GAME OF THE WEEK (Oct. 31–6)
WIAA FOOTBALL DIVISION 6 LEVEL 3 PLAYOFF: Lancaster 21, Fennimore 14
FENNIMORE — Throw away the records and disregard whatever happened earlier in the regular season, because once you’re playing in the WIAA football playoffs, none of that matters anymore.
Teams are now focused on being 1-0 each week, and those that are playing at the top of their game come November are the ones vying for a trip to Camp Randall Stadium.
Coach John Hoch and his Lancaster Flying Arrows are making the most of their “second season,” and currently find themselves one win away from playing in Madison.
In their first year playing in division 6, the third-seeded Flying Arrows picked up a level-3 playoff win over top-seeded Fennimore last Friday night, defeating the host Golden Eagles, 21-14, in a hard-fought, and very physical contest.
The Arrows now face another three seed from the lower half of the bracket in Racine Lutheran, who match up this Friday night at Elkhorn Area High School. On the line for Lancaster will be the program’s 12th trip to the state championship.
Last Friday night’s meeting with the Golden Eagles was the second of the season for the Flying Arrows, as Fennimore handed Lancaster a 14-0 loss in their season opener on Aug. 17.
Fennimore came into Friday night’s contest with a record of 10-1 and held the top seed in their side of the D6 playoff bracket. Lancaster came into the game at 8-3 as the third seed.
Ten weeks after their first meeting, it was obvious both teams had matured over the course of the season, but for a number of younger players stepping into starting roles for Lancaster, the difference was especially obvious.
“I think the speed of the game is slowing down for some of them, so they’re gaining more confidence,” said coach John Hoch of his younger athletes. “I think that with every win, you gain a little more confidence.”
“I thought we did a much better job than what we did the first time around as far as our physicality,” Hoch added. “We’ve been preaching that when you get into the playoffs, you have to really be physical. I think our kids are starting to believe in that.”
Lancaster’s physicality was on full display on both sides of the ball, whether it was their ground-and-pound rushing attack on offense, or their relentless pass rush and gang tackling on defense.
The Arrows managed 225 yards rushing on a whopping 56 attempts for an average of 4.0 yards per attempt, none of which would have been possible without the physical strength of the offensive front.
Junior fullback Corey Hahn led Lancaster with 109 yards on 21 carries, while fellow junior Dawson Bowen was right behind him with 105 yards and two TDs on 23 carries.
Bowen’s first touchdown came from seven yards out on Lancaster’s second offensive play of the game.
After Lancaster safety Hayden Wagner ended a 10-play opening drive by the Eagles with an interception in the end zone, Lancaster took over at their own 20-yard line with 7:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
Coach Hoch rolled the dice with his first offensive play call, as sophomore quarterback Hayden Knapp connected with fellow sophomore Preston Noethe on a 73-yard streak down the middle of the field, setting up Bowen’s seven-yard TD run.
Tanner Oyen’s extra-point kick gave the Arrows an early 7-0 lead, and a huge momentum boost to start the game.
“It definitely set the tone and got us pumped up,” Hoch said of the deep ball. “It’s been on my play sheet for five weeks in a row, and I finally called it this week to be our first play.”
Holding the Eagles to a three-and-out on their next possession, Lancaster took over at their own 49-yard line following a short punt by Reid Larson.
The Arrows proceeded to put together a nine-play scoring drive that was capped off with a one-yard TD plunge by Bowen for his second score in as many possessions.
On the drive, it was Hahn who carried much of the load, rushing for 45 yards on six carries, then lining up as the lead blocker for Bowen on the TD run.
A failed two-point conversion pass left Lancaster with a 13-0 lead, but momentum was clearly on their side.
Fennimore fumbled the ball away on their next possession, which was recovered by Lancaster senior Troy Klein at the Eagle’s 45-yard line.
A delay-of-game penalty followed by a seven-yard sack on first down and then a holding call on second down, left Lancaster with a second-and-31 that eventually led to a punt.
Fennimore took over at their own 17-yard line early in the second quarter, where a screen pass off the finger tips of Aidan Nutter fell into the hands of Bowen, who put Lancaster up 19-0 with his third score of the game on a pick-six.
It seemed only fitting that Bowen then threw the two-point conversion pass to senior Cole Kreul, giving Lancaster a 21-0 lead over the Golden Eagles with 11:24 to play in the second quarter.
That would be Lancaster’s final score of the game, though the offense did pick up valuable first downs throughout the rest of the contest and did a good job of keeping Fennimore quarterback Reid Larson off the field.
When Larson and the Fennimore offense was on the field, the Lancaster defense kept the pressure on him, as well as his wide receivers, making it difficult for the Golden Eagles to move the ball.
“I thought we played exceptionally well defensively,” said coach Hoch. “Defensively, we have picked up our intensity, and it’s created a chance for our offense to play better.”
“Defensively I thought a lot of guys had their best game Friday night. We didn’t give Larson a lot time to sit back there and pick us a part. I thought our kids played exceptionally well.”
“I think Morgan Seippel played one of his best games,” Hoch added. “He started out slow and gave up some receptions earlier, but after that he was around the ball, tipped the ball and knocked some balls down. He did a really nice job.”
On Fennimore’s ensuing possession following Bowen’s pick-six, Larsen led the Eagles to a first-and-goal at Lancaster’s 10-yard line, but was turned back on three straight incompletions, before turning the ball over on downs with only an eight-yard gain on fourth down.
The Eagles eventually found the end zone on their final drive of the first half, going 74 yards in 13 plays, with Larson completing 8-of-10 passing attempts. Nutter hauled in a four-yard TD pass from Larson with 16 seconds to play in the half, while Larson added the extra-point kick.
On Fennimore’s first possession of the second half, Hayden Wagner came up big defensively for the Arrows with his second pick of the game deep on Lancaster’s side of the field.
Lancaster’s 21-7 lead carried over into the fourth quarter, where Fennimore made things interesting late in the game.
Faced with a fourth-and-six from their own 38-yard line, Lancaster punter Preston Noethe was forced out of the pocket, where after a short scramble was tackled at the original line of scrimmage.
After an incomplete pass on first down and a seven-yard sack on second down, Larson completed a 12-yard pass to Nutter on third down, setting up a fourth-and-five from the Lancaster 33.
Larson scrambled for seven yards to keep the drive alive, then on second-and-10 from the 26, took off running again, this time ending up in the end zone with 5:31 to play in the game. Larson’s extra-point kick trimmed Lancaster’s lead to 21-14.
Knowing full well the importance of their ensuing possession, the Lancaster offense refused to hand the ball back over to the Eagles, using every second on 11 rushing attempts to gain 67 yards, and ending the game with a kneel-down at the Fennimore nine-yard line.
While Hahn and Bowen did most of Lancaster’s damage on the ground, Knapp completed 3-of-3 passing attempts for 84 yards, including the 73-yard bomb on his team’s first offensive play.
Noethe was the team’s leading receiver with one catch for 73 yards, while Owen Wolf had one reception for six yards and Weston Pink one catch for five yards.
Larson concluded the game completing 20-of-36 passing attempts for 206 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Lancaster defense was led by senior Clay McCartney, who had 4.5 total tackles and two sacks.
Fellow seniors Damian Kauffman and Troy Klein, as well as junior Caden Straka, each had four tackles, Straka with half a sack than he shared with junior nose guard Logan Schneider.
The Arrows (9-3) now face off with Racine Lutheran (10-2) this Friday night, who defeated top seeded Cambridge, 41-21, in their level-three contest.
The Crusaders come into the game averaging 35.8 points per game, while giving up an average of 16.8 points per contest.
They rely heavily on their run game, which averages 289 yards per contest, with Tyler Tenner (5’9”, 200) rushing for 1,847 yards and 23 TDs on the year. Tenner averages 10.9 yards per carry and 167.9 yards per game.
The Crusaders especially like to run on their left side behind left guard David Voss (5’9”, 240) and left tackle Alex Schulz (6’3”, 305).
Lancaster 21, Fennimore 14
(D6, Level 3 playoff game from Friday, Nov. 2)
Lancaster 13 8 0 0 - 21
Fennimore 0 7 0 7 - 14
L - Dawson Bowen, 7-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
L - Bowen, 1-yard run (pass failed)
L - Bowen, 17-yard interception return (Cole Kreul pass from Bowen)
F - Nutter, 4-yard pass from Reid Larson (Larson kick)
F - Larson, 26-yard run (Larson kick)
First downs - L 17, F 16. Rushing - L 56-225, F 17-77. Passing yards - L 84, F 206. Passes - L 3-3-0, F 20-37-3. Fumbles-lost - L 3-1, F 3-1. Penalties-yards - L 9-65, F 4-40.
Rushing leaders: L: Corey Hahn 21-109, Dawson Bowen 23-105, Hayden Knapp 11-11. F: Reid Larson 13-55, Maguire Fitzgerald 2-13, Zach Davis 2-9.
Passing leaders: L: Hayden Knapp 3-3-0, 84. F: Reid Larson 20-36-3, 206.
Receiving leaders: L: Preston Noethe 1-73, Owen Wolf 1-6, Weston Pink 1-5. F: Maguire Fitzgerald 5-85, Aidan Nutter 7-63, Kellen Kenney 5-51, Zach Davis 3-7.