WIAA state football championship preview: Diverse rushing attack fuels Spencer/Columbus offense
Rockets have more than 4,200 yards rushing this season
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — There are not many, if any, rushing attacks like the one Spencer/Columbus Catholic possesses.
The Rockets have five ball carriers that have at least 400 yards rushing this season, contributing to an offense that has amassed more than 4,200 yards on the ground in 13 games.
That powerful running game has propelled the Rockets to a perfect 13-0 record and into the WIAA Division 5 state championship game, where they will take on Amherst (13-0) at 4 p.m. Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Led by sophomore running back Hunter Luepke (1,212 yards, 24 touchdowns) and junior Noah Zastrow (1,088 yards, eight TDs), the Rockets employ a diverse attack that leaves opponents wondering who is going to get the ball next.
Senior backs Hunter Hildebrandt (559 yards, five TDs) and Jonny Tomke (415 yards, seven TDs) and quarterback Calvin Lenz (401 yards, eight TDs) have added to the ground game that has accounted for 82 percent of the team’s offense.
“It really keeps everyone fresh,” Hildebrandt said of the diverse rushing attack. “We aren’t going to put up the big (individual) numbers. They don’t know who is going to get the ball, and everyone one of us can run the ball just as good as the next person. It’s really an advantage for us.”
Luepke and Zastrow have had the majority of the big plays in the running game, and Tomke spells each in a reserve role. Hildebrandt tends to be the guy plowing up the middle, and a lot of the plays are set up so that Lenz could keep the ball as well.
“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, and it’s really hard for the defense to key on one guy,” Luepke said. “We can go on to the next, and going through the lineup like that has been really effective against the defenses.”
The depth of ball carriers has been helpful on defense as well for Spencer/Columbus. Many of the Rockets play both sides of the ball, so being able to have a diverse set of backs has been beneficial throughout the game.
“We talk about having horizontal balance, stretching a team horizontally across the field by being able to attack different gaps with different types of plays and different types of running backs,” Spencer/Columbus coach Jason Gorst said. “It allows us to stay fresh and allows us to get a guy off the field and rest up for defense a little bit without missing a beat on offense.”
Gorst said he and his coaching staff made a point of getting as many people as possible involved so that the Rockets could create the depth they knew they would need as the season rolled on.
“We created that depth early in camp, where instead of going first-team, second-team, we tried to split into two equal teams,” Gorst said. “We had two quarterbacks and six running backs handling the ball every single day and working against each other. Doing it that way creates some depth rather than your first team taking the bulk of the reps and your second team getting what’s left over.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
For viewers who cannot the attend the WIAA Division 5 State Football Championship Game between the Amherst Falcons and Spencer/Columbus Catholic Rockets, the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Wisconsin on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. The game will also “be streamed live on Fox Sports Go through your cable provider authentication,” according to the WIAA website.
The following link will help you find the right television channel based on your provider: foxsports.com/wisconsin/story/fox-sports-wisconsin-channel-finder-121713.
WIAA Division 5 State Football Championship Game
Who: Spencer/Columbus Catholic Rockets (13-0) versus Amherst Falcons (13-0)
When: 4 p.m. Thursday
Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison
How SC got there: Level 1, def. New Glarus/Monticello 54-8; Level 2, def. Waterloo 43-16; Level 3, def. Stratford 30-15; Level 4, def. Shoreland Lutheran 50-7.
How Amherst got there: Level 1, def. New Holstein 49-12; Level 2, def. Winnebago Lutheran 47-0; Level 3, def. Southern Door 48-27; Level 4, def. Arcadia 42-21.
Notes (from WIAA): Last year’s runner-up Amherst will make its third appearance in the title game, having now advanced to the title game in three of the last four seasons. The Falcons won the title their first experience in the state final in 2012. The Falcons won the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference title this season. … The Spencer/Columbus Catholic co-op program is making its first state finals appearance. Prior to the two schools joining forces, Spencer advanced to the Division 5 final and placed runner-up in 1982. The Rockets are the champions of the Cloverbelt Conference.
Radio: WOSQ-FM 92.3 and wdlbwosq.com.
TV: Fox Sports Wisconsin.