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WIAA state football: St. Croix Central's Austin Kopacz

Lodi's Jacob Heyroth is tackled by St. Croix Central's Austin Kopacz in the first half of the WIAA Division 4 state high school championship football game between Lodi and St. Croix Central on Thursday, 11/16/17, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin

DIVISION 4 FINAL

Hammond St. Croix Central (13-0) vs. Racine St. Catherine’s (13-0), 7 p.m. Thursday

How they got here: Racine St. Catherine’s rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to score in the final minute for a 30-28 victory over Lakeside Lutheran. St. Croix Central earned its third straight trip to the finals with a 48-25 win over Little Chute.

About the Panthers: Coach Tony DiSalvo’s St. Croix Central team won the state title in 2016, lost to Lodi in overtime last year and bring their triple-option offense and loaded defense back to Madison. The Panthers have averaged 41.6 points per game, 43.0 in the playoffs, with an offense that has produced three senior 1,000-yard rushers: Ryan Larson (6-1, 220, senior, 1,493 yards, 32 touchdowns); quarterback Austin Kopacz (5-10, 170, 1,110 yards, 17 TDs) and Keagen Berg (5-8, 185, 1,014 yards, 11 TDs). Kopacz also has thrown for 504 yards and five TDs. Two of those players also are all-state defensive players: Larson at inside linebacker (team-high 82 tackles) and Kopacz at defensive back (42 tackles, eight interceptions). Still, DiSalvo said “There’s going to be a few sleepless nights this week, trying to figure out how to defend these guys” from St. Catherine’s. Senior all-state punter Derrick Myer (6-0, 205) has averaged 46 yards per attempt.

About the Angels: Coach Dan Miller’s St. Catherine’s team has been an offensive juggernaut all season, averaging 45.5 points per game with at least 27 points in every outing. The catalyst of that is the Angels’ 6-1, 180-pound, do-it-all senior quarterback, all-state pick Da’Shaun Brown, who leads the team both in passing (1,185 yards with 25 touchdowns, three interceptions and a .568 completion rate) and rushing (1,419 yards, 20 TDs). “Da’Shaun is more than just a running quarterback,” Miller said. “He can throw the ball very well, he can read very well, he’s such a savvy kid. That’s what makes him electrifying.” Junior running back Isaiah Dodd (5-6, 150) ran 37 times for 221 yards and the winning touchdown against Lakeside. On the year, he has 1,402 yards and 15 scores. Junior linebacker Brian Sharp leads the defense with 130 tackles, all-state senior lineman Adrian Garcia (5-10, 250) has 77 stops, and senior all-state defensive end Daryl Carter (5-11, 250) has 75 stops.

— 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.