It’s a big-time first for the Waterford Union High School football team this week, as the Wolverines play in their first-ever state championship game at Camp Randall in Madison. Senior captains are Dylan Dessart (from left), Zach Fisher, Jordan Underly and Greg Steffens. (Photo by Jennifer Eisenbart)

Waterford faces Waunakee at 1 p.m. Friday in Madison

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

As the clock ticked down Saturday evening in Kimberly – and it became apparent that the Waterford Union High School football team was going to

make history – senior Dylan Dessart couldn’t believe it.

“It’s crazy,” said Dessart of the final moments of Waterford’s 35-10 win over Green Bay Southwest that put the Wolverines in today’s WIAA Division 2 state championship game.

“I was just going up to everyone and saying, ‘This is unreal.’”

Now it’s getting real in a hurry for Waterford.

The Wolverines will play two-time defending state champion Waunakee today at 1 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. It is the first state title game appearance for Waterford, while Waunakee is making its seventh appearance in Madison.

The Wolverines are 12-1, while the Warriors are 13-0.

Waterford has broken into new territory this fall under the guidance of first-year head coach Adam Bakken – the former defensive coordinator for Big Foot (the 2009 Division 4 state champs and the 2008 state runner-ups).

Just a year ago, the Wolverines opened the season 3-0 – then lost their final six games as injuries and illness began to pile up. By the end of the season, the Wolverines were struggling with inexperience at several key positions because starters were injured.

Among the injured was quarterback Zach Fisher, who is now a senior starter with a wealth of experience under his belt.

Ironically, Fisher feared his season might be over in week three of 2011, when he went down against Wilmot with a knee injury.

“I was super-nervous,” Fisher said. “I thought I could be done for the year.”

As it turned out, the senior was back within a month, and the only blemish on the Wolverines’ record is that 14-10 loss to Wilmot in week three.

Waterford got revenge in the playoffs, though, routing Wilmot 52-0 on the Panthers home field in the second round.

Since then, it has been a joyride. Waterford shut out Whitefish Bay in Level Three, and then, of course, beat Southwest.

Bakken thinks his team is ready for anything at state, especially after the trials of 2010.

“It’s such a great feeling to make it there with this group,” Bakken said. “As things went on, (state) was certainly a goal for our staff and our program.”

The Wolverines have gotten a great deal of support from the community as well. Bakken said fans traveled well for the game at Kimberly – a two-hour-plus drive – and expects more of the same Friday.

Waterford Union High School will run an abbreviated schedule today, Friday, with a pep assembly scheduled for 8:40 a.m. to send the team off, and then school ending at 10:30 a.m.

“(I’m) extremely excited,” said Waterford Athletic Director Mike Blair. “First time I’ve had a team go to state and football, and it might be the toughest one to get there in.”

Waunakee will enter Friday’s game as the favorite, and Bakken said he had a lot of respect for the Warriors. Waunakee running back Leo Musso has more than 2,200 yards rushing for the Warriors, and quarterback Hunter Darger has completed 82 of 114 passes for 1,366 yards this season.

“Coach (Pat) Rice will have them prepared,” Bakken said. “(But) we aren’t going in intimidated by their success.

“We’ll play as hard as we can, and see what happens.”

The seniors echo that sentiment. Everything may still be shiny and new for the Wolverines – at least as far as Camp Randall goes – but the captains, at least, expect to be ready.

“I want to go out and win the state championship,” said captain Jordan Underly, who added that Waterford wasn’t being given much of a chance by some people.

“I guess they’ll just have to watch us in the game and they’ll see (how good we are).”

Senior running back Greg Steffens added, “I can’t be nervous. Just gotta play.”


Sideline notes

While the Warriors have two standout players with huge numbers, Waterford counters with the following:

• Senior Greg Steffens has carried the ball 172 times for more than 1,200 yards, while Jordan Underly has more than 770 yards rushing and Dylan Dessart more than 500.

David Welch, Kody Azarian and Shane Fulton are also capable of running the ball.

• Quarterback Zach Fisher, in spite of missing two games and part of a third, has completed 75 passing attempts out of 108 for 1,478 yards. Steffens, Underly, Dessart, Ryan Danbrea and Dustin Schindler are all targets for the ball, combining for 19 touchdowns.

• Waterford’s defense has allowed just 96 points all season – an average of about 7.4 points per game. The Wolverines have shut out four opponents – including two in the playoffs.

• Waterford’s offense is averaging about 37 points per game.

• Waunakee has given up an average of 8.9 points per game while scoring an average of about 41.4.