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Henry Truebenbach looks for running room against Annandale. The Cardinals proved to be too much for the Wolves and rolled to a 34-0 win at Rockford High School on Nov. 20. 

Milaca knew it would have its hands full with reigning Section 5AAA Champion Annandale.

The two teams had already met this year with the Cardinals rolling to a 34-3 win at Claffy Field on Oct. 23. The Wolves would have to slow down their No.1- seeded opponent. The second meeting proved to show much of the same as Annandale was able to win again, pulling out a 34-0 win at neutral site, Rockford High School.

Milaca was geared up to take on Foley after the Falcons win over Patrick Henry but due to Gov. Walz’s announcement to shutdown high school sports for four weeks in order to slow COVID-19, the Wolves and Cardinals would meet for the Section Title in the season finale for both teams.

Head Coach Kevin Armbrust knew the team would have to get off to a better start than they did last time they faced the Cardinals. However, Milaca again struggled with Annandale. “We had three drives in the first half they reached the red zone and we couldn’t punch it in. Against a great team like Annandale, if you don’t take advantage of those opportunities early, then they game can kind of end up what it became,” Armbrust said.

The Cardinals received the opening kickoff from Milaca and were able to march methodically down the field as they were take the early 7-0 lead. 

On the Wolves’ ensuing possession they attempted to answer picking up a handful of first downs finding themselves deep into Annandale territory. The drive would stall and after an unsuccessful conversion on fourth down, the Cardinals’ offense would take over.

Annandale would once again march down the field via the run game to grab the 14-0 lead. Henry Truebenbach noted that the Wolves had trouble to stop the Cardinals’ rushing attack. “Annandale was a really tough opponent that just ran the ball right at us the whole game. We were struggling to stop their run game,” he said.

Annandale would quickly force a punt on Milaca’s next possession but on the kick, the Cardinals were able to block the attempt and recover the ball in the end zone to force a safety to take the 16-0 lead. The score would hold until halftime.

Back after the half, Annandale was able to put the game away outscoring the Wolves 18-0 in the third quarter, taking the 34-0 lead as that score would hold on to be the final score.

Truebenbach was able to pick up 125 yards rushing in his final game for Milaca.

Milaca finished its season with a 3-4 record while Annandale wrapped up an undefeated season at 7-0.

The end of the season will bring a close to the careers of many mainstays in the Milaca program with the team losing key players on both sides of the ball. Armbrust knows the it will be hard to replace those who are graduating but believes the Wolves can do it. “You will miss those guys that the program has rested on, who have been the cornerstones for a couple of years but we have a great group of guys coming forward too,” he said.

Among those leaving will be Truebenbach, who has been Milaca’s leading rusher for the past couple years along with Aiden Mikla and Braden Hardy who were second and third for the Wolves rushing-heavy attack. Jack Olson, Brady Ash, Bodee Zens will also leave behind holes on the line for Milaca.

With COVID-19 putting added stress on the team, Truebenbach said the seniors were happy to have the chance to compete and made the best out of the opportunity. “Being a senior this year was tough because none of us knew what we were going to get out of this season,” he said. “Me and all the other seniors are very grateful that we got to play the whole season. Our team made the best out of what we had and made it work.”

Looking back, Armbrust views a unusual and challenging season as a success for a different reason. “I would consider it a success in many ways. Ultimately you win some and lose some and we would have liked to win more this year but the strength of our program rests on our leaders and that was first for us,” he said.

Milaca heads into the offseason hoping that next season will present the chance for the Wolves to once again return to the gridiron, playing in front of their fans.

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