MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Oct. 30–Nov. 6)
WIAA D6 LEVEL 2 FOOTBALL: Mineral Point 35, Lancaster 28
PLATTEVILLE — With just 7:29 to play in last Friday night’s WIAA Division 6 Level 2 playoff game, the Flying Arrows, who were clinging to a 28–21 lead, punted the ball away to Mineral Point.
From that point on, everything was a blur for the Arrows. The Pointers scored two touchdowns on their final three offensive possessions to snatch a 35–28 victory from the hands of the Arrows.
Coach John Hoch’s squad concluded the season with an overall record of 9–2, both of their losses coming at the hands of the Pointers (11–0), who move on to face top-seeded Mondovi (11–0) in Level 3 playoff action.
After losing to the Pointers just two weeks earlier, coach Hoch and his coaching staff made a few adjustments coming into Friday night’s playoff game, which initially paid dividends with a two-score lead. The biggest adjustment on offense was bringing in senior Caden Straka to play the right tackle position, giving the offensive line a little more size up front.
“We just needed a little more production up front, and we thought Straka could give us the best chance to have that, which he did,” Hoch explained. “He made mistakes for not playing it all year, but for the most part he did a pretty nice job.”
On its opening possession of the game, Lancaster marched down the field with a 10-play scoring drive that covered 60 yards in nearly four minutes, and was capped off with a one-yard TD plunge by senior halfback Dawson Bowen. The extra-point kick by junior Isaac Oyen gave the Arrows an early 7–0 lead.
Defensively, Lancaster came out in a three-man front with Straka in the middle, sandwiched between senior Ryan Gallinger and junior Lukas Howard. Behind them were their three linebackers, Dustin Wolf, Isaiah Place and Ian Martin, with five defensive backs in Dawson Bowen, Connor Gates, Weston Pink, Hayden Wagner and Jacob Stelpflug.
“We put Straka in the middle to kind of eat up two people, if not three, and we did a nice job up until those last two series,” Hoch said. “Otherwise I thought we did an excellent job playing defense.”
On Mineral Point’s first possession of the game, the Lancaster defense forced a three-and-out, limiting the Pointers to minus-one yard on three plays.
On their first possession of the second quarter the Arrows added to their lead, putting together a nine-play scoring drive that covered 99 yards, and was capped off with a 74-yard TD pass from quarterback Hayden Knapp to fellow junior Preston Noethe.
A key play in that drive was a 21-yard pass play from Knapp to Pink on third-and-11 from Lancaster’s 10-yard line, which helped the Arrows' offense maintain their quick start and take a two-score lead.
“We felt like we needed to do that, but I think part of that was how we played defensively, and held them from getting any momentum going,” coach Hoch said of his team’s fast start. “We moved the ball and we passed the ball better than we have, and we knew we had to do that.”
Lancaster’s 14–0 lead stood until the Pointers found the end zone on a five-yard TD run by Blaise Watters with 6:52 to play in the half. Bo Hanson’s extra-point kick pulled Mineral Point to within 14–7.
On their very next possession though, the Arrows answered with a 56-yard TD run by senior fullback Corey Hahn, and Oyen’s extra-point kick put Lancaster up 21–7 with 5:57 showing on the clock.
The Lancaster defense forced the Pointers to punt for the third time in the first half, taking control of the ball at their own 21-yard line with 2:35 to play in the half.
On third-and-two, Knapp connected with Pink for a 25-yard gain, but two plays later was picked off by Watters at the Pointer’s 19-yard line with 32 seconds to go in the half.
Following a short pass play for two yards and an incomplete pass on second down, Mineral Point quarterback Isaac Lindsey went for the big hitter, which he got with a 79-yard TD reception from Dominik Mcvay with just two seconds showing on the clock. The Arrows blocked the extra-point kick, and took a 21–13 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the first half, Lancaster had gained 267 yards of total offense, scoring on big-hitter plays and mixing up the pass with the run. Knapp had his finest half of his career, completing 5-of-7 passing attempts for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Unfortunately for the Arrows, the second half was much different, even though they held a 28–21 lead with less than seven minutes to play in the game.
In the second half, Knapp was 0-for-2 passing, while the Arrows managed just 111 yards in the final two quarters, 60 of which came on the only pass completion on a halfback-option pass.
Mineral Point evened the score at 21–21 with 3:32 to play in third quarter, after stopping the Arrows on a fourth-and-one from Lancaster’s own 27-yard line.
Following a false start by the Pointers and a 15-yard pass interference penalty on the Arrows, Mineral Point scored on a 15-yard TD run by Will Straka, and added the two-point conversion pass.
Lancaster’s only score of the second half came with 10:11 to play in the fourth quarter, when Bowen walked in from one-yard out, and Oyen added the extra-point. The score was set up by a 60-yard halfback option pass from Bowen to Pink that got the Arrows down to the one-yard line.
With 6:43 to play in the game, Mineral Point answered with a 14-yard TD run by Straka, capping off a four-play scoring drive that covered 49 yards. Hanson’s extra-point kick evened things back up at 28–28.
Lancaster’s next possession ended with a fumble at Mineral Point’s 46-yard line, but the Arrow defense was able to force a punt, giving the ball back to their offense with 2:20 to play.
Three straight running plays netted a total of seven yards, setting up a fourth-and-three from their own 46-yard line with 57 seconds on the clock.
Coming out of a Mineral Point time out, the Lancaster offense took the field, in a routine effort to get Mineral Point to jump offside. Instead, the ball was snapped and handed off to Bowen, who was met at the line of scrimmage by a host of Pointers for no gain.
With newfound life, Mineral Point gained 36-yards on a pass play from Lindsey to Liam Stumpf, then followed with a 10-yard TD run by Will Straka with 41 seconds to play in the game.
Faced with an improbably situation at their own 36-yard line, the Arrows gained 16 yards on two running plays, and on their final play Knapp was sacked for a 17-yard loss.
Despite winding up on the short end of a 35–28 final, the Arrows had 378 yards of total offense to Mineral Point’s 314. Lancaster averaged 6.3 yards per play to the Pointer’s 5.9, and averaged 31.3 yards per pass completion to 14.2 for Mineral Point.
“I’m extremely happy with how our kids played,” said coach Hoch. “We made some mistakes that were costly, but when you look at the whole picture, the bottom line is that they are a lot more talented than we are. I thought our kids came and played the way they had to play, except for a few plays here and there, but they did an excellent job. I was real happy with how our kids just hung in there, and until the end in the last couple of series, they just really played good football."
On the night, Knapp completed 5-of-9 passing attempts for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Hahn led all rushers with 118 yards and one TD on 20 carries, while Knapp added 61 yards on a team-high 21 attempts. Bowen finished with two yards rushing on eight carries, while Oyen had one carry for nine yards. Weston Pink led all receivers with 106 yards on three receptions, while Noethe had one catch for 74 yards, and Oyen one catch for 11 yards.
Defensively, the Arrows were led by Jeremiah Dressler and Hayden Wagner, who each had six total tackles, while Isaiah Place had five and Lukas Howard four.
Coach Hoch loses 14 seniors from this year’s squad, including nine starters on defense and five on offense.