ELKHORN — Mother Nature provided the wind and ice, but the Racine Lutheran High School football team’s running game scorched another opposing defense to clear a path to Madison.
On a snow-crusted field in Elkhorn, the Crusaders rushed for 513 yards in a 55-28 victory over Lancaster on Friday to advance to the WIAA Division 6 state championship game.
Lutheran will play Iola-Scandinavia for the state title on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. The Thunderbirds held off Grantsburg 27-25.
Tyler Tenner and Jaylen Houston each scored three touchdowns, as the former worked the edges of the field and the latter claimed the middle. Tenner carried 30 times for 302 yards, while Houston returned from an ankle injury the previous week to pick up 174 yards on 11 runs.
“Tyler and Jaylen have all the yards, but our offensive line took control of that game,” Lutheran coach Scott Smith said afterward. “I figured we’d be more physical, and we were.”
Playing in winds that gusted up to 30 mph, the Crusaders (11-2) attempted only two passes and completed neither. Even running plays required extra concentration, as coaches reminded Lutheran linemen and ball carriers to take choppy steps on the icy turf.
Considered the home team, the Crusaders wore purple jerseys that onlookers noted closely resembled the host school’s colors. And Lutheran settled in quickly. Forced to retrieve the ball near the goal line after the opening kickoff sailed over his head, Tenner brought it back 100 yards for the first score.
Then the running game kicked in, as Tenner gained 197 yards in the first half alone. The Crusaders often used misdirection plays to keep the Flying Arrows off-guard.
“They were always keying on one of us, so they were always guessing,” Houston said.
Lancaster’s first score came with 2:21 left in the second quarter, after Lutheran had charged to a 28-0 lead. The Crusaders forced several three-and-outs.
“Our defense stacked them up in the first quarter and shut them down completely,” Smith said.
Tenner scored on runs of 52, 28 and 16 yards and had yet another scoring run negated by a holding penalty. Houston had touchdowns from 52, 46 and 41 yards out, and Josh Hess added a 19-yard score on a reverse.
Although the Flying Arrows (9-4) scored on their first possession of the second half to cut the lead to 35-14, Lutheran recovered the subsequent onside kick. The Crusaders then wound five minutes off the clock with a methodical touchdown drive that restored the margin to 28 points.
The Flying Arrows picked up a couple of late touchdowns, but Lutheran defensive back James Wilson’s interception with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter allowed the Crusaders to run out the clock.
“I knew if we always played hard and everybody played their best, we had a chance to go to state,” said left tackle Alex Schulz.