MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Nov. 20–27)
WIAA DIV. 7 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: Black Hawk 6, Edgar 0
MADISON– Black Hawk/Warren left it up to the defense to defend its WIAA Division 7 state title.
The #1-ranked Warriors wrapped up a perfect 14–0 season by blanking the #3-ranked Edgar Wildcats 6–0 in a hard-hitting, defense-dominated WIAA Division 7 State Championship game played at UW-Madison’s Camp Randall Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Senior running back Cayden Milz hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Ethan Williams with 1:32 remaining in the first half to snap a 0–0 deadlock, and the Warriors' defense held off a late push by the Wildcats to preserve the championship-sealing victory with their fourth shutout of the season.
“This really is incredible to win like this. What a great game between two incredible defensive teams,” said head coach Cory Milz after leading his Warriors to their third state title in school history with their 27th consecutive victory. “Nowadays everyone wants to talk about offense. Everybody was entertained because it came right down to the wire. Edgar’s defense was phenomenal, probably one of the best we've ever came up against. Our guys were able to get the job done and hold them off the scoreboard. I can't say enough about how proud I am of this group of kids. To come out on top and hoist that gold ball again is an incredible feeling.”
It is the second straight season the Warriors defeated the Wildcats (12-2 overall) in the state championship game, and the third consecutive appearance for the Warriors in the D7 finale. The Warriors took down Edgar, 22-15, last year in the final season for Black Hawk as a stand-alone program, and then the Warriors capped their inaugural season as a co-op program with Warren by downing the Wildcats once again for back-to-back titles.
“It’s absolutely amazing. We worked extremely hard this summer combining the two programs. The captains did a great job. We all got together and figured it out. It’s great when you see the success we had this season,” commented Williams.
Coach Milz said that a repeat was the team’s goal after winning the title last year, and added the Warren players bought into the goal since the first team meeting last December when the schools officially merged into one program.
“This is what they said they were going to do. This was their goal from the beginning. When we made the merger, the Warren kids got right on board. To be able to do what they said they were going to do, I’m so happy and so proud of them. I’m so happy that the community got to experience this again thanks to these kids. It’s just a great feeling,” stated Milz, noting that Warren had just one playoff victory in school history prior to this season.
Coach Milz announced after the game that it would be his last with the Warriors as he plans to step down from coaching after 18 seasons as head coach and 23 seasons with the program (see related story).
These two teams were used to putting up huge offensive numbers this season, but it was the defenses that ruled the Camp Randall gridiron on Thursday morning.
The Warriors yielded just 83 yards on 23 plays in the first half while forcing the Wildcats to punt on five of their six possessions. Edgar’s best drive of the half– a 46-yard trek to the Warriors’ 28-yard line– ended with senior lineman Nick Hull pouncing on a Konnor Wolf fumble at the 32.
“You get two really good football teams playing and it’s going to come down to mistakes, and who gets those explosive plays and limits the other teams explosive plays,” Coach Milz said.
The Warriors’ offense struggled as well, turning the ball over on downs at the Edgar 27 on their opening drive of the game and losing a pair of fumbles on back-to-back possessions early in the second quarter to remain scoreless.
The Warriors got the ball back with 3:29 to play in the half, however they were pinned down at their own 7 by an Edgar punt. A 12-yard reception by senior Cody Blosch gave the Warriors a bit of breathing room, and then senior Jaylen Rufenacht flipped the field with a shifty 53-yard run down to the Wildcats’ 30.
On the next play, Williams rolled to his right and tossed a screen pass back to Cayden Milz in the left flat. Edgar defensive back Kaleb Hafferman read the route well and tried for the interception which may have resulted in a pick-six score, but the pass found its way over his fingers into the hands of Milz, who raced 30 yards untouched into the end zone to put the Warriors on the scoreboard.
“(Hafferman) made a jump on the interception and just missed. Then Cayden did a great job of taking it in after he caught it. That’s all it took today. It was a great play and obviously the difference maker,” Coach Milz said.
The Wildcats stuffed the two-point conversion attempt to keep the Warriors lead at 6-0 with 1:38 remaining in the opening half.
Offense was even harder to come by for both teams in the second half. After gaining 191 yards in the first half, the Warriors were held to just 19 yards in the second half by the Wildcats.
Edgar had as tough a time against the stout Warriors’ D, turning the ball over on downs three times and managing just 48 yards in the second half.
The Wildcats had a chance to grab the lead with just over four minutes remaining when Austin Dahlke picked off a Williams’ tipped pass and returned it to the Warriors’ 33. On the next play, Wolf connected with Drew Guden for an apparent game-tying touchdown, however a holding penalty wiped out the play.
Wolf launched another pass into the end zone on fourth down, but Brayden Baumgartner was ruled out of bounds on the reception.
Edgar got the ball back with 1:10 to play, but an interception by Rufenacht near midfield with 54 seconds remaining sealed the victory and the Warriors second straight state title.
“They threw it to me the play before and he popped it out of my hands. I knew I had to come up with a big play if they came back at me. When I saw the ball, I had to go up for it. I had to make a play to win the game. It was an amazing feeling," Rufenacht pointed out. “It means the world to us. We’ve been here three times and it has gotten exciting every time. To be playing the last game my senior year at Camp Randall, I have to thank my teammates for that. I love these guys. I’m proud of my team. They are a great group of guys who gave their hearts out for this.”
The Warriors outgained the Wildcats, 210-141, in total yards for the game. Despite being held under 200 yards rushing for the first time all season, the Warriors still managed to edge out Edgar on the ground, 118-108 yards. The Warriors also outgained the ‘Cats in passing yards, 102-33.
It was the 14th time this season the Warriors had topped an opponent on the ground, and the fifth time they did so through the air.
Defensively, the Warriors held the Wildcats on seven of their eight third down plays and all three of their fourth down attempts, while forcing two turnovers.
The Warriors were just 2-of-12 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down in the game.
“It’s amazing. We’ve been dreaming of this since we were managers in third and fourth grade. We always said in our senior years in our final game we’re going to hoist the gold ball and that’s what we did. It’s pretty surreal,” said Warriors’ All-State lineman Avery Baumgartner. “(Edgar is) an incredible team. Their coach has been there for over 40 years. He knows what he’s doing. To beat them twice in consecutive seasons is incredible.”
Rufenacht, who suffered a separated shoulder in the first half but remained in the game until the final play, ran 18 times for a game-high 101 yards to finish the season with 1,302 rushing yards.
Milz, another Warrior All-State player who went over the 1,600-yard rushing mark for the year, gained 18 yards on nine carries, while adding two catches for a game-high 48 yards and a score. Milz closed the season with 164 points scored for the Warriors.
“We knew coming into the game that Edgar was going to be a really tough opponent and we knew it was a redemption game for them because of what happened last year. (Edgar) came out and played a very physical game today. They were playing with a lot of heart, but I knew our guys would match that heart and that’s what we did. In the end, we got the W,” said Cayden Milz.
Williams went 9-of-16 passing for 102 yards with a TD and an interception.
Milz led the defense with eight total tackles. Rufenacht tallied seven tackles with an interception and three pass break-ups. Andrew Slichenmyer added six tackles and Hull had three tackles with a TFL and a fumble recovery for the Warriors.
Hafferman, who ran for over 1,006 yards this season, was held to just 44 rushing yards on 16 carries. Wolf went 4-of-13 passing for 33 yards with an interception, while Kyle Brewster had three catches for 21 yards for the ‘Cats.
Edgar, who were making their record-tying 13 state finals appearance, suffered two losses this season and both were by a score of 6-0 as they also fell to conference rival and D5 state runner-up Stratford by that same score during the regular season.
The Tigers were stunned by Lake Country Lutheran, 22-13, on Thursday afternoon after giving up 22 unanswered points over the final three quarters of the game after going up 13-0 in the first quarter. Stratford had allowed just seven points total in their 13 games prior to the state finale.
The game featured the first two instances of instant replay used in a prep football game in Wisconsin. In the second quarter, replay gave the Wildcats a turnover by fumble when it was determined that Hafferman was in bounds when he ripped the ball out of the hands of Warriors’ receiver Ryan Molitor following a 15-yard reception near midfield.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the Warriors got a key reversal when it was ruled by replay that Hafferman was downed shy of the line to gain on a fourth-down run. Instead of a first down at the Warrior 25 with 6:07 to play, the Warriors got a turnover on downs at the 26.
Playing in their final football game for the Warriors in Thursday’s state championship game were seniors Jaylen Rufenacht, Mitchell Wolff, Brady Hagen, Ethan Williams, Cayden Milz, Lucas Flanagan, Cody Blosch, Andrew Slichenmyer, Seth Slamp, Nick Whitcomb, Nick Hull, Hunter Metz, Jack Prescher, Gunner Foecking, Ried Raisbeck, Avery Baumgartner and Josh Lozada.
The seniors went a combined 40-1 in three varsity seasons for the Warriors with a school record three Six Rivers Conference titles in a row, a silver ball and two gold balls added to the school’s trophy case.
“It means a lot to do this with these seniors. That’s a good group who have played a lot of football games. We’re going to miss them,” said Milz holding back tears. “They’re my sons’ friends, I’ve known them since they were born practically. To see them accomplish their goals and be up here three years in a row and to repeat this year for themselves. I’m ecstatic for them. It’s awesome.”
WIAA DIVISION 7 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Edgar………….....0 0 0 0 – 0
Black Hawk…..0 6 0 0 – 6
BH – Cayden Milz, 30 pass from Ethan Williams (pass failed)
Team Stats: First Downs– E 6, BH 9. Rushing– E 35-108; BH 38-118. Passing– E 4-13-1, 33; BH 9-16-1, 102. Fumbles-Lost– E 3-1; BH 2-2. Penalties– E 4-45; BH 4-40.
BH Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Jaylen Rufenacht, 18-101-0; Cayden Milz, 9-18-0; Cody Blosch, 1-1-0; Ethan Williams, 8-1-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Williams, 9-16-1-1, 102. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– C. Milz, 2-48-1; Nick Whitcomb, 2-13-0; Lucas Flanagan, 2-7, 0; Ryan Molitor, 1-15-0; Blosch, 1-12-0; Rufenacht, 1-7-0.