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Redbirds back to state
Slade Norton acknowledges the crowd after Darlington defeated Edgar 21-20 in a Division 6 state seminfal game Friday in DeForest. With the win the Redbirds advance to the state championship game. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
DEFOREST - With Darlington clinging to a one-point lead, senior defensive back Dane Siegenthaler didn't need to be reminded that blanket coverage would be required on Edgar tight end Austin Borchardt as the Wildcats gambled and went for a two-point conversion.

Siegenthaler intercepted a two-point conversion pass in the end zone with 1 minute, 35 seconds to go to help Darlington preserve a thrilling 21-20 win over No. 1 ranked Edgar in a WIAA Division 6 state semifinal Friday.

"We knew if we got a stop it would be our game," said Siegenthaler, who had two interceptions of the five turnovers the Redbirds forced. "They were flooding the right and I saw the quarterback. He was just staring at the tight end. It was a pretty easy read and I came up with it."

With the win, Darlington (12-1), which has won 12 straight games, will return to the state championship game for the second straight year. Darlington will play St. Mary's Springs in the title game at 1 p.m. Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Siegenthaler is excited to be making a second straight trip to Camp Randall Stadium next week.

"We had the heart," he said. "We wanted to get back to Camp Randall really bad. It's amazing. I'm just speechless."

Darlington senior quarterback Cole McDonald completed 2-of-7 passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns. Senior Jason Singer had two receptions for 108 yards and three total touchdowns - two receiving and one rushing - including a 68-yard TD run in the third quarter to propel the Redbirds to a 21-6 lead.

Edgar stormed back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Edgar senior quarterback Kaleb Wolf hooked up with Zachary Pospyhalla for a 71-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter. Edgar's Matt Urmanski then tossed a two-point conversion pass to Borchardt to cut the Redbirds' lead to 21-14.

Disaster struck for the Redbirds late in the fourth quarter when Singer fumbled an option pitch from McDonald. Three plays later, Edgar senior running back Cody Weiler then had a 4-yard TD run with 1:35 to go to cut the Redbirds' lead to 21-20. The Wildcats first lined up to kick an extra point to tie the game, but then called timeout and rolled the dice on going for a two-point conversion. Darlington coach Scott Zywicki was a little surprised by the Wildcats' decision to go for two-points instead of kicking the extra point that could have forced overtime.

"If it's me I would have kicked it because they have an excellent kicker," Zywicki said. "They came here to win like we did, and they took a gamble just like we did going for it on fourth down (in the first half on fourth-and-1 from the Redbirds' 13-yard line)."

Darlington senior fullback Myles Leahy rushed for 118 yards on 27 carries, and Hunter Johnson rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries.

The Redbirds' defense stepped up and made plays when they needed to, forcing five turnovers against the Wildcats - four interceptions including two by Siegenthaler, one interception by Johnson and one interception by Kade Carey, along with a forced fumble by Slade Norton and fumble recovery by Cole Trumble. The Redbirds' defense has thrived at forcing turnovers in the playoffs and now have forced 19 turnovers in four playoff games. Senior defensive tackle Zach Wolf had one sack and defensive end Cole Whalen made several tackles for losses penetrating the backfield.

"Our line made it impossible for them to run," Zywicki said. "When you can make a team one-dimensional you always have to like your chances."

Early on, the game had the makings of a shootout. Pospyhalla helped the Wildcats strike first with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter. On their second possession, the Redbirds' 10-play, 77-yard drive, culminated in McDonald's 36-yard TD pass to Singer on fourth-and-11.

Johnson came up with an interception to set up the next scoring opportunity for the Redbirds. McDonald then tossed an 82-yard TD pass to Singer on a seam to give the Redbirds a 14-6 lead late in the first quarter.

"We knew going in we had to make the most of our opportunities," McDonald said. "I just put the ball up and I knew Jason would go get it."

Singer then broke the game open when he bolted for a 68-yard TD run on the Redbirds' first possession of the third quarter to help Darlington take a 21-6 lead. Carey and Siegenthaler each had interceptions in the final three minutes to seal the win.

"It's amazing," Singer said after the Redbirds survived. "We can't be content with what we did tonight. Last year, I think we got content and we came out at state and got blown out. We have to get the right colored ball this time."