New Berlin Eisenhower came into today's Division 3 State Final as the team to beat on paper.
After a 21 year absence, the Lions returned to Camp Randall with a spotless record, not to mention this whole season, they never trailed in a single game.
But to a Rice Lake roster that caught fire at the right time, turning a 3rd place Big River Conference finish into a State Championship appearance. None of that mattered today.
"We knew it was going to be challenging. We knew they were going to be physical. You could see it in the film," said Matt Kern, New Berlin Eisenhower head coach.
Ike struggled on both sides of the ball. An offense that had been averaging nearly 40 points a game was held to just 3.
"We couldn't get anything going consistently on the line of scrimmage and then when they were grounding out the length of drives that they were it just took way out offensive rhythm," Kern said.
And the defense that had been a solid wall for most of the season, crumbled against the warriors run game.
"We felt pretty good about the scheme we had in place and the kids that we had out there. They would need four and they would get five," Kern said.
It's a heart breaking loss for Ike's seniors, who have worked so hard to get their program back to this stage.
"We hadn't been here in 21 years, hadn't won it in 21 years. I know they wanted to finish the deal but I don't think for me it takes away from the great season that we had. I know those guys are hurting right now but I think someday when they are able to look back at the year that we had they are going to feel good about it," Kern said.
Of course this is not the outcome New Berlin Eisenhower was rooting for, but this is just another sign that they are headed in the right direction with Kern.
In just four seasons the Lions have transformed from a team that had trouble clinching a playoff spot, to the second best team in the state of Wisconsin at the Division 3 level. Still a lot to be proud of.