MIDDLETON — When Tim Fritz’s 3rd-and-11 pass from the 26 was intercepted by Kyle Roberts at the Randolph 5-yard line with just 2:39 remaining in Friday’s WIAA Division 7 state semifinal, it appeared Potosi’s sensational senior quarterback’s prep career was over.
Two wild minutes later Fritz, his Chieftain teammates and the entire southwest Wisconsin community with a population of 689 were on top of the world after Potosi scored 16 points in the final 1:35 to earn an improbable 30–20 come-from-behind victory that secured the Chieftains’ (12–0) first state football appearance and absolutely gutted the Rockets (11–1).
Fritz, who also lost two fumbles earlier in the game, earned the ultimate redemption and forever etched his name in Potosi football lore by throwing a 51-yard game-winning touchdown to junior Chase Kruser with 1:20 remaining, and sealing the improbable comeback with a 40-yard touchdown run on a naked bootleg just 32 seconds later.
“I’m still kind of in shock right now,” said Fritz after the game surrounded by the mob of Potosi fans that had rushed onto the artificial turf at Breitenbach Stadium as the final seconds ticked away. “When we scored that second to last touchdown with Chase, I couldn’t hear anything. My ears were ringing, the crowd was so loud. I looked around, no flags, and I knew we got it.”
“I was confident we were going to stop them and get another chance,” added Fritz. “I didn’t think we’d have, however many chances we had at the end to do that, but that’s what you get when you’ve got good leadership on your team and guys that just play their heart out every game.”
That defensive stop Fritz spoke of following Roberts’ late interception was, however, no guarantee.
Randolph ran the ball twice for seven yards following Potosi’s third turnover of the night, burning two Chieftain timeouts and setting up a pivotal 3rd-and-7 play with 1:41 remaining. A Rocket first down would have cost Potosi its final timeout, and three kneel downs would have ended the Chieftains’ season.
But senior linebacker Spencer Hawes slashed through the Randolph line and stopped senior back Thomas Vander Galien for a two-yard loss to set up fourth down from the 10-yard line.
After Potosi called its final timeout, on fourth-and-six from their own nine-yard line, the Rockets made the decision to take a safety as senior quarterback Jay Peters ran out of their end zone with 1:30 left in the game.
Randolph essentially traded two points for 20 yards of field position and the opportunity to punt without a rush.
Trailing 20–16 senior Jase Udelhofen returned the ensuing free kick to the 49. One play later Fritz and Kruser made history.
“That’s a waggle pass that we hit,” said Potosi head coach Mark Siegert of the eventual game-winning touchdown. “The waggle is something where you have three options. We have the split, and that’s what Hunter [Leibfried] was on, we took the tight end on it all day, and we have to kind of pick when we want to hit that deep post. We didn’t call it. That was a read by Tim. So he just went through his progressions, he saw Chase, and that was it.
“I thought with a minute and 30 left, that was plenty of time for us. I felt good about it, and I think coach [Chad] Infield did just a phenomenal job of calling the offense.”
Kruser beat his man down the middle of the field and with no safety in sight Fritz’s phenomenal pass hit his receiver right in stride near the 20-yard line. Kruser got a block from Leibfried and raced across the goalline untouched. A Fritz extra point made it 23–20 with 80 seconds remaining.
Udelhofen intercepted a deflected Peters pass and two plays later, and with 48 seconds left in the game Fritz took his keeper the distance.
Senior defensive end Mitch Langkamp sacked Peters on Randolph’s next play and linebacker Travis Collins recovered, setting off yet another emphatic celebration along the Potosi sideline.
“That’s the first time we’ve been down all season,” Siegert said. “You never quite know what your team is really, really made of until you’re playing from behind. I think we got a pretty good answer. I can’t say enough good things about these kids.”
Potosi entered the Friday night’s semifinal having given up only 13 first-half points all season, none of which came in the first quarter.
Randolph had that number beat in the first seven minutes as Peters connected with sophomore Duke Vander Galien on a pair of scoring strikes.
Peters hit Vander Gailien on a 9-yard strike 3:42 into the game, then three minutes later the shifty back turned a short pass into a 34-yard touchdown when cut his way through the Potosi defense for a 14–0 lead at the 5:00 mark of the first quarter.
Udelhofen, the Chieftains’ leading rusher was held to 44 yards on 11 carries by the much bigger Rockets, so Potosi turned to bruising fullback Alex Wright.
Wright finished with 23 carries for 125 yards, including a pair of touchdowns, the first a 9-yard run with 57 seconds left in the first.
Potosi, which finished the game with 248 yards rushing on 44 attempts, tied the game on Wright’s 6-yard run with 11:54 to play, but Vander Galien and the Rockets responded less than 90 seconds later.
The Randolph sophomore caught another short pass near the left sideline, and similar to his second touchdown, cut all the way back to the other sideline to complete the sensational 39-yard scoring play.
Vander Galien finished the game with five catches for 114 yards and all three Randolph touchdowns.
For Potosi Fritz finished with 76 yards rushing and also completed 8 of 19 passing attempts for 199 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Kruser was the team’s top receiver with four catches for 86 yards, while Hunter Leibfried had two catches for 79 yards.
The Potosi defense was led by Udelhofen, who had 14 tackles and an interception. Spencer Hawes and Chase Kruser each had 12 stops.
With the win the Chieftains punched their ticket to Thursday’s Division 7 state championship where they will face Glenwood City (10-2) at 10 a.m. at Camp Randall Stadium.
For Siegert’s Chieftains playing in Madison on Nov. 15 has been the main goal since weight-lifting sessions began in June.
“It’s incredible. I don’t really know what to think. It’s awesome,” said Udelhofen amid the jubilant throng of Potosi fans.
The thought of finally taking a team to the state championship was even more than coach Siegert could comprehend amid the celebration.
“I have a hard time even believing it’s happening to be honest with you,” Siegert said with a huge smile. “I don’t know, I just can’t believe this is really real.”
WIAA Division 7, Level 4 Playoff
Potosi 30, Randolph 20
(from Saturday, Nov. 10 @ Middleton)
Potosi 7 0 0 23 — 30
Randolph 14 0 0 6 — 30
R: Duke VanderGalien 9 pass from Jay Peters (Thomas Vander Galien kick)
R: D. VanderGalien 34 pass from Peters (T. Vander Galien kick)
P: Alex Wright 9 run (Tim Fritz kick)
P: Wright 6 run (Fritz kick)
R: D. VanderGalien 39 pass from Peters (kick failed)
P: Safety, Peters ran out of end zone
P: Chase Kruser 51 pass from Fritz (Fritz kick)
P: Fritz 40 run (Fritz kick)
First downs: P 13, R 14. Rushing: P 41-250, R 35-149. Passing yards: P 193, R 191. Passes: P 9-18-1, R 10-19-3. Fumbles-lost: P 3-2, R 4-1. Penalties-yards: P 5-25, R 4-40.
Rushing: P: Alex Wright 23-120; R: Thomas Vander Gailen 28-138. Passing: P: Tim Fritz 9-18-1, 193; R: Jay Peters 10-19-3, 191. Receiving: P: Chase Kruser 4-81; R: Duke Vander Galien 5-114.