Almond-Bancroft football falls in Level 1 Playoffs
By John Kemmeter
Fourth-seeded Almond (7-4) had its season come to an end with a 56-13 loss to fifth-seeded Hilbert/Stockbridge (6-4) in a WIAA Division 7 Level 1 Playoff Game Friday, Oct. 20.
“It’s tough,” said senior running back/linebacker Derek Baumgartner. “I wish we could’ve come out in the first quarter a little better.
“But it was a young group, and hopefully they learn from this,” he said.
“They were a little too physical for us,” said Almond-Bancroft football head coach Andrew Bradley. “We’re so young up front, and that’s been our Achilles heel, stopping the run against physical teams, and it came back to bite us again tonight.
“But our kids gave everything they had,” he said. “We made some plays early, but just had a hard time stopping the run game.”
Hilbert scored on a 16-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead, while Almond answered with a 55-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jon Perrin to junior running back/wide receiver Noah Kollock to make it 7-6 after the extra-point kick was no good.
Hilbert scored on a 16-yard touchdown run and a 39-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter to take a 21-6 lead, and then added a 36-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to go up 28-6.
The Eagles scored on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Perrin to junior running back/wide receiver Zach Bunders in the second quarter to cut their deficit to 28-13 after the extra-point kick from Kollock.
“We have some athletes, and I think we caught them off-guard a little bit with a couple of the pass plays,” said Bradley. “Big plays have been part of what we’ve been doing over the last four, five years, and it got us two big scores early to keep us in the game.
“We had opportunities in the pass game later, but we had to be perfect, and we just quite weren’t perfect on a couple of routes and throws,” he said. “But first half we stayed with them a little bit, and we were able to do some things offensively.”
However, Hilbert scored on an 18-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to carry a 35-13 lead into halftime, and then put the game away in the third quarter, as it scored on a pair of four-yard touchdown runs to go up 49-13, and added a 46-yard touchdown run to close the scoring on a 56-13 win.
Hilbert combined to rush for 339 yards and seven touchdowns on 36 carries, while Perrin completed 5-of-14 passes for 135 yards, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, Kollock caught four passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, and Baumgartner rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries.
Before the final play of the game, Bradley pulled Baumgartner to let the team’s lone senior get an ovation from the home crowd in his last football game for Almond.
“I love this game,” said Baumgartner. “I’ve been a part of some great things; I’ve played with some great players.
“Every teammate I’ve ever had, I want to thank them, because they taught me from a young age, and I’m glad I got to teach these young guys, and hopefully they figured out how to do it right,” he said. “They’re a young team and they’ve got stuff to learn, but they’re going to be fun to watch the next couple of years.”
“We’re definitely going to miss him, with what he’s done for us the last four years,” said Bradley. “But we’ve got everyone else back, and the skill guys that we have, we’ll take to bat with anybody.
“Obviously up front, it will be a big focus off-season to get bigger and stronger,” he said. “But Derek’s going to be a tough one to replace.”
Baumgartner broke into the Eagles’ starting lineup as a freshman at cornerback and led the state with seven interceptions before he missed five games with an injury, as Almond went on to finish 11-2 and advanced to the WIAA Division 7 State Semifinals for the first time in school history.
“To come in as a freshman and have all of those interceptions, and miss the last two regular season games and three playoff games, and he’s got 18 career interceptions, he’s just been an animal,” said Bradley. “And that’s without talking about his offense.”
Baumgartner also earned a starting spot at running back as a sophomore and rushed for 1,086 yards and 20 touchdowns on 111 carries for the Eagles’ Conference Championship team that finished 11-1 after a loss in the Level 3 Playoffs in 2015.
As a junior, he was named Honorable Mention All-State by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) at running back last year after he rushed for 1,241 yards and 26 touchdowns on 189 carries when Almond went 7-3.
This season, Baumgartner also spent time at quarterback after the Eagles lost three-year starter Wyatt Richtmyre from last year, while he moved from cornerback to linebacker on defense to help the team.
Almond reached the playoffs this year for the sixth consecutive season, as Baumgartner finished with 1,034 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on 161 carries despite missing one game due to an early-season injury, and finished as the program’s all-time leader in touchdowns.
“He’s got 3,500 career yards rushing, and over 60 touchdowns,” said Bradley. “He has been Almond-Bancroft football here for a while, and he did it as a sophomore when we had that nice senior class, and he has been a big part of what we’ve done for four years.
“He’s a leader, and he’s everything for us,” he said. “He’ll be so tough to replace.”
“My favorite memories have been playing for coach Bradley, and playing with all of the guys I’ve played with,” said Baumgartner. “I’ve played with some great guys, some guys I look up to a lot, and I’m just honored to play with them, and I’m honored to play for this community.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “I’ve loved every second of it.”