MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With his quarterback fighting stomach aches and running on fumes, a running back fumbling the ball on the first play of overtime and having his last two field goal attempts blocked, Somerset coach Bruce Larson never hesitated with his decision after Tyler Ledbetter found the end zone for the third time.
"Our kids know one gear, and that's full speed ahead," said Larson. "Our kids are built for whatever it has to be."
It's a decision that made for sweet redemption.
Although Walworth Big Foot found the end zone, Somerset provided enough defensive pressure to spoil Walworth Big Foot's two-point conversion, earning a 35-33 overtime victory in the WIAA Division 4 championship Thursday night at Camp Randall.
Senior Vernon Breault rushed for 184 yards and a touchdown, and Ledbetter was responsible for four touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 passing) for Somerset (12-1), which rebounded from a second-place finish in the Middle Border Conference to claim the school's second state championship a year after losing by two in double overtime.
It turned out to be the rallying cry, as the Spartans felt they gave the game away with five fumbles (one lost) and five penalties for 43 yards. This time, Somerset committed no turnovers and was penalized only twice.
"We knew we let it slip away, so we went back to work the next day watching film," said junior receiver Gaelin Elmore, who led the team with two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown. "We knew we had an opportunity to do something special, so we had to cut down on the mistakes.
"I cried more this year than last year. It feels better since we lost last year."
Once down 21-6, the Chiefs (12-1) outscored Somerset 21-6 over the final two-plus quarters, including a four-yard rushing touchdown by senior Carter Hehr when time expired before halftime and an 11-yard scamper from the quarterback to tie the score with 5:28 remaining.
But after having a game-winning kick blocked at the end of regulation and scoring first in overtime, Larson's decision to run the ball paid off, as senior Robert LeRoy ran untouched into the end zone.
"It didn't matter who was running the ball," said LeRoy. "We would have gotten there."
On Big Foot's overtime possession, Hehr completed a 19-yard pass to senior tailback Mason Dixon to set up the tying conversion, but Hehr's conversion pass went off the hands of sophomore Brandon Hausner near the pylon.
"They defended the ball, defended the pass well," said Hehr, as the Chiefs fell to 1-2 in state title games, winning in 2009 and finishing second in 2008. "I don't take anything anyway from their defense."
Somerset dominated time of possession (33:50 versus 14:10) and turned its only turnover into six points, recovering a Hehr fumble on Big Foot's nine-yard line. It was Somerset's only second-half points, and important ones at that.