Coming into Thursday night's class 11A championship tilt at the Dakota Dome, West
Central and their fans were no strangers to playing title games in that building.
Madison, on the other hand had never played in a championship game before this night,
but had put together their best team in years based upon the passing of quarterback
Jacob Giles and the running of Rush Milne, who had been rolling up the touchdowns
throughout the season. Madison won these teams' first meeting 24-21 on Sept. 27, in game
where Madison's victory was never really in doubt.
But it was West Central that opened the game with the ball, and it did not take long for
Milne to put his footprint on this game, shucking a blocker and tackling Cody Bussell
for a 5-yard loss on the game's second play. West Central wen three-and-out on their
first possession, and Madison ended up doing the same. The Trojans then took the ball
and drove 58 yards before coming up short on a fourth down pass to Cole Tirrel. After a
Madison false start, Giles drew in the West Central pass rush and dumped a checkdown
pass to Milne, who did the rest, breaking a few tackles and going 63 yards for the
game's opening score. Bradyn Gilbert's kick was short, and Madison held a 6-0 lead with
4:35 in the first quarter.
West Central quickly answered that touchdown with one of their own, capping an 8-play,
62 yard drive with a Tirrel strecth play to the left that went for a 25-yard West
Central touchdown. The extra point gave the Trojans a 7-6 lead after the first quarter.
Madison opened up the passing game even more in the second quarter, and also tried to
turn Milne loose on the ground. Madison ended up taking the lead with 10:34 left in the
half when Giles took off with the ball on a designed pass and beat the West Central
defenders to the left pylon, scoring on a 16 yard touchdown run. Giles tacked on the 2
point conversion, and Madison led 14-7.
Madison's defense locked down and held West Central on the next possession, and then
took 11 plays to go 70 yards to open a 14-point lead when Milne scored his second
touchdown of the game on an 8-yard touchdown run through the middle. The extra point was
good, and the Bulldogs held a 21-7 lead with 5:52 before halftime.
West Central did cut that lead in half before halftime when quarterback Noah Matson
threw a backward pass to Jace Hansich, who then threw to Bussell, who was wide open in
the end zone for the 20-yard score. Madison still took a 21-14 lead into halftime, and
had the ball to begin the second half.
West Central's defense came out ready in the second half, throwing most of their defense
at stopping Milne. That worked, and Madison punted, leaving West Central to take the
ball at their own 7 with 6:34 to play in the 3rd. West Central again went three and out
to open the half, and the Bulldogs took over in West Central territory.
The Trojans held
strong though, and got good runs by both Bussell and Cody Miller to move the ball to the
Madison 28 at the end of the third quarter.
The Trojans scored on the second play of the
fourth, a 15 yard touchdown run to Tirrel, which tied the game at 21 with 11:35 to play.
After the teams traded punts, Madison faced fourth down on their own 13, and bailed
themselves out with a successful fake punt, which put the ball on their own 39. Madison
was again going three-and-out, but West Central jumped offside on fourth and six, making
it fourth-and-one. Amazingly, the Trojans stopped Milne short of the first down, and
took the ball at the Madison 48-yard line with 5:01 to play. Both defenses took over
down the stretch, but West Central pushed all in and again hit on the double pass from
Hansich to Bussell for a 39 yard touchdown pass that gave the Trojans a 28-21 lead with
19 seconds left. Madison's last-ditch drive came up short and West Central took their
12th state championship back to Hartford with a 28-21 win. Bussell was named Joe Robbie
Most Outstanding Player with 63 yards rushing and two touchdown receptions for another
SCORE BY QUARTERS 1 2 3 4-FINAL
WEST CENTRAL 7 7 0 14-28
MADISON 6 15 0 0-21
RUSHING: WEST CENTRAL: Tirrel 13-90-2TD; Bussell 15-63-0; Matson 10-59-0; Miller 8-39-0.
MADISON: Milne 20-58-1TD; Giles 11-41-1; Hemmer 2-10-0.
PASSING: WEST CENTRAL: Hanisch 2-3-59-2TD-0INT; Matson 7-17-36-0TD-0INT. MADISON: Giles
RECEIVING: WEST CENTRAL: Bussell 2-59-2TD; Hanisch 3-20-0; Tirrel 2-11-0; Siebert 1-6-0;
Johanssen 1-(-1)-0. MADISON: Nordling 7-115-0TD; Milne 2-89-1; Kasuske 1-13-0; Hemmer 1
-10-0; Williams 1-7-0.