Mustangs bow out in state semi-final heartbreaker
11/11/2018 10:03 PM

STANLEY – Fate dealt a nasty blow to the Little Chute Mustangs football team here Friday, and it wasn’t just the brutal weather that ripped at the team’s spirit.

Following an unlikely but fortuitous start, a suddenly-dominant St. Croix Central Panthers team turned the momentum en route to a 48-25 decision over the Mustangs in the WIAA Division 4 semi-final game Friday, ending arguably the most successful season in Little Chute history.

In a game where likely neither team had ever played in as harsh of conditions, the Panthers persevered to earn their third consecutive trip to the state championship game. It is also the same school that stopped Little Chute two years ago at the same level to advance to state.

With a game-time temperature of 19 degrees and gusting winds, it was an environment that few Wisconsin high school teams ever experience. It may have played into the hands of Little Chute at the start of the game.

Less than four minutes into the game, Little Chute jumped to a 13-0 lead. Two Mustangs touchdowns were a result of two St. Croix Central lost fumbles. Bryce Schumacher scored each of the touchdowns with a one-yard run and 24-yard pass reception from Noah Mueller.

The Panthers fought back, paced by the strong running of Ryan Larson. He had three touchdown runs in the second quarter that gave St. Croix Central a 21-13 lead.

Schumacher countered with a four-yard touchdown run in the third, but Larson again retaliated with an 86-yard race for a 27-19 Panthers lead at 7:42 of the third.

Schumacher scored once more for the Mustangs, but the Panthers added three touchdowns in the fourth to end Little Chute’s season.

In reflecting on the game, Ryczkowski was surprised at its start, but also impressed with how the Panthers bounced back.

“No way I thought the game was going to start like that,” he said. “But great teams respond and that’s what St. Croix did.”

He praised his team, and especially the seniors, for its successful season.

“They followed a couple of good groups before them, so they saw how to do things the right way. I can’t imagine a better group for the sophomores and juniors to look at and to see how to handle themselves and how to practice.

“If they can’t learn from this group, I don’t know who they can learn from. I’m just really honored that we had so many great kids in that senior class.”

Player comments:

Bryce Schumacher:

“It’s just tough to go out an entire season, try as hard as you can and still come up a little short. I know everybody on the team, we’re proud of what we’ve done, but we’ve just still got to think of what could have been.

“Everybody was just fantastic. It was the greatest year of my life playing football.”

Alex Baeten:

“Definitely a tough way to go out, but we knew what we were getting into when we came here. I know that we fought our hardest and left it all out there. That’s something that you can look at and smile. Try to look on the positive side of things. We had a great year up to this moment and it was inevitable that our season was going to end either this week or next week. We’re just happy that they left it all out on the field.”

Isiah Boe:

“I felt we came out, we fought hard but they just got on top. And good luck to them next week. I wish them the best of luck.

“What more can you ask for? It was a great season. It was real fun hanging with all the guys and I wouldn’t want it any other way aside from winning tonight obviously. But it was really great.”

Tommy Mayefski:

“I just feel bad that it’s over so soon. It feels like we have one more week left. Realizing the clock was ticking down, 30 seconds and the clock stops, I think, ‘wow, it’s over and there’s no more next year.’

“My goal this year when I started, of course everybody’s goal, was Camp Randall and whatever. My goal also by the end of this year was to try and leave the program in a better place. I feel like that should be every senior’s goal, just try to leave the program a little bit better. I really hope that we did.”

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