Leading up to last Friday’s showdown with visiting Waunakee’s, the DeForest prep football team had an emotional week. The Norskies had to deal with the death of former legendary coach Jerry Roelke and the announcement that current coach Mike Minick is stepping down after this season.
Even with all of that on their minds, the Norskies pulled together and turned in their best performance of the season in a battle of unbeatens.
“Coach Roelke is looking down at us tonight and I think we made him proud,” Minick said.
DeForest capped off a perfect regular season with an impressive 35-13 Badger North Conference victory over their long-time rivals Waunakee.
“Once we got to about a minute left in the game, I started to cry,” DeForest senior offensive tackle Colby Hartig said. “We have been working for this since the fourth grade, to finally get it is amazing. Ever since our loss to them in the playoffs last year, we have been looking forward to this moment.”
The Norskies improved to 9-0 overall. They finished 7-0 in the Badger North.
“I’m so happy for all the guys,” DeForest senior receiver Lane Larson said. “I love all of them. This has been our dream for a long time and we accomplished it.”
The Norskies will go down in the record books as the final Badger North champions, as the conference is being realigned next season.
“We have worked so hard for this and I’m so happy the moment is finally here,” Norski senior defensive tackle Alonzo Blevins said. “It is the best feeling ever.”
The win snapped the Norskies seven-game losing streak to Waunakee. It is their first win since knocking off the Warriors 14-7 in 2014.
“It is a special moment,” DeForest senior quarterback Trey Schroeder said. “This is for coach Roelke, all the players and all the coaches.”
The 2014 season was also the last time DeForest won a Badger North crown. They shared the title with Mount Horeb.
“It feels so good because we grinded all season for this,” Norski senior Alex Endres said. “It felt great to be able to contribute to the win. All the hard work we have put in through the years has paid off.”
The loss snapped Waunakee’s 34-game Badger North win streak. They finished second in the conference with a 6-1 mark.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Norski senior defensive end Cole Yocum said. “I love all of these guys. At the beginning of the season we dreamed about this moment. They have been at the top of the mountain for a long time and we had to dethrone them.”
Friday’s game was shaping up to be another classic in front of a standing-room only crowd of 3,500 as defense dominated play early on.
The game was scoreless through one quarter of play.
However, Waunakee would strike first with a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Caden Nelson to Jacob Grommon. The Warriors missed the extra-point kick.
The Norskies would answer right before halftime, as quarterback Trey Schroeder tossed a 2-yard scoring strike to Yocum.
Jagger Lokken added the extra-point kick to put DeForest up 7-6 at halftime.
“That was huge to get on the board before halftime,” Minick said.
The Norskies took over the game in the second half. They outscored Waunakee 28-7 in the final two quarters.
Gabe Finley started the second-half surge for DeForest with a 36-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
“We have a smart offensive line and can adjust to any defense,” Hartig said. “We have a lot of weapons, so we just make the holes and they take over.”
The Norskies went up 21-6 after Schroeder hit Lane Larson for a 24-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter.
“I have been throwing to him since the fourth grade,” Schroeder said. “All the summer work we put in is paying off.”
The Warriors answered on the ensuing kickoff, as Adam Ginos returned it 98 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-13.
Following a blocked punt by Yocum that gave DeForest the ball inside the Waunakee 10-yard line, Schroeder ran the ball in from 5 yards out to put the Norskies up 28-13.
“There was a little period where they got back in the game, but that punt block was the big play of the game,” Minick said.
Finley put the finishing touches on the win with a 31-yard touchdown run.
“My line and my coach got me fired up,” Finley said. “The guys up front are my brothers and none of this would be possible without them.”
Finley finished the game with 126-yard rushing and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Schroeder was 13-for-24 passing for 176 yards and two scores. Larson caught nine passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Marlon Cystrunk paced DeForest’s defense with 10 tackles, while Yocum, Edwin Erickson and Trace Grundahl and Devan Morand-Rivers had five each.
Besides the blocked punt, Yocum also had three tackles for loss, including two sacks, while Erickson had two tackles for loss and a sack.
Grundahl, Endres and Logan Engeseth all had an interception in the win.
Nelson led the Warriors on offense. He was 7-of-20 passing for 81 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, to go along with a team-high 78 yards rushing on 16 carries.
DeForest received more good news on Friday, as the WIAA announced the playoff field and the Norskies dropped to Division 3. They have been in Division 2 in their previous 20 appearances. They were last in Division 3 in 1992.
The Norskies will be making their 30th trip to the WIAA playoffs. They have qualified the last 13 years in a row.
DeForest earned the top seed in their playoff pod and will host eighth-seeded McFarland at Stalder Field at 7 p.m. this Friday.
“We are going to have a 1-0 mentality every week,” Endres said. “The most important game is the next game.”