I predict the usual aggravations of life, including our suddenly cold weather, are getting little notice in the Potosi area this week.
That’s because the Chieftains are playing in the WIAA Division 7 football championship at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison against Glenwood City Thursday at 10 a.m. Potosi is in search of its first state title in a boys sport since the Chieftains’ 1993 Division 4 spring baseball title.
The worst game to lose in the postseason is the game before state. If you get to state and lose, you still got to state. If you lose just short of state, everything you accomplished that season seems inadequate.
(Which is too bad for Iowa–Grant, because to have to change quarterbacks and thus your offensive approach to some extent, and still get to the final four of your division, is quite an accomplishment. The Wisconsin State Journal noted the Panthers’ refusal to quit despite losing to the odds-on favorite to win the state Division 6 title.)
What was excellent about Potosi’s win — beyond the fact of winning to go to state for the first time in the history of Potosi football — was the final two minutes of Friday’s game, which featured, in order:
• A critical third-down stop without which nothing that followed would have happened.
• Randolph’s debatable decision to take a safety and essentially trade two points to improve maybe 25 yards in punting position.
• A kick return to midfield (so much for the 25-yard improvement), which was followed by …
• Quarterback Tim Fritz’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Chase Kruser for the go-ahead score with 1:20 remaining.
• On the second play following the kickoff, an interception by Jase Udelnofen.
• The first of a series of runs intended merely to run out the clock, which was followed by …
• Fritz’s 40-yard touchdown run to cement a trophy in the Potosi High School trophy case.
No one could write a believable script from that sequence of actual events.
I have some happy parallel experience to Potosi’s week. My high school won the state Class A boys basketball tournament my junior year in high school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but merely getting to state — something I’d been watching on TV as long as I could remember — was a thrilling experience, even for someone from Madison. (My position on the team was … trumpet player, the only place I could possibly contribute to any sports team.)
I’ve also covered, between print and broadcast, several more state teams, including Iowa–Grant and Cuba City boys basketball in 1989, Lancaster baseball in 1989 (to finish second at state when no one expects you to get to state at all is almost as good as winning state), Shullsburg and Cuba City boys basketball in 1992, Cuba City girls volleyball in 1992 and 1993, Cuba City girls basketball in 1993, Potosi baseball in 1993 and 2001 (for the latter I served as radio sideline reporter, wherever the sidelines are on a baseball field), River Ridge football in 1997, Potosi girls basketball in 1999, and two state champion football teams in Ripon, in 2003 and 2005. (The latter’s title came three hours after Lancaster, my wife’s alma mater, won state one division earlier. That was a good day, though very cold.) Readers certainly remember Iowa–Grant’s football state title in 1977, Platteville’s state title in 1983, and Belmont’s trip to Madison in 2003.
From that list, some of those teams expected to go to state, so talking to those coaches and players afterward, they were happy, but more matter-of-fact. From the radio interviews Friday night, Potosi’s players were practically delirious. It may not sink in for weeks that they played in the greatest football game in Potosi High School history.
I have apparently been doing this long enough for this to happen: The 1989 Panthers’ center, Greg Slack, is the husband of my daughter’s second-grade teacher. (Who did Iowa–Grant, one of three undefeated Class C teams that year, lose to at state? Glenwood City.) Moreover, I met Dave Fritz, Tim’s father, several years before Tim was born. When Cuba City won the state girls basketball title in 1993, coach Jeff Pustina had two toddler daughters. That state title was the third in four years for the Cubans, whose point guard was Aimee Tranel, the last of the 10 Tranel children, most of whom apparently played basketball. Pustina’s youngest daughter, Chloe (who was not born when I worked in Cuba City) is the last of the Pustina girls, but she’s only a sophomore.
Whether or not the Chieftains win Thursday, the players will probably remember the most not how the game ended, but how they got to Madison, particularly Friday’s fantastic finish. They’ll remember, one assumes, running onto the artificial grass at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. (Whether you’re a football player or a UW Band marcher, you always remember the first entrance.) They may notice how long TV timeouts take. (The game will be on Fox Sports Wisconsin and on foxsportswisconsin.com.) They will either get a silver trophy or a gold trophy, and either will be a nice addition to the trophy case to cap the greatest season in Potosi football history.
Good luck to the Chieftains, as well as Lancaster Thursday. (You can root for the Flying Arrows since they finished playing Platteville for the football season when the WIAA sent Lancaster into Division 5 and Platteville into Division 4.)
My annual deer-hunting message: Deer hunting begins Saturday. I do not hunt (for one thing, I’m a terrible shot, and I hate to get up early), but I am not anti-hunting. (Send any venison donations to 25 E. Main St., Platteville.) I wish good luck to all deer hunters if for no other reason than the fact that every deer they shoot is one less deer I might hit with my car