WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. – Newman Catholic (12-0) won its second consecutive State 8-Player Football Tournament championship by ambushing Belmont (10-2) 54-0 at South Wood County Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Fighting Cardinals’ defense and the Braves’ costly turnovers early in the game was the catalyst in the lopsided shutout. Belmont gained just 13 yards of total offense in the game and turned the ball over five times.
After recovering a Belmont fumble on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Conner Krach ran the ball into the end zone from 31 yards on the first play of the Cardinals’ drive. Matthew Hamilton kicked the point-after to give the Fighting Cardinals a 7-0 at the 11:41 mark of the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Cardinals recovered a kick that ricocheted off a Braves’ player to gain possession at the Newman Catholic 46-yard line. Three-plays later, Krach sprinted 41 yards for his second rushing touchdown of game with 9:52 remaining in the quarter. The point-after extended the Newman Catholic lead to 14-0.
The next Newman Catholic touchdown was set up with a Belmont errant snap from center on a punt attempt, resulting in a turnover on downs at the Braves’ 7-yard line. Three plays later, Thomas Bates took a handoff and ran around the right end on a 5-yard scoring play to increase the lead to 21-0 with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Newman Catholic scored again to make it 28-0 early in the second quarter on a 25-yard pass from Krach to Bates at the 11:53 point of the second quarter. Less than two minutes later, Krach added a third rushing touchdown on a 1-yard plunge to increase the Fighting Cardinals’ lead to 35-0 with 9:58 remaining in the first half.
Bates hauled in a short pass and rambled 45 yards down the sideline for his second receiving touchdown of the game with 5:18 remaining in the second quarter. The point-after was missed, but Newman Catholic was well in control of the game at 41-0. Bates ended the first-half scoring on a 2-yard run, capping a 53-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Fighting Cardinals a 47-0 halftime advantage.
With a running clock implemented throughout the second half, reserve quarterback Tyler Ackermann finished the scoring on a 13-yard run with 5:01 remaining in the game.
Bates and Krach each eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. Bates rushed for 108 yards and two scores, and Krach ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Krach also completed 4-of-6 passes for 86 yards and a pair of scores. Bates caught three passes for 81 yards and an additional two touchdowns.
Belmont was led on offense by Noah Fritz, who ran 10 times for 25 yards, and Kolby Lancaster who completed 2-of-6 passes for 11 yards. Brady Reichers was the leading receiver with a catch for nine yards.
The Fighting Cardinals compiled 320 yards of total offense in the game, including 234 yards rushing. They held a 14-2 advantage in first downs and accumulated more than double the possession time of Belmont.
Ed Gustafason led the Fighting Cardinals' defense with nine tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage to go with two fumble recoveries and a pass deflection. Belmont was led defensively by Casin Carey with eight tackles. Lancaster and Logan Hardyman chipped in with seven tackles apiece.
Newman Catholic won its second championship in its third appearance in the title game. Belmont finishes runner-up in its first State Final experience.
Championship Game Boxscore & Statistics