MENOMONIE — For years the Menomonie Mustangs ran a conservative, run-first offense, hoping to move the ball methodically down the field for the win. But on Friday night, the Mustangs went for the jugular.
When Medford found itself in trouble, Menomonie took advantage, connecting for a pair of touchdown passes within three minutes of each other to turn a seven-point second quarter lead into a blowout. By the end, Menomonie cruised to a 34-8 victory over Medford.
It started with a defensive stand just two plays into the second quarter. Menomonie stuffed Medford’s Ean Wilson on fourth-and-one, giving the Mustang offense great field position at the Raiders 49.
On the very next play, quarterback Tyler Werner rolled out and tossed up a 49-yard touchdown pass to Davis Barthen to give the Mustangs a two-score lead.
Medford went three-and-out on its ensuing drive and gave up a big punt return to Jed Ogea, who took the ball into Raiders territory.
That’s when Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda went for the kill shot. He dialed up a deep pass and Werner delivered, connecting with Kaleb Kazmarek for the 39-yard score to put the Mustangs up 21-0.
“We felt like our receivers could beat their DBs,” LaBuda said. “That was one of the things we spent a lot of time on.”
The Medford passing attack was virtually non-existent all night. The Raiders attempted just seven passes, completing one and throwing a pair of interceptions. A three-score lead left little chance for a Raiders comeback, but that hope vanished when Werner led the Mustangs 35 yards down the field in just under two minutes to set the Mustangs up at the Raiders 32-yard line.
Some clock confusion whittled 11 seconds off the clock, leaving just enough time in the half for one last Mustang play. Again, Werner came up big. He avoided pressure in his face and slung a 32-yard score to Barthen at the right pylon as time expired.
The senior quarterback finished the game with 169 yards passing and a season-high three touchdowns.
“He came in with zero experience and he struggled a little bit early in the year,” LaBuda said of his quarterback, “but that’s what you ask kids to do, keep battling and keep trying to get better. … He’s gotten a little better each week and his receivers have done a great job for him.”
The Mustang defense was equally impressive. Coming into the game, Wilson had rushed for 2,025 yards, fourth most in the state, with an average of 6.2 yards per carry. His impressive season earned him Great Northern Conference offensive player of the year honors. And yet, the Mustangs held him in check, allowing just 149 yards on 33 carries.
“I thought our defense played phenomenal,’ LaBuda said. “Our defensive coaches had a great plan and I think our kids executed it well.”
After the game, Medford coach Ted Wilson had little to say about the Mustangs.
“They’re really good,” he said repeatedly, frustrated by the blowout outcome.
It was the final prep game of the season at Williams Stadium. Now the Mustangs will hit the road for Level 4 of the state playoffs to take on Menasha at a neutral site. The Bluejays are coming off a 24-14 victory over West De Pere.
“I had heard West De Pere was really good, so obviously Menasha is really good if they beat them,” LaBuda said.
Menomonie 34, Medford 8
Medford 0 0 0 8 — 8
Menomonie 6 22 7 6 — 34
Men: Thomas Poplawski 5 run (No good), 0:55
Men: Davis Barthen 49 pass from Tyler Werner (Boecker from Werner), 11:07
Men: Kaleb Kazmarek 39 pass from Werner (Poplawski kick), 9:32
Men: Barthen 32 pass from Werner (Poplawski kick), 0:00
Men: Zach DeMarce 2 run (No Good), 5:03
Med: Ean Wilson 39 run (Wilson run), 3:30
Team and individual stats will run in Sunday’s paper