Rice Lake, St. Croix Central return to State Finals - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Rice Lake, St. Croix Central return to State Finals

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Rice Lake head coach Dan Hill Rice Lake head coach Dan Hill
Rice Lake senior Sam Bliese Rice Lake senior Sam Bliese
St. Croix Central senior Collin Nelson St. Croix Central senior Collin Nelson
St. Croix Central senior Chris Matteson St. Croix Central senior Chris Matteson

(WQOW) --  The high school football season wraps up this week with the WIAA State Finals, and two teams from this area will play at Camp Randall this week. 

Rice Lake is headed to Madison after a Division 3, Level 4 win over Green Bay Notre Dame, Friday, by a score of 28-7. The Warriors last won a state title in 1979. It's the program sixth appearance in the state finals, and the first since 2014.

"They weren't playing, but they were on the team and they were there," says head coach Dan Hill, "They got a big taste of it, and in the offseason preparation, that was one of the things those guys that are captains now got up and talked about is how badly they wanted to get back down there, so to be able to have a shot at that dream is a huge thing."

"I'd say it's been our goal since we lost to Notre Dame last year, to get down there and win it, because we knew what we had coming back, and it was going to be a great team this year," explains senior Sam Bliese, "It's been our goal to get here and it's time to bring home another gold ball for Rice Lake."

The Warriors will face New Berlin Eisenhower this Friday at 10 a.m.

In division 4, St. Croix Central is making its second straight trip to the State Finals after a 42-21 win over Freedom in Level 4, Friday. The Panthers return 27 seniors from last year's championship team, and they say the foundation for this year's success began right after winning last year's title.

"Once we got off that field we knew it was a new season, so we had to pick it up and work hard, but that was the biggest thing," says senior Collin Nelson, "Our coaches stressed that it was a new team, don't dwell on the past, put your state rings away, put the t-shirts away until this season is over, and obviously we're going back for more this year."

"It's definitely going to be a little bit more comfortable this year, not as nervous because we've been in that situation before," senior Chris Matteson explains, "The field is definitely a lot to take in, but it's going to be fun."

St. Croix Central takes on Lodi Thursday night at 7 p.m.

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