OCONOMOWOC — Forty-five minutes after the final seconds ticked away on their memorable season, Jason Ceniti pulled his Madison Memorial senior teammates into a circle in the end zone to reflect on a program-building moment one last time.
Hands locked as one, Ceniti, the senior quarterback, looked at them eye-to-eye — some of them friends since youth football — and drove home a statement they’ll never forget.
“I knew from the bottom of my heart we were going to do great things,” Ceniti said after the Spartans’ season came to an abrupt end, a 49-13 defeat to defending state champion Muskego in the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals Friday night. “We proved everybody wrong. We earned respect.”
All season, the Spartans (12-1) — the first city school in 35 years to advance this deep into the playoffs — certainly did.
On this night, however, Muskego (13-0), ranked No. 1 in the state all season, proved why it very well could win back-to-back titles next week in the state championship game against Bay Port at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Warriors scored touchdowns on seven of their eight possessions — the only thing that stopped perfection was a first-down kneel-down to end the first half.
They ran for 415 yards on 34 carries (12.2-yard average), taking a 21-7 halftime lead without putting the ball in the air.
And they put the game out of reach 13 seconds into the second half, when they recovered a fumble on the kickoff and scored on the next play — their first pass of the game, a 26-yarder from Connor Grohman to all-purpose back Alex Current (149 yards, three total touchdowns).
“This is going to sting,” Memorial coach Michael Harris said. “I’m going to stick with my team and make sure their spirits are up. They’ve worked so hard.”
Muskego immediately showed why the program now has a 27-game winning streak, using a heavy dose of a deceptive wing-T offense to confuse and run right past the opposition.
The Warriors scored on their opening three possessions, ripping off runs of 65, 42 and 59 yards around the ends. They pounded the ball up the middle with junior fullback Joshua Bulski, and then caught the Spartans off guard with Current and fellow speedster Andrew Leair (155 yards on four carries) running around the outside.
The Warriors ran for 209 first-half yards on 16 carries.
“We saw they loaded the box on film and we adjusted to it,” Current said. “We still ran ‘belly’ because ‘belly’ is our main play. It’s just, the outside is just fun to play with.”
Said Harris: “You saw it. They’re fantastic.”
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Memorial, which was shooting for its third title-game berth and the first since 1984, had a pair of promising drives in the opening half, the first which ended on an interception. On the second, the Spartans pulled within 14-7 on an impressive 17-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 2-yard plunge by Kabaris Vasser (146 yards rushing).
But again, Memorial just couldn’t stop Muskego’s ground game. On the next possession, Leair ran for 42 yards on a third-and-1 and eventually plowed in from 2 yards out to make it 21-7 at the half.
Madison Memorial 0 7 0 6 — 13
Muskego 14 7 14 14 — 49
Mu — Grohman 1 run (Dunning kick)
Mu — Current 59 run (Dunning kick)
MM — Vasser 2 run (Kerkhoff kick)
Mu — Leair 2 run (Dunning kick)
Mu — Current 26 pass from Grohman (Dunning kick)
Mu — Current 19 run (Dunning kick)
Mu — Bulski 11 run (Dunning kick)
Mu — Weber 21 run (Dunning kick)
MM — Doll 75 pass from Ceniti (no try attempted)
First downs — MM 13, Mu 16. Rushes-yards — MM 43-207, Mu 34-415. Passing yards — MM 150, Mu 34. Comp-Att-Int — MM 5-9-1, Mu 2-2-0. Total yards — MM 357, Mu 449. Fumbles-lost — MM 4-2, Mu 0-0. Penalties-yards — MM 6-50, Mu 0-0.
Rushing: MM, Vasser 22-146. Mu, Leair 4-155, Current 6-123. Passing: MM, Ceniti 5-9-150-1. Mu, Grohman 2-2-34-0. Receiving: MM, Doll 3-118. Mu, Current 1-26.