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Defense struggles early, excels late


12:00 AM, Nov. 16, 2012 EST

St. Mary Springs' Jacob Frey, left, and Darin Ward, right, bring down Regis' Chris Pica-Anderson during the first half of Thursday's WIAA Division 6 state championship game. / Dan Powers/GWM

MADISON — 

The St. Mary's Springs football team has a great defense, but it rarely sees anything like what Eau Claire Regis runs.

Using a tight double-wing formation, the Ramblers ran for 213 yards in the first half and 315 yards for the game.

There were a myriad of problems for the Ledgers defenders.

"They come off the ball and are so deceptive. We can't simulate that in practice," Springs coach Bob Hyland said. "They toss the ball back and you think it's going wide and the next thing you know he's cutting up behind one of the guards. And they really come off the ball. That's one of the things that they really do extremely well. Their linemen were really firing off well."

Safety Ryan Grandlic finished with 15 tackles and middle linebacker Matt Austin had 11. Springs used six linemen at times, but still had problems in the first half keeping Regis' running backs from the second level.

"They had pitched the ball and they had so many guys blocking. It was first difficult to find the ball and then find the zone they were in," Grandlic said. "You just have to attack them and control the line of scrimmage. At halftime we really stressed that we had to control the line. We knew if we could take up blockers our linebackers had the speed and quickness to make the stop."

That was crucial late in the game.

Regis coach Bryant Brenner said earlier in the week that if his team needed to throw the ball it would be in big trouble.

Despite running for 324 yards, the Ramblers needed to complete a couple of passes. Those completions proved elusive.

Regis could have tied the game late in the third quarter but a wide open receiver was overthrown. Then on a fourth down, the Ramblers completed a pass that lost nine yards. They didn't throw the ball after that despite trailing by 10 points.

 

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