One of the most exciting high school football games played Friday night, Oct. 9, in Wisconsin was fought out on Cameron’s beautiful gridiron, Barron upending Cameron’s Homecoming game with a come-from-behind 16-14 victory.
Cameron appeared to be on the way to a blowout victory, going up 14-0 over the first nine minutes.
Barron took the opening kick, a squib that bounced past at least one Golden Bear and was eventually covered up at Barron’s 5-yard-line. That was a sign of things to come, Barron battling poor field position for most of the first half.
The Bears handed the ball to sophomore Caiden LaLiberty, who rumbled 11 yards on the first play from scrimmage. After two incompletions and an offside penalty – yellow flags being another recurring theme for both teams – Barron punted.
Cameron quickly marched down the field, guided by the running and throwing of senior quarterback Richie Murphy. A Cameron fumble was negated by a facemask penalty, but Barron junior Braden Wirth stopped the drive with an interception in the end zone.
The ball was returned to the 5-yard-line, giving Barron another long field, but it was the first of several key defensive stops the Golden Bears made.
LaLiberty had another strong run on first down negated by penalty, and by the time Barron returned to the run game, they trailed by 14 points. Three straight incompletions led to a short punt, and Cameron quickly marched 24 yards to pay dirt. Murphy ran up the middle for 12 yards, then senior Ian Payne did the same, stretching the ball over the goal line.
The kick was good and Cameron led 7-0 midway through the first quarter. After a Sam Baumgard return to the Barron 37-yard-line, the Bears punted again three pass plays and two penalties later.
Cameron paraded 59 yards to the end zone. A catch and run by Payne put the Comets in Barron territory, Murphy directing Cameron downfield before Payne covered the final five yards on the ground. Cameron led 14-0 with 2:40 on the first quarter clock, but the Bears were about to log nearly 39 minutes of impressive shutout defense.
Barron went to the ground game and broke Cameron’s momentum, the second quarter beginning with a Caiden LaLiberty run to convert a fourth down as Barron finally entered Comet territory. An unsportsmanlike penalty was tacked on and Barron was at Cameron’s 16-yard-line. Three plays later, LaLiberty rumbled two yards to pay dirt. He then plowed in for 2 points, the first of two key Barron conversions.
Cameron took the ball at its 35 and again moved the ball, although they were forced to work for every yard gained. The hosts eventually gained a first down at the Barron 3-yard-line, but a scramble then lost a yard. Junior William Weise stuffed a run, then Cameron gained three yards for a fourth-and-2.
After a timeout, Cameron passed on a field goal attempt. Murphy bootlegged, but Caiden LaLiberty sprinted into the backfield, forcing a hurried pass that fell incomplete.
However, Cameron soon stopped a pass attempt on third-and-3, and took over in great shape at the Barron 38. Murphy ran for a first down at the 24, then Ethan VanBuskirk ran for a fresh set of downs at the 11 as the clock ticked under two minutes.
A short run, an incompletion and an offensive pass interference call set up a second and long, but a reverse to Caleb Gillet set up a third-and-12. Murphy scrambled for eight yards and Cameron called timeout 40.8 seconds before halftime.
Needing four yards for a first down and five for a score, Murphy found Payne, who reached for any extra yardage possible as he went to the ground. The measuring sticks came out, and by a matter of inches, Barron had another key stop. The Bears ran out the clock and happily went into halftime down 14-8.
“It took us most of the first quarter to settle in defensively, but when we did, our defense played phenomenal after giving up two early touchdowns,” Barron coach BJ Williams said. “We ended the first half with two defensive stands inside the 10. There were also two more stops of similar nature in the second half. The defense came up big with two interceptions; one of them going for a pick-6.”
Defense ruled through the second half, Weise stuffing a run and then making a fourth down sack to stop the second half’s opening drive at the Barron 10 after Cameron had moved the ball 55 yards.
Cameron forced a punt, then came the interception that changed the game. Facing third-and-11 after another penalty, Murphy tried to hit a receiver in the flat. Barron sophomore Regan Vruwink jumped the route, picked off the pass and raced 38 yards to the end zone.
LaLiberty went up the middle for two points, and with 20 seconds to play in the third quarter, what proved to be the final score of 16-14 was on the scoreboard.
Caiden LaLiberty, who had a spectacular game, bulldogged Murphy to the ground to force a punt on Cameron’s next possession.
Another holding call and a fumble stalled Barron’s ensuing drive before the Bears gained traction, but senior Ben Shatley used a 42-yard punt to pin the Comets on their own 8-yard-line.
Barron quickly forced a punt, but a roughing the kicker foul gave Cameron new life and a first down at the 29. The Comets nearly stalled out near midfield, but a confusing play kept the drive alive. Barron intercepted a pass with the help of defensive pass interference, and Cameron was called for tripping on the same play. The refs marked off both penalties, walking 15 yards in one direction and 15 yards in the other, then declared a Cameron first down because of a change in possession (the interception made with pass interference already called).
With fans still scratching their heads, Cameron converted a third-and-11, Murphy hitting Jordan Folz for a first down at the Barron 35. Murphy then ran for four yards and Cameron called timeout with 1:29 to play. LaLiberty sacked Murphy to force third-and-10 and every fan not already standing, slid to the edge of their seat. Payne hauled in a 9-yard pass to set up fourth-and-1 with 47.5 ticks to go, then carried the ball for first down yardage to the 19.
Senior Carter LaLiberty then sacked Murphy and Cameron called its final timeout with 27.6 seconds to play. Austin Bladlow took Murphy down in the backfield for another sack, and the clock appeared to momentarily stop as Cameron scrambled to get off another play.
The Comets heaved the ball downfield, and after an incompletion, there was just 0.1 seconds on the clock. Offsetting penalties were called, including a premature celebration on Barron’s part, and Cameron tried a final desperation throw that fell incomplete near the goal line.
Caiden LaLiberty led Barron’s defensive effort with 14 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Joe Mashak finished with seven tackles, Sam Baumgard 6 and William Wiese 5.5, including a sack. The defense held up for the win, despite Cameron running 67 plays to Barron’s 34. Two interceptions and a defensive touchdown made the difference.
Cameron’s offense racked up 371 yards but came up just inches short more than once. Murphy carried the ball 23 times for 127 of the Comets’ 213 rushing yards. Payne added 68 yards on 15 totes. Murphy threw for another 158 yards, including three passes to Gillett for 37 yards and seven Payne receptions for a game-high 78 yards.
Barron’s offense produced just one touchdown and struggled through the air, but a running game that accounted for 99 yards at least gave the defense a rest at times. LaLiberty ran for 81 yards on 17 attempts, while quarterback Colin Kappel went 18 yards on three attempts. Barron completed just three of 18 passes for 16 yards.
Penalties hurt both teams, Barron losing 135 yards on a dozen calls and Cameron 105 on 11 flags. Time of possession went largely in Cameron’s favor (31:50 to 16:10), partly due to Barron running just four plays over the final period.
“Offensively, we were able to get our run game going a bit,” coach Williams said. “The offensive line did a good job of getting to the second level with our fullbacks leading the way for our tailbacks. Our run game was able to put together a nice drive in the second quarter to punch in a touchdown. Additionally, the run game was critical in converting both of our 2-point conversions; the difference in this game.
“We had very limited offensive opportunities in the second half, as key penalties either halted our drives or extended Cameron’s drives. Overall, the coaching staff is very happy with the effort and determination of this team. We were down by two scores early and easily could have packed it in and given up. As we have seen each week, they fight to the final whistle.”
Cameron, meanwhile, put on a much better showing than last year’s 41-0 home loss to the Bears. The Comets, now 0-3, will play at 1-2 St. Croix Falls this Friday night, Oct. 16. The Saints, coming off a tough 10-6 loss at unbeaten Northwestern, do not allow away fans. Barron will host winless Chetek-Weyerhaeuser this week, the Bulldogs reeling from a 42-0 loss to 3-0 Spooner.
“It is great to be back at home after two road games,” coach Williams said. “C-W has had a tough schedule the first half of the season. I am certain they will be ready to play on Friday night and are hungry for a victory.
“C-W brings a solid run game; specifically getting to the edge. The defense will need to be crisp on pursuit and tackling this week. Defensively, C-W’s line-backing crew looks to be tough and fast. Our offensive line will look to build on the improvements made against Cameron.”