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Competitive games at the state finals not always a given

11/20/2018, 9:30am CST
By Travis Wilson

Black Hawk's win over Edgar was one of four title games decided by just one score this year

Overall, the 2018 WIAA state football championships were some of the most competitive we've seen in quite some time, with the most one-score outcomes in more than a decade.

It began right away Thursday morning when Black Hawk and Edgar slugged it out in a Division 7 game that wasn't always the cleanest, but did prove to be very competitive and very exciting. The result was in doubt until the final minutes, when Black Hawk ran out the clock for a 22-15 victory.

Iola-Scandinavia's 43-14 running clock win over Racine Lutheran for the D6 title was the only game of the week that wasn't competitive for at least a half, as the T-Birds built a 29-0 halftime lead and cruised home from there.

Stratford seemed poised to jump out big against Saint Mary's Springs in the Division 5 game, but the Ledgers battled back and took the lead for good with just over two minutes remaining in a 20-17 win.

Racine St. Catherine's and Saint Croix Central gave us the most end-game drama, as Da'Shaun Brown scored a touchdown and went in for the ensuing two-point conversion run with just 12 seconds remaining to lift the Angels to an 8-7 victory.

Friday morning's Division 3 contest ended with a two-score Catholic Memorial win, but the Crusaders trailed 24-0 in the third quarter before staging the largest title game comeback in state history to defeat West De Pere 37-24, scoring 37 points in the game's final 20 minutes.

While Homestead ended with a running clock on Brookfield Central in the Division 2 game, the Highlanders trailed with just over four minutes left in the first half and led just 24-14 into the third quarter before pulling away in a 51-14 running clock win.

Muskego and Kimberly were never separated by more than seven points, and in the final three quarters, weren't separated by more than four points. Muskego would end Kimberly's five-year state title run with a 24-21 victory.

If you're scoring at home, that is four, one-score games out of the seven championship contests plus the largest comeback in state history and a running clock final that was in doubt into the mid-third quarter, with just one true non-competitive game.

The four, one-score finals are the most since 2006, when there were also four games decided by just one score.

Historical look at one-score games in state finals

There have been 268 state title games since the WIAA first sponsored a football playoff series in 1976. Of those, 95 have been decided by one-score, or roughly 35%.

There has been considerable ebb and flow in how many one-score games take place at state, and that is best illustrated in a four-year run from 2001 to 2004. There was just one, one-score final in 2001, the final season with just six championship contests. The following year, 2002, was the first year that the WIAA expanded to seven divisions. Of the seven championship games, a record six were decided by just one score. The very next year in 2003, not a single game was within one score, while just one of seven were decided by one score in 2004.

Four times in state history there were no one-score games at state: 1988, 1999, 2003, and most recently in 2007.

The 1991 state finals saw five of six games decided by one score, with Monroe's 30-0 shutout of Seymour the only outlier.

There were just five state title games in 1979 and 1980, but both seasons saw four of the contests decided by one score.

Of note, the 1987 season had one-score results in four of the six title games, with the Division 5 and 6 games decided by 11 and 13 points, respectively. The Division 1 through 3 games that season were decided by a combined six points, as Fond du Lac beat Oconomowoc 3-0 for the D1 title in the lowest-scoring final game in state history, Middleton slipped past Monroe 7-6 for the Division 2 championship, and Hayward edged Sheboygan Falls 29-28 to capture the D3 crown.

Following is a breakdown of the percentage of games in each decade that were decided by one score:

  • 1970's: 9 of 18 games, 50%
  • 1980's: 18 of 59 games, 30.5%
  • 1990's: 26 of 60 games, 43.3%
  • 2000's: 22 of 68 games, 32.4%
  • 2010's: 20 of 63 games, 31.7%

One-score games at state are no given, but they certainly aren't a rarity either. The 2018 championships will go down as some of the most exciting and competitive we've seen, especially in the last dozen years. We can't wait to see what 2019 has in store.

Below is a year-by-year look at the number of one-score games in the state finals.


For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)

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