Florence edges out Thorp in eight-player state title game

The Bobcats won 32-30 to claim their first-ever state title
Published: Nov. 11, 2023 at 6:53 PM CST
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - The Florence Bobcats are bringing home a gold ball. Florence topped Thorp 32-30 Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids to take home their first-ever state championship in football.

The game was an instant classic, featuring a back-and-forth tempo. The Cardinals started the scoring with a 22-yard touchdown strike from Denzel Sutton to Braden Schultze. A two-point try made it 8-0. Florence had a quick answer, grabbing back-to-back touchdowns, both four-yard runs by Logan Schuls. However, before half, Thorp would add another score as Sutton hit Logan Hanson from two yards out, making the halftime score 14-14.

On the first play of the second half, Sutton broke free on a 70-yard touchdown run to give Thorp their first lead since the first quarter, tacking on a two-point to make it 22-20. However, the Bobcats would answer the call once again. William Kelley rattled off a 24-yard touchdown scamper, but the two-point conversion was unsuccessful, making it 22-20.

Back and forth the sides went as Sutton would return the favor with another long touchdown run, this time from 23 yards. However, Kelley would match him once again, escaping for a 64-yard touchdown, cutting the game to 30-26.

In the fourth quarter, the Bobcats got the ball back in their favor thanks to turnovers. Dustin Williams would end a Thorp drive by intercepting Sutton, giving Florence the chance to take the lead. A methodical drive would be capped off by a short Kelley touchdown run, giving Florence the lead back at 32-30. On Thorp’s next drive, Williams would play hero again, nabbing his second interception. Thorp would get a stop, getting one more shot at the lead with under two minutes left. However, Sutton was picked off a third time, this time by Kelley on an acrobatic one-hand grab. From there, Florence bled out the clock, winning the game 32-30, claiming their first-ever state crown.

Thorp came up short in their first trip to state since 1994. However, Thorp head coach KD Stokes is forever grateful for the group of guys he got to coach.

“I’m so proud of our young men. The worst thing about this when I woke up this morning is I knew this was the last time I got to coach my seniors,” said Stokes. “Our guys came out and they fought and they left it on the field and the ball didn’t bounce our way this week. We can think about what we could’ve did should’ve did, but the fact that we got here, I’m so proud of our young men.”

The silver ball is Thorp’s second in school history.

The game also set an eight-player state record for attendance, with 1,450 fans at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids.