MARKESAN — The last time the Markesan football team made it to the third round of the WIAA state playoffs, they partied like it was 1999. Because it was.
On Friday, the top-seeded Hornets did it again. They defeated fourth-seeded Fennimore 15-7 in a Division 6 second-round game Friday night.
“It’s been a long time,” Markesan running back Austin Triggs said. “It’s awesome to just be a part of school history. Honestly, we don’t want to settle with (the quarterfinals). Ultimately, our goal is to get to state and be a state champion.
“We’re going to keep working hard and keep grinding.”
The Hornets now focus their attention on third-seeded Mineral Point, who defeated second-seeded Cuba City on Friday, 14-7.
But early on, it didn’t look as if Markesan (10-1) was going to make it past Fennimore (8-3).
Triggs, quarterback Carson Clark, receiver Drew Bernhagen and the rest of the Hornets' offense couldn’t do much except produce multiple turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles.
“We were just being sloppy,” Triggs said. “Me, Drew and Carson took it upon ourselves in the second half to get everybody else going. We played better in the second half. Defense played a great game, other than the one drive. And offensively, we didn’t play perfect, but we did enough to win.”
If the Hornets' defense hadn't made outstanding plays to keep the Golden Eagles at bay in the first half, Markesan's season very well could have ended Friday.
“We had a lot of turnovers,” Markesan head coach Travis Winkers said. “You do that in the playoffs, usually you go home (with a loss). Our defense played outstanding. It’s one of those nights, and I’m happy we survived and advanced.”
The Hornets fell behind early, when Fennimore went five plays for 48 yards and running back Aiden Nutter plowed through for a 2-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the first quarter, making it 7-0.
The teams traded turnovers in the second quarter, including an interception by Fennimore’s Trevor Neuroth at the Golden Eagles’ 1-yard line.
Three plays later, after giving up a golden scoring opportunity, the Hornets got on the board when Bryce Plagenz sacked quarterback Reid Larson for a safety to cut the deficit to 7-2 with 51 seconds left.
“It was huge,” Triggs said. “Obviously, our defense played great and will continue to play great the rest of the year.”
Three plays into the third quarter, Triggs took a sweep pitch to the right, found a lane and reeled off a 73-yard touchdown run to give Markesan its first lead of the night, just 49 seconds in.
“That was a blown-up play,” Triggs said. “We just got to the outside, and I’m faster than those guys and we got a touchdown.”
All Triggs needed was a small window, and that’s what he got. The run helped him totalr 124 yards on 11 carries.
In the second half, Markesan’s defense still played lights out. Larson was sacked multiple times by Markesan defensive linemen Andrew Soda and Bryce Friday.
“Friday played really well besides jumping on fourth down and five,” Winkers said. “He made up for it with a big sack on the next play. Soda played well. He’s played well for us all year. He went out with a dislocated ankle tonight. He’s probably going to be out. We just keep losing some dudes here when we don’t want to. It’s frustrating because we know what’s coming down the pipeline.
“But we get to practice another week.”
JJ Bartaszewicz replaced the injured Peter Paddock (groin) at running back in the fourth quarter and found the end zone on a 34-yard touchdown run up the middle with 3:15 left.
“JJ came in and did what we needed him to do,” Winkers said. “That’s kind of what we thought we were going to see before the year. He did really well and hopefully he can keep it going because probably going to have to go both ways or see how Pete’s groin is feeling (next week).”
That touchdown run was the first play after Triggs intercepted Maguire Fitzgerald with 3:22 left.
MARKESAN 15, FENNIMORE 7
Fennimore 7 0 0 0 — 0
Markesan 0 2 7 7 — 15
F — Aiden Nutter 2 run (kick good), 1:06, 1st
M — Bryce Plagenz sacks Reid Larson in end zone, :51, 2nd
M — Austin Triggs 73 run (kick good), 11:11, 3rd
M — JJ Bartaszewic 34 (kick failed), 11:11, 4th
First downs — F 8, M 15. Rushes-Yards — F 27-34, M 52-304. Passing (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — F 6-27-3, M 9-25-3. Passing yards — F 78, M 107. Fumbles-Lost — F 1-1, M 3-2. Penalties-Yards — F 6-60, M 6-45.
Rushing: F — Aiden Nutter 4-36. M — Austin Triggs 11-124, Carson Clark 16-55. Passing (Comp.-Att.-TD-INT, Yds): F — Reid Larson 5-26-0-2, 78. M — Carson Clark 9-25-0-3,107. Receiving: F — Liam Kenney 3-49. M — Drew Bernhagen 3-58.