MADISON, Wisconsin — Robert Petitjean hit Jonathan Santaga for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter as Green Bay Notre Dame dug out of an early hole to beat Waukesha Catholic Memorial 19-17 and claim the WIAA Division 3 state football championship.
Santaga's 32-yard touchdown catch came two plays after Petitjean connected with Vinny Pallini for a 45-yard gain on a play in which Pallini battled Catholic Memorial defensive back Max Cooper for possession. Cooper landed on Pallini and came away with the ball, but the official immediately ruled the play a catch.
On the Tritons' previous drive less than 90 seconds earlier, running back Liam Gerl barely made it out of the end zone on first down from the Notre Dame 1.
"It was a little worrying," Petitjean said of Pallini's catch. "I was also a little worried about the safety down on the other side where it wasn't a safety. They got through pretty quick. I was worried."
There was plenty for both teams to worry about in the fourth quarter as the momentum swung back and forth.
Notre Dame (12-2) saw its first two drives of the period end when Santaga knelt down to field a low snap on a punt in Crusaders territory and Gerl fumbled inside the Tritons 5 after the near safety. Meanwhile, three Catholic Memorial possessions ended in interceptions, including Jack Drake's pick in the end zone.
"It was like panic, and then it was like hold it together," said Santaga, whose first-half interception set up Notre Dame's first touchdown. "We stayed cool, and we won the game."
Catholic Memorial (11-3) scored the game's first 10 points and had a chance to add to the early margin when a field goal attempt bounced off the upright. The crusaders also had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown called back on a penalty in the first half.
"Our inability to get away from turning the ball over . just came back to kill us today," Catholic Memorial coach Bill Young said. "We just kept on making mistakes. You can't win when you do that."