EDITOR'S NOTE: The Swnews4u.com Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.
Evan Gates, Jr., Lancaster football
Junior Evans Gates produced a near-record breaking performance in last Friday’s WIAA Division 5 Level III playoff loss at Clinton to become Lancaster’s all-time single season rushing leader. Gates is this week’s Swnews4U.com Athlete of the Week after rushing for a career-high 326 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Friday’s 20–17 loss to top-seeded Clinton.
After a pair of Lancaster fumbles and a punt, the Flying Arrows evened the score with a 28-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. The Lancaster defense forced a punt on Clinton’s next possession, then Gates took a handoff up the middle, broke thought a pile of tacklers and raced 66 yards before being brought down at the 19 with a horse collar tackled added one. Gates eventually scored from two yards out and added the two-point conversion run to give Lancaster a 15–7 lead with 9:13 left in the half.
The Cougars intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter to pull within two at 15–13 and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 23-yard run with 2:37 left in the game.
Gates averaged 8.6 yards on 36 carries in Friday’s loss and finished the season with 2,287 yards on 283 carries in 12 games becoming the only rusher in school history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in a season. He eclipsed Tyler Glass’ previous single-season school record of 1,966 yards set during Lancaster’s 2014 Division 5 state championship season.
“(Evan) just had an outstanding season,” said Lancaster head coach John Hoch. “When we went to our double split instead of our flex, it is set up to feature one back. What he did this season though was done silently. What I mean by that is that you didn’t hear a lot of people talking about him. All of a sudden you realize he’s got that many yards, and it kind of surprised me too.”
According to wissports.net, Gates performance on Friday also made him the state’s leading rusher through 12 games.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Madison Albert-Nelson, Fr., Platteville/Lancaster girls swimming
Albert-Nelson broke her own freshman school record to finish eighth in the 100-yard butterfly at last Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 Baraboo sectional with a time of 1:01.83 to qualify for this Friday’s WIAA D2 state championships in Madison. Albert-Nelson also helped the Hillmen 200 medley relay place eighth and the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays both finish 10th.
Trevor Johnson, Sr., Darlington football
Johnson scored three touchdowns and tallied 211 yards of total offense in second-ranked Darlington’s 42–6 Division 6 Level 3 playoff victory over Pecatonica/Argyle last Friday night. Johnson rushed for 134 yards and a pair of TDs on nine carries, and caught three passes for 77 yards and a third touchdown in the win.
Emma Lawrence, Jr., Benton volleyball
Lawrence was recently named the Six Rivers West Player of the Year after leading the Zephyrs to a 26–2–1 record and their first conference title since 1988. Lawrence recorded 451 kills, 360 digs, 155 blocks, 48 aces and a .457 hitting percentage in 29 matches this year.
Madison Rizner, Jr., Richland Center volleyball
Rizner shared this year’s Southwest Wisconsin Conference volleyball Player of the Year honor with River Valley senior setter Taylor Briehl. Riner finished the season with a conference-best 395 kills, 228 digs, 114 blocks, a .337 hitting percentage and 28 aces for the conference-champion Hornets, who finished 28–10 overall in 9–1 in the SWC.
Nathan Wedige, Sr., WR/DB, Shullsburg football
Wedige had a huge game for the second week in a row, catching 10 passes for 121 yards with two touchdowns with a pair of two-point conversions and a pair of two-point conversions in the Miners’ 22–7 victory over Highland in the third round of the WIAA Division 7 playoffs. He also recovered a muffed kickoff to start the second half to go along with a game-sealing interception as Shullsburg avenged a 25–22 Homecoming loss to the Cardinals.
Ying Xiong, Sr., Platteville/Lancaster boys soccer
Xiong was recently named the Southwest Wisconsin Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season. Xiong finished the year with 12 goals and nine assists while leading the Hillmen to a 15–4–2 record and a WIAA Division 3 regional championship.