When you go into the WIAA football playoffs unseeded, carrying a 5-4 record, you are generally going to get a difficult draw.
St. Francis made this discovery first-hand on the night of Oct. 23 when it journeyed to Walworth to play Rock Valley Conference champion Big Foot.
The Mariners battled the host Chiefs out of the gate and trailed by just a 7-0 margin after a quarter, but Big Foot put the hammer down for 28 points over the next two periods and emerged with a 35-0 Division 4 Level 1 victory.
St. Francis finished its season at 5-5 while Big Foot ran its record to 10-0 and earned a Level 2 date with 8-2 Evansville.
"They were much quicker and much more physical than we were," St. Francis coach Doug Sarver said of the Chiefs, who had outscored their previous nine opponents, 292-37. "Big Foot and Evansville play Saturday, and the winner will go to the state title game."
Big Foot, which opened the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Crusan, got TD runs of 67 and 47 yards from T.J. Schaid and 1 yard from Andy Jinkins and a 48-yard TD pass from Jinkins to Mike Walker.
The Chiefs outgained the Mariners, 455 yards to 153.
"This was a good experience for our young team," Sarver said. "We wish we could have been more competitive in our playoff game. Hopefully we'll learn from it and build on it and be like them next year.
"We had a good year, being as young as we were. We thank the seniors for their effort."
The Mariners fell to Brown Deer on Oct. 17, 35-17, in their final Woodland Conference game and finished 5-3 in league play.
St. Francis quarterback Cory Knapp completed 19 of 25 passes for 206 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Bostedt. Will Frisch ran 14 yards for the Mariners' other TD.
St. Francis' Mario Scianni had six pass receptions for 81 yards.
Brown Deer quarterback Kevin Wild carried 29 times for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and John Schimenz ran for the Falcons' other two scores.
The season did not end the way the Mariners would have liked, but they did carry on the program's rich tradition.
They achieved their 13th winning season since 1994 and qualified for the playoffs for the 11th time since 1996.
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