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WIAA football photo: St. Mary's Springs' Cade Christensen

Markesan's Bryce Plagenz kicks a 32-yard field goal with 2:08 left in the first quarter of Friday's WIAA Division 6 semifinal against Fond du Lac St. Mary's Springs while teammate Tyler Lawson blocks Springs' Cade Christensen.

DIVISION 5 FINAL

Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (13-0) vs. Stratford (11-2), 4 p.m. Thursday

How they got here: Springs earned a 48-25 win over Little Chute last week to return to the final, this time in Division 5. The Ledgers earned the Division 6 title last year, the school’s seventh overall, with a 35-12 win over Iola-Scandinavia. It’s Springs’ eighth finals trip in the last 10 years, and 11th overall. Stratford earned its ninth finals trip with a 22-6 victory over Stratford/Marshfield Columbus last week.

About the Ledgers: Coach Bob Hyland, in his 48th season (at 463-105, the winningest coach in state history), has ridden a tremendous defense to another finals berth. A win would give him a record eight state titles (possibly tied with Edgar’s Jerry Sinz if the Wildcats win earlier Thursday). The Ledgers’ current crop of seniors last lost only one game over the last three years. … The Ledgers started this year with four shutouts and gave up only five touchdowns and a field goal in the regular season. Then, on the day of Springs’ first playoff game, junior tackle Trent Schueffner died from injuries suffered in a duck hunting accident. Schueffner’s family and teammates requested that the game go on as scheduled, and the Ledgers scored 62 points — Schueffner’s uniform number — in a win over Whitefish Bay Dominican. … Junior Marcus Orlandoni (5-11, 210) rushed for 1,226 yards and 20 TDs, and leads the defense with 114 tackles from his linebacker spot. Senior quarterback Mitchell Waechter (6-3, 185), a fourth-year starter and coaches’ all-state pick, has thrown for 1,898 yards and 17 scores and rushed for 637 yards. Senior tackle Jacob Schrauth (6-3, 235) is a coaches’ all-state pick, as is junior outside linebacker Jake Hock (6-3, 190, 61 tackles).

About the Tigers: Stratford is a seven-time state champion which has won six in a row (in Division 6) from 2003 to 2008. Jason Tubbs was an assistant coach on those teams, and now leads the Tigers into the final as the head coach. The Tigers have averaged 38.3 points per playoff game, led by a newly healthy Kade Ehrke. The 5-10, 200-pound senior running back suffered an ankle injury last season that led to surgery, and he didn’t return until early this season. Back to full strength now, Ehrke — “one of the strongest kids on the team,” Tubbs said — has rushed for 690 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three weeks, including 303 yards against Spencer/Marshfield Columbus last week. “They’ve been a different team these last four weeks,” Tubbs said. … Junior all-state lineman Ben Barten, a 6-5, 255-pounder, has committed to the University of Wisconsin. He leads the defense with 79 tackles, six sacks and an interception. … Cousins Justin Schoenherr (5-9, 175, junior middle linebacker) and Dylan Schoenherr (6-2, 240, senior) have added 74 and 70 tackles, respectively.

— Art Kabelowsky

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Wisconsin State Journal prep sports editor Art Kabelowsky has traversed the state to cover sports while working for daily papers in Fort Atkinson, Racine, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Baraboo.