MADISON, Wisconsin — Stanley-Boyd's area of least experience entering the season turned out to be its biggest strength in the biggest game of the season.
Defensive back Dusty Spaeth's 26-yard interception return in the second quarter proved to be the game-winning score and the Orioles' defensive line delivered a critical fourth-down stop late in the game to preserve a 21-16 victory over Lancaster in the WIAA Division 5 championship Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium.
"Our defense played outstanding and that's where we returned the least experience," said Orioles coach Jeff Koenig. "They've really done a great job. Our defensive staff has done an outstanding job teaching the guys, buying into everything they do."
The Orioles (14-0) advanced to the state title game based on their offense, which averaged 43.7 points per game, had scored over 60 points three times and hadn't been held to fewer than 21 points all season. So when its offense went scoreless the final 43:45, Stanley-Boyd's defense was finally given center stage.
With Lancaster (13-1) having a chance to tie the game after driving inside the Stanley-Boyd 20 with two minutes left, the Orioles stuffed tailback Tyler Glass — the team's leading rusher at 115.6 yards per game — for no gain for fourth-and-1 from the 11.
"It means a lot," said Spaeth. "Our guys up front, the linebackers, they put in the time and effort in the summer. Lift weights, getting faster, it all leads to this, getting down and dirty in the trenches and stopping them."
After taking a safety with 12 seconds left, Stanley-Boyd sacked quarterback Nathan Tranel on the final play to set off the wild celebration. The Flying Arrows averaged 52 points a game during the regular season and averaging 38 points per contest in their first four playoff games, but finished with their lowest point total since last season's 16-7 state title loss to Amherst.
"I couldn't get a yard," said Glass, fighting back tears. "I wanted the ball, I thought I could get a yard (and) I couldn't do it. It's been our bread and butter all season."
Stanley-Boyd, which won its third state title and first since 1995, scored on its first two drives thanks to senior captain Craig Mason, who capped a 7-play, 72-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch and an 8-play, 69-yard drive with a 1-yard run. From that point on, the defense took over with Spaeth reading Tranel and jumping an out route for the score.
It was one of three interceptions that Stanley-Boyd created to stifle drives, and gave the Orioles a 21-0 lead.
"We said all season that we have a lot of special kids on our team," said Koenig. "There's not one guy or two guys, but a bunch of special kids. Dusty is one of those kids who stepped up. He's made great plays all season on both sides of the ball. It's a tribute to what a great athlete he is."
Despite outgained Stanley-Boyd, 344-311, Lancaster finished runner-up at state for the third straight season.
"I'm so sick of it," said Glass. "It's really frustrating."