Big Foot back in title game
WEST BEND Walworth Big Foot senior running back Mason Dixon remembers his first varsity run.
It came in 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, with the Chiefs running out the clock on their way to a 42-13 victory over Kewaunee in the WIAA Division 4 state title game.
Dixon, a freshman who saw little playing time on the varsity squad, was rewarded with a carry. All he remembers is being immediately drilled.
“While we were celebrating, all of a sudden you hear a ‘pop!’” recalled Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig with a laugh Friday night.
These days, Dixon is the one dishing out the punishment. And now he’s going to end his high school career the way he began it: carrying the ball in the state title game at Camp Randall, only this time much more than once.
Behind Dixon’s 289 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Big Foot continued its dominating path to Madison on Friday, steamrolling a game but overmatched Freedom squad, 45-22, in a WIAA Division 4 semifinal game at West Bend’s Carl Pick Memorial Field.
“It’s a great feeling to go back there and relive the memories,” Dixon said after leading the Chiefs to their third Division 4 title game appearance in five seasons.
The Chiefs (12-0) will face Somerset, 11-1 after Friday’s 33-8 win over Black River Falls, in the Division 4 title game approximately 7 p.m. Thursday at Camp Randall.
Big Foot has now outscored its opponents, 202-46, in the postseason, but the Chiefs found themselves in a position they hadn’t seen all season early in Friday’s game.
After defensive end Collin Frederick scooped up a fumble and ran in from 22 yards out for a 7-0 lead, Freedom (9-3) ran up 16 straight points to put Big Foot in a rare deficit.
Lightning-fast junior running back Nate Peters (27 carries, 191 yards, three touchdowns) scored on a weaving 75-yard run, punctuated by quarterback Andrew Philibeck’s two-point run on a fake extra point, to put the Irish up 8-7 with 4 minutes 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Big Foot was slow to react to the bouncing ball, and senior quarterback/kick returner Carter Hehr was immediately hit and fumbled after picking it up. Benjamin Randerson recovered for the Irish, Peters scored from two yards out and Big Foot was suddenly down, 16-7, after another Philibeck two-pointer.
According to Hehr, who wound up throwing for 141 yards and rushing for 82, there was no panic on the Big Foot sideline.
“We’re a team with great leadership, and we stick together,” he said. “We know that we can fight back to get back in the game. So that’s what we were thinking, ‘It’s early in the game, we can do this.’”
An offsides penalty by Freedom on fourth-and-3 with Big Foot lined up to punt from its 39-yard line kept the ensuing drive going, and suddenly the Chiefs found the “ON” button.
Dixon punctuated that drive with a 29-yard touchdown run, the next with an 11-yard score and the one after that with a 10-yard scamper. By halftime, Dixon had racked up 150 rushing yards, and Big Foot had a commanding 31-16 lead.
“Mason’s incredible,” said Frederick, also a left tackle. “He’s literally the best back Big Foot’s ever had. It’s a pleasure blocking for him. A little hole and he’s breaking tackles.”
Dixon had touchdown runs of 21 and 12 yards, sandwiched around Peters’ 16-yard score, in the second half to complete Big Foot’s dominant march back to Madison.
“If I were to go from just strictly (a) talent standpoint, it’s probably not as talented as some of the teams I’ve had,” Wedig said. “But they work hard, they’re smart, they don’t make mistakes, and we’re where we have to be.”
BIG FOOT 45, FREEDOM 22
Big Foot 14 17 7 7—45
Freedom 16 0 6 0—22
Scoring summary: BF—Collin Frederick, 22 fumble return (Ian Gallagher kick). F—Nathan Peters, 75 run (Andrew Philibeck run). F—Peters, 2 run (Philibeck run). BF—Mason Dixon, 29 run (Gallagher kick). BF—Dixon, 11 run (Gallagher kick). BF—Dixon, 10 run (Gallagher kick). BF—FG, Gallagher, 24. BF—Dixon, 21 run (Gallagher kick). F—Peters, 16 run (pass failed). BF—Dixon, 12 run (Gallagher kick).
Statistics: First downs—BF 26, F 11. Rushes—BF 54-383, F 43-243. Yards passing—BF 141, F 12. Passes—BF 10-7-1, F 6-2-1. Fumbles—BF 0-0, F 1-1. Penalties—BF 6-15, F 4-30.