Falcon’s title shot falls short
The Abbotsford Falcons found themselves in familiar territory on Friday night, playing the Regis Ramblers at Dorais Field in Chippewa Falls in a Level Four playoff game.
The prize - a trip to Camp Randall on UW - Madison’s campus, and a shot at the WIAA D-6 state title.
It was the Falcons third trip in four years to a Level Four playoff game, but this year’s team wasn’t supposed to be here, not according to numerous pundits and voices from outside the program.
The Abbotsford Falcons had lost too much. They didn’t have the talent, didn’t have the numbers, didn’t have the athletes and didn’t have the speed.
But if there’s one thing the Falcons love to do - besides run the ball and light up the scoreboard - it’s to silence the naysayers and leave the doubters speechless.
“We knew we were underdogs coming into the season and that only fueled our desire to be great,” senior lineman Chase Sperl said about the Falcons’ season. “I think it really shows what a group of guys can do when they come together and commit to each other.”
Abby weathered all the shots that each team gave them during the regular season, leaving the Cloverwood as champions in their final year as members before joining the Marawood in 2020.
They finished the season with a perfect 9-0 record, and the number one seed in the playoffs. From there, they traded blows with Crivitz, Auburndale and Coleman in the postseason, using a brutal ground-and-pound offense to beat their opposition into submission.
But on Friday, they faced a team as equally as talented as they were, squaring off with the Regis Ramblers for the first time since 2016. The Ramblers won that game en route to a state title.
“Playing Regis is a lot like playing ourselves,” Sperl said. “Their offense is fairly similar and their tone of play also. They are a very tough team and they played a great game against us.”
The Falcons were hoping to rewrite history, but could only watch as history repeated itself, as Abby lost its bid for a first ever appearance in the state title game at Camp Randall, falling 36-6.
“We knew they were going to be fast and we knew they were going to stack the box to stop our usual ground and pound, between the tackle run game,” junior Cade Faber said. “We knew no matter what the game would be a grind and that we’d have to be happy with a few yards each play.”
The Falcons were explosive in the rushing game all season long, but the speed of the Ramblers surprised Abby, and before long the Falcons found themselves trailing by two scores in the first quarter, down 15-0.
With their season on the line, the Falcons put together one of their best drives of the year, methodically moving down the field, with back to back big runs from senior quarterback Dalton Feddick gashing Regis and setting up Abby inside the Ramblers’ territory.
As the Falcons inched closer to the endzone the Ramblers put up stiff resistance, but Abby continued to grind for hard yards, gobbling up minutes off the clock before Mason Wellman scored from two yards out with just seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The two point conversion attempt from Feddick to Draper was stopped, and the game was 15-6.
“Our scoring drive we put it together, I feel like moving the ball against their defense wasn’t as hard as stopping their offense,” Sperl said. “Don’t get me wrong, their defense was lights out. But we had some costly turnovers that definitely made the score more lopsided than it should have been.” The Ramblers added to their lead with another touchdown, making it 22-6 with eight minutes to play in the first half.
Abby got the ball back and Feddick churned his feet to convert a fourth and one situation. Sophomore tailback Ty Falteisek got in on the action, getting to the second level for a 22-yard carry that brought Abby inside the 40-yard line of Regis with nearly three minutes remaining in the second half.
But just when it looked as though Abby would notch its second touchdown of the night, a Feddick pass intended for Faber was intercepted by Ben Rooney, and a promising Falcon’s drive came to an end. It was the second interception by Feddick, with both coming in the first half.
“We took shots downfield to try and make big plays and loosen up their inside to open up our run game more,” Faber said.”We played very well, but big plays on defense and turnovers ultimately took its toll.”
The Ramblers held the first half advantage, walking into the break with a 22-6 lead, and Regis added to it with a 15-yard catch and run by Aaron Haselwander with seven minutes to play in the third quarter.
The PAT was good, and Regis extended their lead to 29-6. Abby continued to add yards, but could not find the endzone. Regis added one final score for the night, a 28-yard pass play from Bennett Seelen to Tristan Root. Root scored the PAT and the Ramblers were up 36-6 with just over eight minutes to play.
Abby continued to work hard to add points, but the Ramblers closed the Falcons down for the final three quarters, earning a second trip to state in four years.
For Abby, the season came to a close, and for the seniors, a career is over, but what a career it has been. This year’s seniors have been part of some of the most successful seasons in Abby history, winning three Cloverwood crowns and making it the state semi-finals three times while wearing Falcon red and black.
“Our grade’s success is hugely based on the success of earlier years,” Sperl said about his class’s achievements. “Without the upperclassmen from when we were underclassmen showing us the right way and how to win as a team is a huge part for the class of 2020’s success.”
The Falcons will bid goodbye to Feddick, who nearly set a school record with his 2,126 rushing yards. Feddick added another 375 passing yards, and accounted for 28 of Abby’s 67 touchdowns, with five passing TDs and 23 rushing TDs.
Feddick added 117 yards on 24 carries against Regis. Falteisek added 53 yards on ten carries and Faber had 31 yards on eight carries. Blake Draper is almost assured to finish inside the top three in the state for tackles, tallying 12 tackles to finish his senior year with a current state leading 172 tackles.
Abby finished with 4,692 rushing yards and 62 rushing touchdowns. The Falcons will return Faber and Faleisek, who had 998 and 1,102 rushing yards. Falcons head coach Jake Knapmiller is hoping they, and the team, continue to put the hard work in for the 2020 season.
“I hope they use this as a motivator. The best thing both those guys can do is add size and speed,” Knapmiller said. “We are looking for them to become confi dent enough to be more positive vocal leaders in the future. We are a good team . . . I was proud of how our players approached the game and the “noise” around it.”