DE PERE — Before Hortonville took the field Friday night against West De Pere former players from Hortonville talked to the team about what could be accomplished.
The Polar Bears, who hadn’t won a conference title since 1984, were one game away from ending the drought, but the team they had to beat had won or shared every Bay Conference title since 2006.
Also, Hortonville was playing on West De Pere’s field and the Phantoms had won 41 straight regular season games.
Hardly an easy task, but sometimes teams are destined and Friday night that was Hortonville. The Polar Bears scored on a kickoff return and a long pass play and just did enough to make it happen.
Hortonville stunned West De Pere, 34-27, in overtime to win the Bay title and afterwards the field was filled with Hortonville players and fans celebrating.
“It hasn’t set in it,” Hortonville co-coach Tom Kolosso said. “What really hits home is seeing players from 2010 and 2011 and they really got thumped here. That’s when we started building something. We were making progress and West De Pere was always there. Unbelievable, unbelievable.”
“It feels amazing, the best feeling in the world,” running back Alex Lasinski said. “We worked hard for this, it started at the beginning of the year and it’s all paying off.”
Hortonville (8-0), ranked No. 7 in the FOX 11 Top 11, played its final Bay game of the season Friday, as it plays at Freedom next week, so this game was truly a conference championship game and it lived up to the hype.
Hortonville showed right away it wasn’t going to lie down at the feet of the Bay’s dominant program. After No. 4 West De Pere (7-1) opened the game with a touchdown run from Dom Conway, Hortonville answered with a TD pass.
This was a sign of what was to come. The game was never more than a one-score game and every time one team scored the other answered.
One of the biggest keys was big plays. Kolosso said earlier in the week big plays could be a factor and they were. Hortonville received an 89-yard kickoff return from Peter Van Beek and Andrew Thompson tossed a 79-yard TD pass to Mitch Lillge.
Those long plays took pressure off Hortonville having to mount long scoring drives against a quality defense.
“They’re huge,” Lasinski said of the big plays. “We have a ton of big playmakers. Any play we can score, we know that.”
Trailing 27-20 with 4:25 to play Beau Mommaerts led West De Pere on a 63-yard scoring drive and capped it off with a 5-yard TD pass to Chandler Diekvoss on fourth down to tie the game late at 27-all.
The game entered overtime and Hortonville took possession first. Faced with a third-and-11 from the 14-yard line, Thompson made something out of nothing, scrambling 13 yards for a first down. Lasinski then scored his second TD of the game on the next play making it 34-27.
Lasinski was key all game, rushing for 121 yards on 25 carries, showing great patience and wiggle.
“I know that if I’m patient the line will open a hole for me,” Lasinski said. “I just follow right behind them.”
West De Pere was forced to score a TD or lose the Bay title. It came down to a fourth-and-three from the 4-yard line and Mommaerts couldn’t connect with Zack Sanders in the right side of the end zone.
Hortonville’s sideline exploded and fans filled onto the field. It felt like the Polar Bears won a state title and Kolosso said afterwards this meant so much to the community.
Players, fans and coaches shared hugs and took pictures on the field. It was truly a happening for the program and one of the biggest wins in its history.
“It’s huge,” Lasinski said. “West De Pere’s been a dominant team. We knew we had to work very hard to beat them and we pulled it off.”
Hortonville ends its regular season next week at Freedom and although Friday’s win felt great, Lasinski knows there’s a bigger goal.
Said Lasinski: “The ultimate goal is to keep playing, keep winning game and hopefully go all the way.”
Friday night, Hortonville did go all the way, all the way to the top of the Bay Conference standings.
- Notes: Lasinski added an interception in the fourth quarter. … After starting the game at quarterback, Diekvoss played the second half at wide receiver and overall caught 8 passes for 101 yards. … West De Pere is now 51-3 in the Bay since it was realigned in 2007. … West De Pere’s last loss came in the 2009 season opener to Seymour. … Lillge caught 5 passes for 145 yards. … West De Pere converted two fourth-downs on its first scoring drive, one coming on a fake punt.
- Game ball: Lasinski, whose running opened the passing game for Hortonville, and he had an interception.
- Numbers game: 1984 The last time Hortonville won a conference title.
WDP: Dom Conway 36 yard run (kick good). WDP 7-0.
HOR: Andrew Thompson 30-yard pass to Mitch Lillge (kick blocked). Tied 7-7.
WDP: Shawn Prokash 27 yard field goal. WDP 10-6.
HOR: Peter Van Beek 89-yard kickoff return (kick good). HOR 13-10.
WDP: Prokash 22-yard field goal. Tied 13-13.
HOR: Alex Lasinski 9-yard run (kick good). HOR 20-13.
WDP: Conway 8 yard run (kick good). Tied 20-20.
HOR: Thompson 79-yard pass to Lillge (kick good). HOR 27-20.
WDP: Beau Mommaerts 5-yard pass to Chandler Diekvoss (kick good). Tied 27-27.
HOR: Lasinski 1-yard run (kick good). HOR 34-27.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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