MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Nov. 6–13)
WIAA 8-PLAYER FOOTBALL STATE SEMIFINAL: Wausau Newman 49, Belmont 16
MIDDLETON – Belmont’s inaugural season of eight-player football came to a close with a 49-16 loss to the Newman Catholic Cardinals in a WIAA State Semifinal playoff game held at Middleton’s Otto Breitenbach Stadium on Friday, Nov. 8.
The Cardinals (12-0 overall) turned a pair of early miscues by the Braves (9-3) into quick touchdowns to build up a 14-0 lead just over two minutes into the game, and then– after Belmont pulled back with five points late in the first quarter — they pasted 28 unanswered points on the scoreboard over the final three quarters to secure their first berth in the eight-player State Championship Game.
“We are certainly proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team this year. Our players adapted to the change and put in the work this off-season to take advantage of the new opportunity. It’s always hard to fall short of the title game, but we accomplished many things as a team that have not been done in our school in a long time,” commented Belmont head coach Brandon Wiese.
Newman forced a Riley Christensen fumble at midfield on the Braves’ first play from scrimmage, and the Cards cashed in the turnover on their very next play with senior quarterback Ben Bates hooking up with senior wideout Joe Stephan on a 51-yard bomb for a 7-0 lead.
Belmont’s second drive ended with a punt following a three-and-out, but the snap sailed over Christensen’s head and, after he finally recovered the ball, his kick was blocked by the Cardinals and recovered by Stephan at the Braves’ 6-yard line. Freshman Thomas Bates took it in from there on the Cards’ first play to extend the lead to 14-0 at the 9:54 mark of the first quarter.
Junior Will Cutler gave Belmont a spark with a 58-yard kickoff return to the Cardinal 30. After losing three yards on the first two plays of their drive, Christensen hauled in a 32-yard pass from Waylon Palzkill to set the Braves up at the 1, and he bulled across the goal line a play later for his 30th rushing TD of the season to put the Orange-and-Black on the scoreboard. Christensen added the two-point conversion to make the score 14-8 with 8:17 to play in the opening stanza.
Newman answered with a 10-play scoring drive that ended in a 15-yard TD pass from junior wideout Dylan Ackermann to senior end Joe Zeimetz to make it 21-6; however, the Braves struck right back with a 85-yard scoring strike from Palzkill to senior Kolton Westemeier, and then added the two-point conversion on a pass from Christensen to senior Cody Lindholm to cut the deficit to 21-16 with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“We felt that we had a good game plan going into the game, however getting in a hole early on against a tough team is challenging to overcome,” admitted Wiese. “I am very pleased with our team’s ability to battle back.”
The Cardinals took over the game on both sides of the ball from there, tacking on four scores over their next seven possessions to build up a 49-16 advantage while holding Belmont to just 39 yards over their final eight possessions of the game.
The Braves’ final eight drives ended in four punts, two interceptions and two turnovers-on-down when they forced to gamble late in the game. Ben Bates teamed with Stephan from seven yards out for their second TD connection of the night and the senior QB added a 1-yard TD plunge in the third quarter.
Brennan Shaunessy had an 8-yard TD run in the third quarter and T. Bates had a 60-yard TD scamper in the fourth for the Cards. Both players also picked off a Belmont pass in the third quarter.
Ben Bates completed 16-of-25 passes for 257 yards and two TDs to guide the Cardinals, who will face Luck (12-0) in the eight-player championship game at Chippewa Falls’ Dorais Field on Saturday, Nov. 15, starting at 1 p.m. Thomas Bates led Newman’s ground attack with 146 yards on 18 carries with two scores, while Stephan made six catches for 135 yards and two scores and Charlie McCarthy added eight grabs for 111 yards to go along with his five PATs.
The Cardinals’ D held the Braves to a season-low 170 yards of total offense on the night after shutting down the Braves’ rushing attack for the second time this season allowing just 53 yards on 23 carries.
“Our run game has certainly been the foundation of our offense, but those early turnovers and being down forced our hand a bit more than we had hoped so we had to pass the ball a bit more than usual,” Wiese said.
Newman limited Belmont to a season-low 46 rushing yards in their first meeting of the season back in week nine. They are the only team this season to hold the Braves to less than 160 yards on the ground in a game.
Christensen ran 17 times for a team-high 41 yards to run his season total to 1,940 rushing yards. He finished the season with 854 passing yards with 11 passing TDs and caught eight passes for 106 yards and three TDs. Christensen also scored a school record 238 points this season. Palzkill was 2-of-8 passing for 117 yards with a TD, while Westemeier hauled in three catches for 91 yards and a score.
Defensively, Christensen also led the Braves with 13 total tackles and 11 solo stops, including a sack among his two tackles for loss. Junior Mitch Douglas had 11 tackles with one TFL, while Brady Wedig and Josh Henkels combined on a sack and five TFLs.
Playing in their final prep football game for Belmont on Friday were seniors Cody Lindholm, Tristen Gilbertson, Adam Mongel, Dakota Kisamore, Tommy Logsdon, Brady Wedig and Kolton Westemeier.
“Our seniors are relentless. We are certainly going to miss their will and ability to make others around them better. They put in the time to get better even when the outcome wasn’t going the way that they had hoped,” said Wiese. “I couldn’t be happier for them to be able to put Belmont Football back on the map and to be apart of the success that they had this year. They are a great group.”
Belmont……………. 16 0 0 0 – 16
Newman Catholic… 21 7 13 8 – 49
NC – Stephan, 51 pass from B. Bates (McCarthy kick)
NC – T. Bates, 6 run (McCarthy kick)
B – Riley Christensen, 1 run (Christensen run)
NC – Zeimetz, 15 pass from Ackermann (McCarthy kick)
B – Kolton Westemeier, 85 pass from Waylon Palzkill (Cody Lindholm pass from Christensen)
NC – Stephan, 7 pass from B. Bates (McCarthy kick)
NC – Shaunghnessy, 8 run (kick failed)
NC – B. Bates, 1 run (McCarthy kick)
NC – T. Bates, 60 run (Stephan pass from Ackermann)
Team Stats: First Downs– B 6, NC 25. Rushing– B 23-53; NC 36-178. Passing– B 5-16-3, 117; NC 17-26-0, 272. Fumbles-Lost– B 2-2; NC 0-0. Penalties- B 6-60; NC 2-10.
Belmont Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Riley Christensen, 17-41-1. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Waylon Palzkill, 2-8-1-1, 117. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Kolton Westemeier, 3-91-1.