Simply magnificent. That's the only way to say it.
Arrowhead's undefeated and No. 1 ranked football team lived up to that lofty billing and more last Friday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison by smashing previously undefeated and No. 3-ranked Sun Prairie in the WIAA Division 1 state championship game, 35-14.
The game wasn't even that close.
The Warhawks scored five touchdowns in an impressive first-half performance and led at the intermission, 35-0. In the first two periods Arrowhead piled up a massive 306 yards of offense while holding the stunned Cardinals to a season-worst 93 yards.
With the clocking running in the second half, the first-team AHS defense held Sun Prairie (34.8 points per game coming into the title contest) to just 14 yards on its first two possessions of the second half before second-year coach Greg Malling started clearing his bench. Sun Prairie finally scored with 4:14 to play and then scored a second time with just two seconds remaining in the game.
"This was just an unbelievable group of guys from the moment the season ended last year to tonight," Malling said. "The seniors led. It was truly their team. With the talent we had up and down the roster, anybody could have coached this group. They ran themselves. It's just a great group of kids. As much as we love winning the state championship, it's kind of sad for me that it's over and the kids won't be around for a while."
The Warhawks set six state records and won their fifth state championship since 1993. Arrowhead had now won 47 WIAA state team championships.
By finishing the year with a 13-0 mark, the 2012 Warhawks became just the fifth football team in the 58-year history of the school to go undefeated. The others were 1967, 1994, 1996 and 2007.
Big second quarter
While Arrowhead's defense forced Sun Prairie to punt on its first three posses sions of the game, the Warhawks scored on their first possession, putting together a three-play, 40-yard drive. The touchdown came on a 33-yard pass from senior quarterback Brady Kelliher to junior receiver Ricky Finco. That drive was set up when junior linebacker Sam Seonbuchner blocked a Sun Prairie punt less 90 seconds into the game.
Leading just 7-0 after the first period, the Warhawks broke the game wide open in the second period, putting up a Division 1 state record 28 points in the quarter. Suddenly it was 35-0 at halftime and the game was over.
Senior end Brandon Kim started that avalanche of points by catching a 3-yard touchdown pass from fellow senior Dom Todarello. Less than two minutes later, senior running back Steve Radeztsky caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Kelliher, and that was followed by an 11-yard TD run Kelliher.
Arrowhead capped off that monstrous second period by scoring again with 63 seconds remaining in the half. Senior Kenny Finco caught a 37-yard pass from Kelliher for their final points of the game. As an indication of how well things were going, that pass was originally intended for Ty Jager but was overthrown. Finco, about five yards behind Jager, caught the ball and ran the final 15 yards into the end zone.
"I think we were a little nervous at the start of the game," said Kelliher, who finished with 15 completions in 22 attempts. "I know I was a little nervous. But the guys in the line and the coaches were able to calm me down and things went very well for us, especially in the second quarter."
Defense shines again
While the offense did its job, so did the defense. Sun Prairie couldn't do a thing against the first unit. On their first 10 possessions, which stretched into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals had just 107 yards and seven first downs.
Besides his blocked punt, Seonbuchner also had an interceptions and five tackles. Jackson Abresch also had an interception, his sixth in the last three games. Other turning in big plays were Billy Hirschfeld, Logan Rupard, Matt Seitz, Taylor Ripplinger, Andy Hessler, Charlie Reuteman, Alex Sandstrom, Brian Sesolak and Alex Romenesko.
"We've got a lot of pride in how we play defense," Sandstrom said. "We know what the guys on offense can do. But we can play football, too. Everyone on defense looks out for each other. If one guy lets down, the rest of us just pick him up. That's the way it's been all year, and the way it was again tonight. Standing here in Camp Randall Stadium after winning the state championship, it's an unbelievable feeling. I'll never forget this."
As he quietly celebrated with his team after the awards ceremony, Malling said winning the state championship might not settle in for a few days.
"Right now all I can think about is our senior class," the second year coach said. "The seniors set the tone as far as selfless play goes. It didn't matter, freshman, senior, junior or sophomore, they don't care, as long as we win."
And win they did.
Arrowhead 35, Sun Prairie 14
AHS - Ricky Finco 33-yard pass from Brady Kelliher (Trevor Ostling kick)
AHS - Brandon Kim 3-yard pass from Dom Todarello (Ostling kick)
AHS - Steve Radeztsky 10-yard pass from Kelliher (Ostling kick)
AHS - Kelliher 11-yard run (Ostling kick)
AHS - Kenny Finco 37-yard pass from Kelliher (Ostling kick)
SP - Ryan Curran 6-yard run (Dustin Wunderlin kick)
SP - Brandon Isabell 34-yard pass from Ben Havlicek (Wunderlin kick)
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