By Mitchell A. Skurzewski
For Wausau Pilot & Review
MOSINEE – After trailing by 15 points the Mosinee football team had battled back into a tie with Baraboo in a WIAA Division 3 Level 2 playoff game Friday night in Mosinee.
But, a long 59-yard scamper by Thunderbirds quarterback Luna Larson set up his go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 seconds left to lift No. 4 Baraboo past No. 1 Mosinee 35-28. Baraboo advances to face Rice Lake next week.
Mosinee had scored on three consecutive possessions to knot the score at 28-28 and forced Baraboo to turn the ball over on downs. But, the Thunderbirds then answered the bell, forcing Mosinee into a 3-and-out, setting up their go-ahead score.
“Football is a game of inches and we had a play if we hit, it’s a big gain and who knows,” Mosinee coach Craig Martens said. “But there were so many plays, a missed tackle or a game of inches where the field is flipped and give them credit they made plays and took advantage.”
“You know that was the biggest stop of our season, that was huge,” Baraboo coach Steve Turkington said. “That was a big moment and set up our offense for the go-ahead score and scoring with 1:20 left kind of made it tough on them, too. It’s hard to do much with that amount of time.”
On 4th-and-11 from the 45, Garski threw up a pass that was intercepted by Brady Henry.
Despite the loss, it was a great season for Mosinee, going 8-1, winning the Great Northern Conference for the first time since 2013 and winning a playoff game.
“We talked after the game, what success means,” Martens said. “Thirty years from now can you look back and say “I gave it everything I had for my team’” and this group certainly can do that, they did everything we asked as coaches. They went to camps, they lifted in the summer, they have a 3.6 GPA. I told the young guys to look at our seniors, that’s success.”
Mosinee actually struck first in the game following an early stop and two plays later quarterback Trevor Garski found Kaeden Jirschele for a 40-yard touchdown. The rest of the first half belonged to Larson and Luke Vittengl. Vittengl snagged a fourth down catch from the 9 to put Baraboo on top. Vittengl found paydirt again less than a minute later, intercepting Gorski and racing 27 yards.
Larson connected with Vittengl on 3rd and 11 for a 30-yard pass play to set up another Thunderbirds score and Barbaoo took a 21-6 lead into halftime.
Mosinee came out swinging in the second half, scoring in 64 seconds with Jirschele scoring on a 13-yard pass from Garski and a successful two-point conversion cut the lead to 21-14.
The teams quickly exchanged scores when once again Larson tossed a fourth-down touchdown to Vitterl from the 9. But, two plays later, Mosinee was back within seven when Garski hit, who else, Jirschele for a 54-yard strike.
“(Keagen) is just a special player,” Martens said. “He transferred here last year (from Wausau West) and had to learn a brand new system and he just attacked it and really absorbed it. He is just a sparkplug for our team.”
Mosinee tied it up at 28 when Jirschele’s long catch-and-run set up the game-tying score when Davin Stoffel ran free in the secondary for a 23-yard touchdown with 8:43 left. But, Mosinee never could get over the hump after clawing back to even.
“We weren’t naive, we knew they were going to make plays, that’s a good offense,” Turkington said. “But man, that was a tidal wave they came at us with.I am proud of our guys to be able to stay the course and get the stops we needed.”
Thunderbirds 35, Mosinee 28
Baraboo 0 21 7 7 – 35Mosinee 6 0 15 7 – 28