Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – Florence (11-0) capped an undefeated season by winning the State 8-player football championship with a 32-30 victory over Thorp (9-3) at South Wood County Stadium Saturday.
The game-winning score was a 1-yard plunge by quarterback William Kelley, his third rushing touchdown of the game, with 7:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
An evenly played first half led to a 14-14 deadlock at intermission. Braden Schultze put Thorp on the board first with a 22-yard pass from Denzel Sutton to give the Cardinals an 8-0 lead with 7:19 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bobcats tied that game on their ensuing drive with a 4-yard run by Logan Schuls, who also added the two-point conversion at the 4:26 point of the opening quarter. Schuls scored again on a 4-yard run at 9:09 remaining in the second quarter to put Florence ahead at 14-8 after the failed two-point attempt.
Sutton connected with Logan Hanson on a 2-yard scoring completion to draw the Cardinals into a 14-14 tie following the missed two-point try.
On the first play from scrimmage after halftime, Sutton sprinted up the middle and raced 70 yards for a touchdown at the 11:41 mark of the third quarter to give the Cardinals a 22-14 advantage after the two-point conversion.
After both teams turned the ball over on downs, they traded touchdowns throughout the remainder of the third quarter. Florence cut its deficit to 22-20 following a 24-yard scamper by Kelley, but the two-point effort failed. Sutton scored his second rushing touchdown of the quarter on a 23-yard run to give the Cardinals a 30-20 lead at 3:42 to play in the period following the failed two-point conversion.
Kelley cut the Bobcats’ deficit to 30-26 with 3:21 to play in the third quarter when he dashed through the middle of the line and raced 64 yards for a touchdown. His go-ahead score was the only points scored in the final quarter. The Florence defensed stopped two Thorp potential go-ahead drives in the final period with interceptions.
Florence held the edge in total offense, outgaining Thorp 485-432, including 480 yards rushing, which ranks second most in a State 8-player championship game. The Bobcats dominated the time of possession in the game, controlling the ball for 30:48 compared to 17:12 for the Cardinals.
Schuls led Florence in rushing with 272 yards and two scores, and Kelley rushed for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Kelley also completed just 1-of-5 passes for five yards. Defensively, Joey Holstrom led the team with seven tackles, and Dustin Williams picked off two Thorp passes.
Sutton led the Thorp offense with 355 yards of total offense. He rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and he completed 14-of-22 passes for 220 yards and two scores. Logan Hanson rushed for 77 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards and a score. Schultze led all pass catchers with five receptions for 53 yards, and Landon Penk caught three passes for a game-high 75 yards. Hanson and Sutton also led the Cardinals on defense with 13 and 11.5 tackles, respectively, and Sutton added an interception.
Florence wins the 8-player football title in its first appearance in the championship game, and Thorp finishes runner-up in its first experience at state. The game set a State 8-player championship game attendance record with 1,459 spectators.
Complete Championship Game Statistics