LANCASTER — The general rule about playing an offensively explosive football team is to not give that team easy opportunities to score — for instance, giving your opponent good field position.
The Platteville Hillmen didn’t follow that rule in the first half of Friday’s Southwest Wisconsin Conference showdown, and it cost the Hillmen the SWC title and a home playoff game in a top-heavy playoff bracket.
Lancaster won its fourth consecutive SWC title, 50–20. Platteville (6–3, 4–1 SWC) got the fifth bracket seed and will travel to fourth-seed Clinton for their Division 4 Level 1 playoff game Friday at 7 p.m.
“We were disappointed with the start that we had; it obviously impacted the game,” said Platteville head coach Scott Statz. “On the other hand, Lancaster has an outstanding team and I’d be surprised if we play anyone better this season.
There is a reason they are averaging 59 points per game. They are very explosive and have a lot of playmakers. What we need to focus on are the lessons learned from this game. We need to tackle much better.”
Opportunity number one came after the opening kickoff sailed out of bounds. Lancaster coach John Hoch made Platteville rekick, and the second opening kickoff landed in the hands of Tyler Glass, who veered toward the home sideline and then ran past it and the Hillmen kick coverage team 65 yards for the game-opening touchdown.
Platteville responded with a 68-yard run by fullback Ryan Weber that, three plays later, set up Jake Bernhardt’s two-yard touchdown run, tying the score 7–7 not even two minutes into the game.
Opportunity number two was Lancaster quarterback Nate Tranel’s kickoff return to the Platteville 42-yard line. Tranel’s return apparently warmed him up, because he followed that with a 30-yard run to the Platteville 12. Three Glass runs later, the senior fullback had the second of what would be his six touchdowns of the night not even three minutes into the game.
The next Lancaster scoring drive put the word “flying” into their nickname, Flying Arrows — an 18-yard Tranel run, a 30-yard pass from Tranel to Brett Snider, and then a Glass 32-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 21–7 not even halfway through the first quarter.
Opportunity number three was the ensuing fumbled kickoff return, recovered by Lancaster at the Platteville 34. Tranel’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Abe Thompson extended the lead to 28–7 with 5:10 left in the first quarter.
The Platteville defense did have its moments, stopping the Arrows a yard shy of the end zone on the second play of the second quarter, but that too turned into Arrows points when quarterback Blake Wagner was tackled in the end zone for a safety 57 seconds into the second quarter, extending the lead to 38–7.
The Platteville offense also had its moments, taking one drive from the Platteville 28 to the Lancaster 28, only to have the drive fizzle on an incomplete pass and a one-yard loss on fourth and six. One play later, Glass ran for a 70-yard touchdown, extending the Arrows lead to 37–7 with 3:20 left in the first half.
Platteville was able to play the kind of football the Hillmen wanted to play in the second half. After returning the second half-opening kickoff to the Lancaster 47, the Hillmen needed four plays, including a 14-yard pass from Wagner to Weber, to set up a 26-yard Wagner touchdown run. The Hillmen defense also stopped a 15-play Arrow drive four yards short of the goal line.
“I thought we played much better the second half and Lancaster never subbed out their number one unit on either side of the ball, so we were playing much better against their best and that is a positive,” said Statz. “We need to have the kind of intensity and focus that we had the second half for a full game.”
Despite having a better conference record than 2012 (3–2) or 2013 (4–4), and despite having a better overall record than last year (5–4), the Hillmen will start the playoffs on the road at fourth-seed Clinton. The Cougars (6–3) had the same overall record and a worse conference record percentage-wise (4–2 vs. 4–1) than the Hillmen, but one of Clinton’s four Rock Valley South Conference wins was over Brodhead–Juda (8–1), the bracket’s number two seed and co-champion of the Rock Valley South.
The winner of the game will play eighth-seed University School of Milwaukee (6–3) or number one seed Lodi (8–1) in Level 2 next weekend.
Lancaster 50, Platteville 20
(from Friday, Oct. 17 @ Lancaster)
Platteville 7 0 6 7 — 20
Lancaster 28 9 0 13 — 50
L: Tyler Glass 74 kickoff return (Jacob Taylor kick)
P: Blake Wagner 2 run (Zach White kick)
L: Glass 3 run (Taylor kick)
L: Glass 32 run (Taylor kick)
L: Abe Thompson 15 pass from Nathan Tranel (Taylor kick)
L: Safety, Deep Patel tackled Wagner in the end zone
L: Glass 70 run
P: Wagner 27 run (kick faile)
L: Glass 66 run (Taylor kick)
L: Glass 25 run (Taylor kick)
P: Jacob Bernhart 1 run (White kick)
First downs — P 11, L 17. Rushing — P 41-232, L 36-372. Passing Yards — P 43, L 79. Passing — P 5-8-0, L 6-12-0. Fumbles–lost — P 3-2, L 2-0. Penalties-yards — P 7-65, L 7-50.
Rushing — P: Ryan Weber 7-85; L: Tyler Glass 18-264. Passing — P: Blake Wagner 5-7-0, 43; L: Nathan Tranel 6-12-0, 79. Receiving — P: Weber 4-32; L: Brett Snider 2-47.