MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Sept. 24–Oct. 1)
PREP FOOTBALL: #1 Black Hawk 22, River Ridge 20
BLOOMINGTON – Senior Jaylen Rufenacht came up with two big offensive plays in the first half to keep Black Hawk/Warren in the game, but it was his huge defensive play in the closing seconds that kept the #1-ranked Warriors unbeaten on the season.
Rufenacht scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to rally the Warriors from behind twice against upset-minded River Ridge, and then he turned in the play of the game when he knocked down the Timberwolves' game-tying two-point conversion pass with 28 seconds remaining to preserve the Warriors' 22-20 Six Rivers Conference victory on a rain-soaked Usgaard Field on Friday, Sept. 27.
"River Ridge played really hard, and really brought a physical approach to their defensive game plan. They were well-coached, and an experienced team. Jaylen did a great job in coverage on the two-point conversion play, knocking the ball away. We were fortunate to get the win," admitted Warrior head coach Cory Milz after leading his team to their 19th victory in a row. "We were able to withstand some big mental lapses that cost us major yardage. Ridge got a couple of big plays on us, but for the most part our defense was pretty solid."
A victory seemed all but assured when senior Cayden Milz bulled across the goal line from a yard out with 1:42 remain to snap a long-held 14-14 deadlock. Milz punched in the conversion as well to put the Warriors (6-0 overall, 3-0 SRC) ahead 22-14.
However, the Timberwolves (4-2, 2-2) weren't about to quit after battling toe-to-toe with the defending Division 7 state champions the entire night. Senior Cole Crubel, who had a touchdown run and a touchdown pass in the first half, orchestrated a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive in just 1:14 of game time to give the 'Wolves a shot at the tie.
Crubel teamed with Archie Cooley on a 6-yard scoring strike to pull the Wolves within two at 22-20, but Rufenacht batted down his conversion pass with 28 ticks to go to keep the Warriors in the lead.
Then, the Warriors pounced on the Wolves' onside kick attempt to seal the victory.
"This group has been in big games, so they don't panic. When they needed to, they got after it and ran the football to get the go-ahead score. Ridge banged us up pretty good, but some of our guys who were hurt, sucked it up and got the job done in the end. Crubel is a four-year starter, and he showed it. I thought he had tremendous accuracy and good velocity on his throws," said Coach Milz.
The Warriors found themselves trailing for the first time all season when Crubel broke loose on a 41-yard TD jaunt midway through the first quarter to put the T'Wolves ahead 7-0.
Rufenacht capped a long Warriors' scoring drive with a 1-yard TD run with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter, and senior quarterback Ethan Williams connected with end Nick Whitcomb on a two-point conversion pass to put the Warriors up 8-7.
That lead didn't last long as Crubel hooked up with Brayan Barrita on a 61-yard scoring strike to thrust the Wolves back into the lead with 6:50 to play in the first half.
The Warriors answered back in the closing second of the half with Rufenacht hauling in a 23-yard TD pass from Williams to tie the score at 14 all. The two-point try failed, leaving the score there until late in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors finished the night outgaining the Wolves, 209-82, on the ground, while they were outgained, 201-61, through the air.
Rufenacht ran 10 times for 50 yards and a score, and had two catches for 38 yards and another score to lead the way. Milz ran 18 times for 79 yards and a TD, and Cody Blosch chipped in with 67 yards on 12 carries for the Warriors.
Crubel completed 14-of-17 passes for 170 and two TDs, ran nine times for 45 yards and a TD, and had one catch for 31 yards to lead the Wolves' attack. Cooley had 69 receiving yards and Barrita added 61 for the hosts.
Defensively, Milz led the team with eight tackles. Avery Baumgartner and Gunner Foecking added six tackles with two apiece for loss, while Williams and Skylar Neff registered sacks.
With Friday's win, the Warriors become playoff eligible for the 10th straight season, and for the first time as a first-year co-op.
"Our players set different goals each year, but that is the one that remains steadfast. Our main goal each year is to play as many games as possible. It is a testament to our community and players, that they are willing to put the work in each year to consistently qualify for the playoffs in what is a very tough football conference," stated Coach Milz, noting it will be the 21st time in the last 25 years that the Warriors made the playoffs.
The Warriors can secure a guaranteed playoff berth with a win over the Southwestern Wildcats (3-3, 2-1) in their Six Rivers Conference contest on Friday, Oct. 4. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"Southwestern has a very nice offense. Their quarterback looks real good, and their running back is a formidable threat," Milz said.
BH/Warren….. 0 14 0 8 – 22
River Ridge… 7 7 0 6 – 20
RR – Crubel, 41 run (Baus kick)
BHW – Jaylen Rufenacht, 1 run (Nick Whitcomb pass from Ethan Williams)
RR – Barrita, 61 pass from Crubel (Baus kick)
BHW – Rufenacht, 23 pass from Williams (run failed)
BHW – Cayden Milz, 1 run (Milz run)
RR – Cooley, 16 pass from Crubel (pass failed)
Team Stats: First Downs– BHW 16, RR 12. Rushing– BHW 46-209; RR 24-82. Passing– BHW 5-11-0, 61; RR 15-18-0, 201. Fumbles-Lost– BHW 0-0; RR 0-0. Penalties- BHW 5-40; RR 3-35.
Black Hawk/Warren Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Cayden Milz, 18-79-1; Cody Blosch, 12-67-0; Jaylen Rufenacht, 10-50-1. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Ethan Williams, 5-11-0-1, 61. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Rufenacht, 2-38-1.
River Ridge Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Cole Crubel 9-45, Will Esser 9-25. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Crubel 14-17-0, 201. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Archie Cooley 10-69, Brayan Barrita 1-61, Crubel 1-31.