Irwin made the play of the day in the fourth quarter of the WIAA Division 2 title game Friday, forcing and returning a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown, putting the icing on Waunakee's 34-21 victory, its first state championship since 2002.
"That was the best I could hope for in having my first touchdown," Irwin said. "Our defense came out in the second half on lockdown. Nothing was getting by us."
Very little got past Irwin, a 255-pound athlete that committed to the University of Wisconsin on June 22, against a Kimberly offense that was averaging 43 points per game in the playoffs.
Irwin, a three-star athlete by Scout.com, registered five tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and his incredibly athletic forced fumble/fumble recovery play. Irwin got penetration into the backfield, stripped Kimberly quarterback Austin Rogers as he was about to pass and raced untouched for a touchdown that effectively ended the Papermakers' two-year state title run.
"I just swatted it down, took a perfect bounce and I was gone," Irwin said. "Nothing was going to stuff me. I wish I could keep the ball. That's as good as it could get right there."
Hardy, also a three-star recruit, finished with five tackles and a forced fumble, but acknowledged that round one went to the future Badger.
"Watching film, I knew he was a good player and he did a good job," Hardy said. "He got me a couple times and I got him a couple times. It was electric today, so I know Saturdays are going to be awesome."
Added Irwin: "I am looking forward to seeing him in a couple years."
Turning around to look at the final statistics on the Camp Randall Jumbotron, a gleeful Michael Trotter absolutely couldn't believe it.
In the WIAA Division 1 title game, Trotter and his cohorts limited Menomonee Falls' offense to only 41 total yards and 10 passing yards, helping Milwaukee Marquette win its first D1 title with a 7-0 shutout over the Indians.
"The saying is defense wins championships," Trotter said. "I had no clue we held them to 51 yards. That feels great."
A three-star safety prospect by Scout.com, Trotter, who committed to Wisconsin in July, showed why he can be a healthy edition to UW's secondary, as he capped off one of the best seasons in Hilltoppers history, ending his senior season with 129 tackles, five interceptions and two forced fumbles.
"I didn't feel I personally played my best, but I tried my best and that's what counts," Trotter said. "In the off season, I will work on everything and come into Madison 100 percent."
As good as Michael Trotter was, Marcus Trotter, Michael's twin brother, was even better. Registering a team-high tying seven tackles, a sack and the game-clinching interception (which was ironically tipped to him by his brother), Marcus was the playmaker of the defense all season, finishing the year with a team-best 138 tackles, nine sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
"We wanted to prove to the whole state that we were the best defense and the best state," said Marcus Trotter, who doesn't have a UW offer, but has offers from Illinois State, Indiana, North Dakota, Northern Iowa and Wofford. "I've worked very hard and I feel I make a lot of plays, and I hope colleges can see that."
New Chapter for French
It wasn't a banner day for all the Wisconsin recruits. Committing to the Badgers right before the beginning of the playoffs, Menomonee Falls kicker Kyle French pushed a 40-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter.
"I pulled my head up on it and pulled it right," French said. "I wish I could get it back."
French did have a solid year for the Indians, a big reason why the Wisconsin coaching staff sought it necessary to offer him a scholarship. French made 15 field goals during the season, along with a 63-yard average on his kickoffs and a punting averaging over 39 yards with a long of 71.
"It's a great stadium and a great feeling to be in here," French said. "I wish it came with a better result to get us a win, but they're a great team and I think they deserved it."