MADISON, Wisconsin — Rick Muellenberg came in with a clear plan: Control the clock, limit possessions, play strong defense.
Bangor did everything their veteran coach wanted, and the Cardinals won the WIAA Division 7 championship with a 20-14 victory over Pepin/Alma on Thursday.
"We just came up big when we had to," Muellenberg said. "We did that time after time. My hats off to our guys playing defense."
Andrew Piske rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including what turned out to be the decisive score that put Bangor up 20-14 with 8:57 to play.
Pepin/Alma cut the deficit to 6 on a 1-yard touchdown run by receiver Caiden Haake with 2:40 left, but Bangor ran out the clock after recovering an onside kick.
Playing in the state finals for the first time, Bangor had jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Piske and 23-yard scoring pass from Kellen Kravik to tight end Sam Johnson.
Pepin/Alma pulled to within 14-7 in the second quarter when Haake scored on a 54-yard screen pass from quarterback Logan Carroll.
But the Eagles had three drives stall in Cardinals territory, including turning the ball over on downs twice.
"We'd get a drive going and something would happen where we'd end up with long yardage," Pepin/Alma coach Mike Olson said. "We had some opportunities on their side that we just couldn't capitalize."
Pepin/Alma hadn't been held under 42 points in the regular season, averaging 49.7 points per game.
Eagles running back Trevor Heit came in averaging 12.2 yards per carry, but Bangor held the senior to just 73 yards on 23 carries.
"Our defense has been phenomenal," Piske said. "They make big plays when we need them to. They came through again today."
It was the second straight year for Pepin/Alma to fall short in the Division 7 championship game for the second consecutive season.
"Just to get to state two years in a row is an accomplishment," Olson said. "That's a tremendous feat for these guys. Obviously it did not end as we wanted. We needed the ball one more time. We just couldn't get that stop at the end."