The much-anticipated Southwest Wisconsin Conference contest between Lancaster and Platteville is finally here, as the two undefeated teams will meet tonight (Friday, Oct .14) at UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Stadium at 7 p.m.
Tonight’s regular-season finale pits the high-scoring offense of the Flying Arrows (8-0, 4-0 SWC), up against the stingy defense of the Hillmen (8-0, 4-0). The same can also be said about the Hillmen offense going up against the Lancaster defense.
Both prep football powers have cleared every hurdle through the first eight weeks and tonight’s battle for this year’s SWC title will be one of the most anticipated and hyped regular season finales in the state this weekend, and the biggest meeting between these two neighboring rivals since the final game of the 2006.
In that 2006 finale the Arrows avenged an earlier season loss to the Hillmen (in 2006 the two teams met twice in the regular season) by running out the clock, draining the final 10 minutes and 30 seconds of the game with 15-straight running plays to hold on for a 21-20 victory that forced a split of that year’s conference championship.
The casts of characters and even the uniforms have changed since that 2006 instant classic, but the intensity of the rivalry certainly hasn’t.
Going into Friday’s big game, Lancaster is scoring average of 51 points per game, while giving up 18.6 points to their opponents. This stat can be a little misleading though, as the Arrows have outscored their opponents 288 to 93 in the first half of their eight games this season before putting in their second string.
Something has to give though, as the Hillmen average 40.9 points per game, while allowing just 10.4 to their opponents.
The Arrows have done most of their damage on the ground, rushing for 2,819 total yards and 40 touchdowns on 353 attempts. That’s an unbelievable average of 352.3 yards rushing in eight games. Through the air, coach John Hoch’s squad averages a respectable 91.7 yards passing and has scored 12 touchdowns by way of their air attack.
The Hillmen though, lead the league in passing with an average of 154.1 yards per game to go along with a respectable 202.1 yards per game average on the ground.
“We’re going to definitely have to play good defense,” said coach Hoch of Friday night’s contest. “Last year we were able to put the ball in the end zone against them, but we turned the ball over three times and they took advantage of them by returning two for touchdowns.”
“They’re going to score their points, but hopefully we can make them work for it,” Hoch added.
At the quarterback position, both teams feature a dual threat in Platteville’s Logan Emendorfer and Lancaster’s Justin Hore.
Emendorfer is a three-year starter under center, compared to Hore, who made the switch from end to quarterback this year. Emendorfer leads the SWC with 1,233 passing yards and 21 TDs. He’s competed 74-of-111 passing attempts (66.7%) and has thrown just two interceptions. On the ground, Emendorfer has rushed for more than 300 yards and had five more scores to his credit. Emendorfer’s favorite receiver is David Best, who has 28 catches for 407 yards and seven TDs this season.
Hore has proven to be a real threat running the ball late in the season, and goes into the contest with 453 yards and eight TDs on 84 attempts. Through the air, he has completed 22-of-40 attempts for 422 yards, six TDs and only two interceptions. Hore suffered a deep thigh bruise in Lancaster’s win over Prairie du Chien, and sat out last Friday’s game against Dodgeville in preparation for this week’s contest.
Hore’s favorite receiver has been Wes Schnepper, who has 11 receptions for 216 yards and four scores. Close behind him is Troy Baker, who in seven games has eight catches for 256 yards and four TDs. Kile Jerrett rounds out the threat with eight catches for 153 yards and two TDs in seven games.
“Lancaster sure looks the part of an undefeated team,” said Platteville head coach Scott Statz. “They do not have any weaknesses. We will have to play our best game to date to have a chance. These are the types of games you love to be in. It is a great opportunity.”
While Plattteville may hold the edge in the passing game, the ground game has to go to the Arrows. Lancaster has four legitimate weapons at its disposal when you include Trae Mezera, Matt Ihm, Troy Baker and Justin Hore. Mezera leads the team in rushing with 903 yards and 17 TDs on 96 carries. In seven games this season, Baker has run for 691 yards and eight TDs on 63 carries, while Ihm has 393 yards and three TDs in eight games.
“We’ve been very fortunate this year to have a lot of big plays, and been able to take advantage of some situations that teams have given us,” said Hoch.
Platteville’s leading rusher is Garrison Jones, who has over 600 yards and nine TDs so far this season.
With all this offensive production by both teams throughout the season, Friday night’s contest undoubtedly could come down to who plays better on the defensive side of the ball. Perhaps special teams could even play a major factor in the outcome that is if either team is forced to punt.
A year ago Platteville senior Logan Emendorfer rushed for 171 yards, passed for 112 yards, recovered two fumbles and accounted for three touchdowns (one rushing, one passing, one fumble return) as the Hilmen defeated the Arrows 55-35 on the final night of the regular season to clinch a postseason berth.
Entering tonight's game Platteville holds a 45-35-2 advantage in the all-time series with Lancaster. The Hillmen have also won 32 conference titles compared to 23 for the Arrows. However, Lancaster does hold a 6-1 edge in state titles.
The Arrows have also dominated the rivalry recently, winning 12 of the previous14 meetings from 1997-2009 before last year loss.
contributions from Jason Nihles, Plattevile Journal