MADISON, Wisconsin — Running out of downs or fumbling away opportunities five straight times inside the Greendale 30-yard line, Monona Grove had every reason to get discouraged. But after erasing a 17-6 deficit to beat defending Division 3 champion Waukesha Catholic Memorial in the state quarterfinals, the Silver Eagles had learned to embrace adversity.
"We all kept our heads high," said senior quarterback Tyler Blang. "We were pushing the ball down the field, we were getting into the red zone and we knew we could score on them. We just had to finish our drives."
On their final opportunity, Monona Grove finally finished. Senior tailback Brock Offerdahl's 1-yard plunge with 53 seconds remaining helped Monona Grove erase a 17-0 deficit to beat Greendale, 21-17, in the WIAA Division 3 championship Friday at Camp Randall.
Winning its third state title in its fifth appearance, and setting a program record for wins, Monona Grove (14-0) drove to the Greendale 10, 3 and 20 in the first half. But instead of putting points on the board, the Silver Eagles were scoreless and out of sync.
That changed after halftime thanks to Blang. Throwing for 213 of his 217 yards in the second half, Blang connected with Jackson Riley for a 46-yard score near the end of the third quarter and a 34-yard pass to Trey Powers in the beginning of the fourth quarter to inject some life into the school located just seven miles away.
"Obviously we were frustrated, but we just kept at it," said senior offensive lineman Jaden Gault, a University of Wisconsin recruit. "We just kept grinding it out, like we've done all season."
Getting the ball back with 6:07 remaining, the Silver Eagles went 72 yards in 10 plays, converting a fourth-and-1— improving to 3-for-7 in the game — and a 29-yard pass from Blang to Riley to get inside the Greendale 15. Unlike the previous three quarter, Monona Grove found a way to finish.
"Our kids never quit," said Monona Grove coach Mike Stassi. "I can't make them not quit."
Panthers quarterback Josh Ringleberg threw for 270 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown pass to Nate Miller late in the second quarter. It was the second longest play in the WIAA finals.
Other than that play, however, Greendale (13-1) averaged only 4.5 yards per play, as the Panthers scored a season-low 17 points, were shut out in the second half and missed an opportunity to go up 24-0 at the end of the third quarter when it was ruled receiver Mitchell Brees didn't get his hands underneath a low pass in the end zone.
"We didn't make the plays we needed to," said Greendale coach Rob Stoltz. "It's pretty apparent. We leave a lot of points on the field. A game of inches you can call it. At least two touchdowns that were right in our grasp and we didn't put it away.
"When you don't make the plays you normally make, you're going to get beat by a good team."