Big Foot charges into state football semifinals
Michael Runner would be the best, but Michael Catcher would do.
And on Friday night, even Michael Punter could have fit.
Walker ran for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion and caught a pass for another score to lead Walworth Big Foot past Ripon, 22-8, in a WIAA Division 4 quarterfinal football game.
The Chiefs (12-0) play the winner of this afternoon’s game between Brodhead/Juda (9-2) and Lodi (10-1) in a semifinal game next Friday or Saturday for a shot at Big Foot’s second straight trip to the Division 4 title game in Madison.
Walker is the main reason the Chiefs have another chance for a trip to Camp Randall Stadium. Playing on the FieldTurf surface at Ingalls Field, the 5-10, 196-pound senior contributed several big plays that allowed Big Foot to overcome an 8-0 deficit.
Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig said the fast track was a welcome sight to Walker and the Chiefs.
“He was happy to get on a nice surface,” Wedig said. “We’ve been playing in rain, and boy, he just made things happen. A couple of plays that looked like he was stopped dead, he turned into big plays.”
Walker finished with 159 yards rushing on 24 carries, but that includes a loss of 21 yards when a high snap to him in a wildcat formation flew off his fingertips at the Big Foot 21 in the final seconds of the first quarter. He attempted to pick it up at the 5, but he was hit, and the ball squirted into the end zone.
Ripon’s Bryce Brewer fell on it for a Tiger touchdown, and Connor Hanson’s two-point conversion run put the home team ahead 8-0.
“I probably should have dove on that one,” Walker said after the game.
But that was the only hiccup on his night. He had a 22-yard run out of the wildcat formation on the first play after Big Foot had stopped Ripon’s initial drive on a fourth-and-one play at the Chiefs’ 2.
Walker got the Chiefs going on an 80-yard, 10-play drive midway through the second quarter. He had a 12-yard gain on the first play, then took a screen pass from quarterback Steve Dowden near the Ripon sideline, broke several tackles and flew to a 37-yard gain to the Ripon 25.
“I try to make the first guy miss me and just keep my legs going,” said Walker, who has 1,543 yards rushing this season.
After Dowden hit Alec McGreevy on a slant play for 18 yards on fourth-and-six at the 21 to the 3, it took Walker two carries to get the ball into the end zone. Walker tied the game at 8-8 with a two-point conversion run.
The score came with 2:52 left in the half. The Tigers returned a short kickoff to their 43 and had a first down at the Big Foot 47. Ripon attempted a slant pass, but the ball bounced off the Tigers’ receiver into the air, where Big Foot a linebacker Jon Petkoff picked it off at the Chiefs’ 37.
Walker, who had a 69-yard punt to the Ripon 1 in the first quarter, then left several Ripon tacklers in his wake as he took a direct snap and sped 55 yards to the Ripon 8.
Dustin Sorrentino smashed to the Ripon 3, from where Walker took it in on the next play as Big Foot grabbed a 15-8 lead with 33 seconds left in the half.
Walker helped put the Chiefs in control early in the second half after senior defensive tackle Nathan Bopp recovered a Ripon fumble at the Big Foot 38.
On the first play, Walker took a handoff and was immediately grabbed high by Ripon’s Sam Goljenboom. Walker spun left and shook off Goljenboom like a bass might spit out an angler’s lure, then continued around and ran 53 yards down the right sideline before he was knocked out of bounds at the Ripon 11.
After a holding penalty, on a third-and-14 play, Dowden found Walker on the left side of the end zone with a perfect pass for a 15-yard TD play. Sean Kivlin’s second extra point of the game ended the scoring. Walker finished with two catches for 52 yards.
Dowden hit the critical passes when he had to, completing 6 of 10 for 101 yards on a windy night.
And the Big Foot defense kept Hanson, Ripon’s major threat, from breaking the long run, although Hanson finished with 157 yards rushing on 25 carries.
Now the Chiefs can sit back and await the winner of the Brodhead/Juda-Lodi game at 2 p.m. Can the Chiefs, winners of all but two games over the past three seasons, expect a return trip to Madison?
“I don’t think you ever expect to win,” Walker said. “We know what we have to do to win.”
That includes getting the ball to Michael Walker as often as possible.
BIG FOOT 22, RIPON 8
Walworth Big Foot 0 15 7 0—22
Ripon 8 0 0 0—8
Scoring summary: R—-Bryce Brewer, fumble recovery in end zone (Connor Hanson run). WBF—Michael Walker, 1 run (Walker run). WBF—Walker, 3 run (Sean Kivlin kick). WBF—Walker, 15 pass from Steve Dowden (Kivlin kick).
Statistics: First downs—WBF 13, R 13. Rushing—WBF 43-205, R 51-238. Yards passing—WBF 101, R 5. Passes—WBF 10-6-1, R 13-2-2. Fumbles—WBF 1-1, R 3-2. Penalties—BF3-20, R 3-15.