Almond-Bancroft wins back-to-back Conference Titles
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
The Almond-Bancroft High School football team won its second consecutive Central Wisconsin Conference (CWC)-Small Title outright with a victory over Pacelli Thursday, Oct. 10.
The Division 7 sixth-ranked Eagles got out to a 24-0 lead in the first half at Community Stadium at Goerke Field, and went on to a 38-0 win over Pacelli (2-6, 1-3) to finish the conference season unbeaten at 5-0 and improve to 8-0 overall.
“We did a nice job offensively of just pounding it, using Jackson (Beggs) and Danny (Baumgartner) and using our size and strength, and kind of wore them down there in the second half,” said Almond-Bancroft football head coach Andrew Bradley. “But it’s a heck of an accomplishment for these kids, to get Conference Championships back-to-back.”
“Credit to Almond, they’re talented,” said Pacelli football head coach Drew Nelson. “They’ve got some kids that are pretty special.”
After wrapping up at least a share of the CWC-Small Title with a 40-0 win at Wild Rose Oct. 4, Almond looked to win the Conference Championship outright at Pacelli, which needed a win over the Eagles Thursday and a win Wild Rose in the regular-season finale to be able to clinch a playoff berth.
Almond struck on the first drive of the game Thursday night, as senior running back Jackson Beggs scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 7:41 left in the first quarter, and then ran in the two-point conversion to give the team an 8-0 lead.
“Going into the wind, we knew we were going to have to run it a little bit, and then they get a touchback on the kickoff,” said Bradley. “Two weeks ago against Cambria we went 90 yards on the first drive, and here we go 80 yards, just pounded Jackson and Danny and used our strength on our offensive line, and just continued that the rest of the game.”
On the Eagles’ next possession, Beggs broke free through the left side for a 77-yard touchdown run with 3:11 to go in the first quarter, and junior quarterback Daniel Baumgartner scored on the two-point conversion run to make it 16-0.
It stayed that way until late in the second quarter, as Almond faced fourth down and five from the Pacelli 29-yard line, when Baumgartner threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to senior running back/wide receiver Matt Lukas with 2:15 remaining in the half to give the Eagles a 24-0 lead after the two-point conversion run from Beggs.
“We changed up our defensive game plan about the second drive into the game, because we knew we’ve got to go to the five-man front, the 5-3,” said Nelson. “And then they start throwing the ball a little bit, and you sit in Cover 3, trying to make plays, and you can’t put more guys in the box.”
After Almond senior defensive lineman Edward Pena intercepted a pass from Pacelli sophomore quarterback Drew Kedrowicz at the Pacelli 37-yard line midway through the third quarter, Beggs scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 6:00 to play in the third quarter and Baumgartner added the two-point conversion run to make it 32-0.
Beggs scored again on a one-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 38-0 and bring on the running clock, as Almond went on to close out a 38-0 win.
“I’m proud of the way they played tonight,” said Bradley. “We didn’t punt, and offensively we were pretty darn good.”
Sophomore running back Brycen Cashin rushed for 120 yards on 25 carries to lead the Pacelli offense, while sophomore fullback Nick Schroeder had 52 yards rushing on 13 carries, and Kedrowicz completed 1-of-3 passes for two yards, with zero touchdowns and one interception.
Junior linebacker Jeremiah Auer finished with 15 tackles, Cashin had 10 tackles and Kedrowicz had an interception to lead the defense for the Cardinals.
“We moved the ball pretty well,” said Nelson. “We went back and forth a little bit, but we’ve got to finish, and you’ve got to put the effort in at the end to get those balls in the end zone.”
Baumgartner rushed for 42 yards on eight carries and completed 1-of-3 passes for 29 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, Lukas had 52 yards rushing on five carries and caught one pass for 29 yards and one touchdown, and Beggs rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries, as Almond finished with 411 yards rushing on 45 carries in the win.
“As long as we have a nice hole for him, he’ll make something happen,” said Pena of Beggs. “And if we don’t, he’ll still make something happen.”
“I’d say like 90 percent of the time, they’ve got a beautiful hole for me to run through, overpowering the other team almost every play,” said Beggs. “It’s great.”
The Conference Title was the third for Almond since 2015, as the Eagles outscored their opponents by a 174-12 margin during CWC-Small play this season.
“It means a ton,” said senior offensive lineman/linebacker Gage Meddaugh. “Coming into the season, we didn’t really know where we were going to go with it.
“And we just kept going, kept pounding, grinding,” he said.
“Coming in, after losing a heck of a senior group last year, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect,” said Bradley. “But the kids, from Day 1, really busted it, and we’ve played well throughout this middle stretch and beat some good teams.
“I’m very proud of the kids, the way they’ve worked day in and day out, making adjustments in game, and just the offensive line and the way they’ve blocked,” he said. “They were basically our strength coming back, along with Jackson, and teams knew what we were going to do, but we were still able to do it.”