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Belmont star runs for 347 yards and 4 TDs to lift Belmont to 8-player state title
Belmont senior quarterback Riley Christensen scored the game-winning touchdown run with 24 seconds left to lift the #2-ranked Braves to a 24–20 comeback victory over #3 Gilman Friday night at Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston. Christensen rushed for 347 yards on 43 carries and scored all four Belmont touchdowns in the game. - photo by Tom Gunnell

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.

Riley Christensen, Sr., QB/LB, Belmont football

MAUSTON — Belmont senior Riley Christensen would not be denied. With 95 yards standing between his Braves and an undefeated season, the senior quarterback accounted for 88 of those 95 yards during a wild 13-play march, and covered the final 21 on a mad scramble with 24 seconds remaining (and zero timeouts) to lift the #2-ranked Braves ahead of the #3-ranked Gilman Pirates 24–20 in last Friday's 8-player state championship game at Woodside Sports Complex in Mauston.

The Braves found themselves behind for the first time all season after the Pirates used two third-quarter touchdown runs by senior running back Brayden Boie (29 yards) and junior quarterback Julian Krizan (8 yards) to erase a 12–6 halftime deficit and grab their first lead of the night at 20–12. 

Christensen brought Belmont back within two on his third TD run of the night, a 4-yard blast with 7:33 to play that made it 20–18. However, the Braves were unsuccessful on their two-point attempt to remain trailing by two with time running out.

The Braves’ defense stepped up and forced the Pirates to punt away its next possession. Boie’s kick was downed by the Pirates at the Belmont 5-yard line, leaving the Braves 95 yards away from the end zone with 4:13 remaining on the clock. It turned out that was just enough time for Christensen to carry the Braves to victory. 

“In the huddle, I said we got to be calm,” said Christensen. “We’ve been in this situation before. If we stay calm, cool and collected we’ll finish it. We knew we could do it. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Nine straight runs to open the drive — eight by Christensen including an 11-yard gain on a 4th-and-4 play — moved the Braves from their own 5 to the Gilman 47 with less than two minutes to play. Following an incompletion on their only pass attempt of the drive, Christensen kept the ball on the ground gaining 18 yards on another key fourth-down run to put the Braves at the Pirates’ 21 with 32 ticks remaining.

“[Riley’s] been our go-to leader for us on both sides of the ball,” said Wiese. “He did everything he could to lead us here tonight. We knew in that moment we would go with our experience and he stepped up in a big way for us. Our offensive line fought hard and moved them off the ball.”

Belmont took its final timeout there to discuss what to do next. On first down, Christensen dropped back to pass but was flushed out of the pocket by the Pirates’ rush. He stepped up and found an opening, made his way the corner and sprinted down the Belmont sideline into the end zone for the go-ahead score.  Christensen ran 11 times for 88 yards during the game-clinching drive.

Belmont took an early 6–0 by taking the opening kick and marching right down the field. Christensen ripped off a 30-yard scoring jaunt to cap the six-play, 65-yard trek that took just a 1:11 off the clock.

The teams traded turnovers and punts for the rest of the first half until Belmont put together a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive to go ahead 12–0 with 28 seconds to go in the half. Christensen bulled in from seven yards out to close out the drive.

Belmont finished the night with a season-high 393 rushing yards on 55 carries with Christensen rolling up a career-high 347 yards on 43 rushes.

“I love this team,” said Christensen. “It feels great to have all the hard work we put in over thousands and thousands of hours pay off.”

Christensen also went 6-of-9 through the air for 36 yards as the Braves topped 400 total yards for a game for the fourth time this season. He finished the season with 1,372 rushing yards and 27 rushing TDs, and he completed 35-of-62 passes for 478 yards with nine TDs and no interceptions. He closes his career rushing for more than 3,800 yards with 62 TDs, passing for more than 1,300 yards with 20 TDs and more than 400 yards receiving with five TDs.

HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Alyana Digman, Sr., MH, Platteville volleyball

Platteville senior middle hitter Alayna Digman was named WVCA honorable mention All-State in Division 2 after being named the Southwest Wisconsin Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-SWC for a second straight year. Digman led the Hillmen with 174 kills, 50 blocks and a .354 hitting percentage. She also served up 23 aces with a 92.2 service percentage, and had 67 service receptions and 44 digs. Digman helped lead Platteville to a 13–3 overall record, a 9–1 mark in the SWC to win a four straight conference title, a fourth straight WIAA Division 2 regional title and an unexpected trip to the WIAA D2 stat tournament after sectional champion Madison Edgewood had to withdraw from the state tournament just three days after defeating the Hillmen in a D2 sectional final. 

Kayla Klotz, Sr.,  MH, Shullsburg volleyball
Klotz was recently named Division 4 honorable mention All-State by the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association, along with senior teammate Layla Alt. Klotz was also recently named the Six Rivers West Player of the Year after posting a team-high 157 kills, 42 blocks and a .222 hitting percentage, to go along with 19 aces and 55 digs to lead the Miners (11–2, 11–1 SRW) to their first volleyball conference title since 2003.

Hayden Knapp, Sr., QB/DB, Lancaster football
Knapp complete 4 of 6 passes for 80 yards and thre touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards on eight carries to lead Lancaster to a dominating 42–13 victory over Melrose–Mindoro last Friday night.  Knapp and the Flying Arrows (5–3) will close out the season Thursday night at home against La Crosse Aquinas in a WIAA Division 5 Level 2 playoff game, win or lose.

Robby Roe, Jr., WR/DB, Potosi/Cassville football
Roe caught four passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, and recovered a fumble in the end zone late in the third quarter — which became the eventual game-winning score — in Potosi/Cassville's 30–22 victory over visiting De Soto (3–1) in a WIAA Division 6 Level I playoff game last Friday night. Roe has 27 receptions for 613 yards and 12 touchdowns (which is tied for fifth in the state) so far this season. The Chieftains (5–2) will close out the regular season Thursday night at home against undefeated Highland (7–0).