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Brodhead-Juda needs OT to beat Kukulka, Nekoosa
Brodhead-Judas Jesse DeLorme bowls over a Nekoosa player on a run in the second quarter.
NEKOOSA - The Brodhead-Juda Cardinals are just one game away from state, and they will have to go through their arch rival to get there.

The Cardinals (10-2) knocked off Nekoosa (8-4) in overtime, 35-28, in Saturday's WIAA Division 4 Level 3 quarterfinal, setting up a rematch with defending state and Rock Valley South champion Big Foot (10-2).

"I don't think you could get anymore fired up," Brodhead-Juda head coach Jim Matthys said of his team's date with it's top rival. "Now the stakes are just a little higher. To put some spin on it, it just means that someone from the Rock Valley South will be in the state championship."

Brodhead-Juda used some last second luck to overcome their struggles stopping Nekoosa's Austin Kukulka. Kukulka rushed for 258 yards on 31 carries, scoring four times and had a late interception that set up the potential game-winning field goal as time expired.

Matthys called consecutive timeouts in hopes of freezing Nekoosa kicker Kaleb Reichert, who had already missed badly on an extra point. With 2 seconds left and the scored tied at 28-28, Reichert's kick sailed inches wide left, sending the game into overtime.

"I felt like we got a second chance," said Brodhead-Juda senior Jesse DeLorme. "We were going to do whatever we could to get it in the end zone. I was going to run my heart out and do whatever I could to get into that end zone."

In overtime, the Cardinals gave the ball to their bruiser - DeLorme. He stormed 25 yards on two plays, cruising into the end zone from 14 yards out. Matt Dougherty's extra point added pressure on Nekoosa.

"The defense knew that we had to step it up," said DeLorme, who is also the team's leading tackler this season at linebacker. "We've been saying all week that the challenge was going to be on defense and it was."

Moment's later, the Papermakers took the field and changed their play-calling schemes. Throughout much of the game, Nekoosa quarterback Derek Baker handed the ball off to Kukulka, and the Cardinals failed to stop the bruising junior on consecutive plays. But in overtime, the Papermakers threw deep on the first play incomplete, then swung a screen pass to Kukulka, which was stopped three yards behind the line of scrimmage by Blair Chapman.

"I think our defense just stepped up at the right time," Matthys said.

On third-and-13, DeLorme got to Kukulka two yards behind the line of scrimmage, and Baker threw deep incomplete on fourth down to end the game.

"It was crazy," senior Alex Wallace said. "We knew that we had to attack on defense to get it done."

The Cardinals now get a rematch with Big Foot, which won in overtime in Brodhead in Week 3. In that game, Brodhead-Juda chose to go for the two-point conversion and the win, but came up short.

"We have confidence," senior Trent Jordan said. "We lost that game last time, but we won't this time."

To get to the state semifinal, the Cardinals got total effort from all the seniors, which made play after play at crucial points throughout the game.

"I can't talk about (one senior) without talking about the rest of the seniors," Matthys said. "Nick Jacobson played the night of his life tonight, Sky Rundle played the game of his life, Brian Bauman played a great game and (Dylan) Severson. When the game was on the line, it was the seniors who had the desire. We knew it was going to be physical, and it was. It was going to come down to who wanted it most."

DeLorme had 66 rushing yards and two scores and Wallace had 168 yards on 17 carries with two scores. Wallace also had a 67-yard catch on the Cardinals' second play get called back on a penalty. Wallace's 61-yard scamper just a minute and a half into the fourth quarter put the Cardinals at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Wallace scored, giving Brodhead-Juda a 28-21 lead. Wallace's first touchdown came in the second quarter, which gave his team a 14-6 advantage.

Tied 14-14 at halftime, Jordan took the opening kickoff of the third quarter 90 yards to pay dirt.

"It's Level 3 playoffs and to return a kickoff, it's huge," Jordan said. "(Nekoosa) had a little bit of momentum going into halftime, but coming out and doing that showed them that we were not letting down."