MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Nov. 13–20)
WIAA DIV. 7 STATE SEMIFINALS: Black Hawk 34, Oshkosh Lourdes 7
MIDDLETON – Warrior Nation is headed back to Camp Randall for a third straight season, and this time they are bringing a bunch of new friends along for the ride.
Top-ranked Black Hawk/Warren will end its inaugural co-op season in the state championship game after defeating #5-ranked Lourdes Academy, 34-7, in a WIAA Division 7 state semifinal contest played at Middleton High School’s Otto Breitenbach Stadium on Friday, Nov. 15.
“I can’t say enough about how our kids did here tonight,” said Warriors’ head coach Cory Milz, whose fifth state appearances with the program will be his last since he has stated he will step down as coach after Thursday’s championship game. “(Lourdes) is one heck of an offense to prepare for with athletes all over the field and a quarterback who is phenomenal, and their defense is strong, too. I never would have imagined winning by this score.”
The Warriors (13-0 overall) will now have a chance to defend their D7 state title from a year ago against the same opponent they defeated at Camp Randall a season ago after #3-ranked Edgar knocked off #2-ranked Bangor, 27-7, in the other D7 state semifinal game on Friday evening to earn the Wildcats’ second straight trip to state.
Black Hawk stunned the highly-favored Wildcats, 22-15, in last year’s D7 championship game to earn the program’s second state title.
“(Edgar) will be gunning for us, that’s for sure. We’re not going to be surprising them this season,” commented Milz.
Due to necessity with declining enrollment and participation at both schools, Black Hawk looked to their neighbors from just south of the state border to form a co-op with Warren (Ill.) High School starting this season. With a seasoned group of 17 seniors leading the way, the new-look Warriors reeled off 13 consecutive victories to power their way back to Madison for the third year in a row.
“This was the goal from the beginning. I remember my first meeting with the Warren kids last December and they seemed to be on board right from the get-go. They wanted to be part of a team where the goals and expectations were high,” said Milz noting that Warren had one just one previous playoff game in their school history prior to this season as a member of the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference.
Lourdes Academy (12-1) came into Friday’s semifinal game featuring the fifth-best offensive attack in the state at 44 points and 420 yards per game. The Knights looked poised to maintain that torrid offensive pace, marching quickly into the red zone on the game’s opening drive thanks to a 33-yard pass play from junior quarterback Joshua Bauer to junior wide receiver Preston Ruedinger.
However, two plays later, Warrior senior Lucas Flanagan picked off Bauer to halt the drive.
The two teams had combined to score over 300 points in the first quarter in their previous 12 games, but neither could break through for any points in the opening stanza on Friday night.
After being stuffed on their opening possession, the Warriors started to crank up its own offense on their second drive of the night. Starting at their own 36 midway through the first quarter, the Warriors marched methodically down the field covering the 64 yards in 12 plays with senior QB Ethan Williams capping the nearly eight-minute trey with a 3-yard touchdown run at the 10:30 mark of the second quarter to put the Warriors ahead to stay at 6-0.
It was the first time this season that Lourdes had trailed in a game.
The Warriors’ D got the ball right back on a three-and-out, and the O took over where they left off marching 61 yards on 10 plays– all rushes– to get back into the end zone on 1-yard run by senior fullback Cayden Milz. Milz added the two-point conversion to put the Warriors ahead 14-0 with 3:41 remaining in the half.
The Knights quickly answered with Bauer teaming with Ruedinger on a 29-yard TD strike with 34 seconds remaining in the period to cut the gap to 14-7.
A nice return by senior Andrew Slichenmyer on the ensuing kickoff set the Warriors up at their own 41-yard line with just 25 ticks remaining in the half, and then a 52-yard jaunt by senior tailback Jaylen Rufenacht moved the co-op to the Knights’ 7 with time running out. On the final play of the half, Rufenacht hauled in a 7-yard TD pass from Williams to extend the lead to 20-7.
“That’s a jaw-opener for them, and that’s momentum for us going into halftime. I think that they went into halftime with a little less mojo. Our kids were excited (at halftime). The second quarter really gave us confidence that we could do this.”
The teams traded turnovers to start the second half. The Warriors fumbled away the ball at their own 42-yard line to start the third quarter, but got it right back when Williams intercepted a Caden Chier pass tipped by Rufeancht and returned it to the Warriors’ 46.
Seven rushes later, Rufenacht scored from three yards out to put the Warriors up 26-7.
The Warriors stopped the Knights on downs on their next possession, and then held them in negative-19 yards over their final drives to finish off a dominating effort on the defensive side of the ball.
Lourdes was held to just 141 total yards in the game, including an eye-opening zero rushing yards after averaging over 226 yards on the ground per game this season.
Bauer, who passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards this year, completed 11-of-25 passes for 141 yards with one TD and one interception while running 10 times for minus-10 yards thanks to three Warriors sacks.
“I’m really proud of them. We bent a bit and there were some mistakes in there, but the kids didn’t let those get them down. They responded to every challenge and played well. They did a really nice job handling the adjustments we made on the fly and understanding what we wanted to do on defense. We played one heck of a defensive game,” Milz pointed out.
Rufenacht found his back into the end zone for the third time in the game midway through the fourth quarter as he capped a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a six-yard score to complete the hat trick.
The Warriors finished the night with 331 rushing yards on 52 carries and 46 passing yards on three completions for a 374-yard performance.
Rufenacht gained 159 yards on 20 carries with two TDs and added one catch for seven yards and another TD to lead the way. C. Milz toted it 19 times for 95 yards and a TD, while Williams went 3-of-5 passing for 46 yards and a score and ran eight times for 43 yards and another score.
Senior Cody Blosch rushed five times for 34 yards for the Warriors, who held the ball on offense for nearly 33 of the game’s 48 minutes.
“They were loading the box daring us to pass, so to be able to run the ball effectively and keep the ball moving against their 6-2 front was an unbelievable job by our line and our backs. They did an amazing job of running hard and not coughing up the ball,” noted Coach Milz.
The Warriors return to Madison to face the Edgar for the second straight season in the WIAA Division 7 state championship game on Thursday, Nov. 21, starting at 10 a.m.
The Wildcats (12-1) are making their record-tying 13th appearance in the WIAA state finals, and will be seeking a record-tying eighth state football title.
“That’s a veteran coaching staff and a team loaded with very good athletes. They’ll definitely be ready for us and we’ll be ready for them. It should be a great game. It’s going to be another fun week of practice preparing for them,” said Coach Milz.
Lourdes Academy…..0 7 0 0 – 7
BH/Warren…………......0 20 6 8 – 34
BHW – Ethan Williams, 3 run (run failed)
BHW – Cayden Milz, 1 run (Milz run)
LA – Ruedinger, 29 pass from Bauer (Johnsen kick)
BHW – Jaylen Rufenacht, 7 pass from Williams (run failed)
BHW – Rufenacht, 3 run (pass failed)
BHW – Rufenacht, 6 run (Rufenacht run)
Team Stats: First Downs– LA 7, BHW 16. Rushing– LA 10-0; BHW 52-331. Passing– LA 11-26-2, 141; BHW 3-5-0, 46. Fumbles-Lost– LA 1-0; BHW 1-1. Penalties- LA 4-30; BHW 5-35.
BHW Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Jaylen Rufenacht, 20-159-2; Cayden Milz, 19-95-1. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Ethan Williams, 3-5-0-1, 46. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Ryan Molitor, 1-26-0; Rufenacht, 1-7-1.