level 4 game in Rhinelander was a 33-12 dispatching of a tough Saint Croix Falls Saints team (8-5).
“Our defense has been playing outstanding having only given up one score in the last three games,” Head Coach Steve Klister said. “They held Saint Croix Falls running back Aiden Meador to 110 yards on the ground, which is 65 yards below his playoffs average. Our offensive and defensive lines have really stepped up and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in each of the last several games.”
The Tigers (11-2) will play two-time defending state champions Aquinas Blugolds (12-1) from La Crosse in the title game.
“We are going to have to be even better this week against Aquinas, who is the defending back-to-back Division 5 State Champions. They are a big physical team, and we are going to have to match that physicality,” Klister said.
Wrightstown’s defense has not given up more than two touchdowns in any game this season.
“We’ve played really solid defense. We’ve really kind of, I thought, played better in the playoffs,” Klister said.
The Tigers’ defense has only given up one touchdown in the playoffs. The other scores were the fumble return against Saint Croix Falls and one was on a kickoff return against Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
“We’ve got decent size up front. Our four interior linemen play real solid fundamental defense and then we’ve got a couple solid linebackers that can really flow to the ball, so we’re predicated on trying to stop the run,” Klister said.
In addition to the last two years, the Blugolds also won the Division 5 championship in 2007. As a former member of the WISAA, the Blugolds won Division 2 titles in 1993 and 1995. Aquinas has scored more than 40 points in a game in eight of their 12 wins this season, including three of their four playoff wins.
Wrightstown’s wins in 2006 and 2011 were Division 4 titles. Its 1998 win was a Division 5 championship.
“Obviously, we’re a run-oriented team. All three other teams had very good linemen up front and we do have a solid group of linemen this year, so I guess that would be one similarity,” Klister said.
Klister said he will not have a specific message for his players who will experience Camp Randall for the first time.
“It’s a different group of guys every year. The last time we were there in 2011, there’s a lot of things I don’t even remember about it so … just letting them enjoy themselves and have a good time,” Klister said. “Obviously, Aquinas is the two-time defending Division 5 champions, so they’ve also had some experience down there.”
The temperature in Madison could be as high as 60 degrees on Thursday.
“Definitely much warmer than the last three times we were down there. I believe the last three times were right around freezing or below freezing temperatures, so this will be a nice warm day for us,” Klister said.
There is a reason Aquinas is competing in its third straight state title game. Aquinas beat Horicon/Hustisford 58-14 in the Level 4 game last week.
Quarterback Jacob Thornton has thrown 1,438 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Kyle White has rushed for 1,073 yards and 13 touchdowns. David Malin has rushed for 883 yards and 15 touchdowns. Malin, who is averaging 8.3 yards per carry, will be a walk-on wrestler for the Wisconsin Badgers next season.
“Very well-coached. They like to run the ball very similar to us and they’re predicated on stopping the run and playing good hard-nosed defense so it’s going to be a tough matchup for us,” Klister said.
Aquinas coach Tom Lee was complimentary of Wrightstown’s commitment to the run game.
“They will go two tight ends and T-formation and slam it right at you as much as they can, and then they have a couple wrinkles off that,” Lee said. “We told the boys, there’s a good chance this game could be a rock fight and we’ll absolutely take our chances in a rock fight, maybe we can get a couple big plays against this team.”
The game will be broadcast in the area on WCWF-14 (CW Network).
Accompanying photo credit to Amanda Novitski-Juedes.