WARREN, ILL. – One of the biggest football game’s in the state Wisconsin last Friday night was played in Illinois.
Yup, your read that right.
An overflowing crowd representing five school districts– three from Wisconsin and two from Illinois– were on hand at Warren’s Meridian Park to witness a truly unique prep football contest between a pair of first-year interstate co-op programs– believed to be the only two such interstate co-ops teams in the entire nation– who both came into the night undefeated and ranked high in the latest Wisconsin state polls.
Black Hawk/Warren entered the game ranked #1 in Division 7 in the Wissports.net State Coaches Poll, while Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg came in ranked #6 in Division 6 in the same poll.
The host Warriors celebrated Warren’s Homecoming by using their punishing rushing attack and stout defense to wear down the visiting Knights, 33-6, in a Six Rivers Conference clash held on Sept. 20.
“I think the strength of their team didn’t match well with the strength of our team with our big kids,” said Warrior head coach Cory Milz about his starting offensive line which averages 240-pounds per player. “They have really nice players who play well against team who like to go side-to-side. We were able to get on their guys going north and south, and were able to wear them down.”
The Warriors (5-0 overall, 2-0 SRC) finished the night rushing for 381 yards and four touchdowns against a Knights’ defensive unit that had allowed just 239 rushing yards and no rushing TDs through the first four games of the season.
The Warriors also stymied the Knights’ offensive attack by limiting them to a season-low 126 total yards and six points.
“They are a very good football team. They had more than we could handle up front and up the middle tonight,” admitted Knights’ head coach Todd Bastian. “They hit hard, and they play good physical football. We hit back as hard as we could and we attacked as good as we could. I don’t think we played that bad. We just needed a little luck on our side, but we couldn’t get a break. I’m proud of our kids.”
The Knights (4-1, 2-1) started with the ball and looked to take an early. However, after gaining an early first down near midfield, BSMS had a long pass play deep inside Warrior territory called back due to a penalty and the drive stalled out.
The Knights forced a quick punt Warriors’ first possession and got right back into Warrior territory on their next drive thanks to a 27-yard run by senior Will Lawrence. A sack by Warrior Avery Baumgartner took away the Knights’ momentum and they were to punt once again.
Taking over at their own 10-yard line with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter, the Warriors went off on an impressive 17-play, 90-yard scoring trek that ate nearly eight and a half minutes off the first-half clock. Senior Cayden Milz capped the journey with a 4-yard touchdown run at the 7:26 mark of the second quarter to put the Warriors ahead to stay at 6-0.
The Warriors gained all 90 yards on the ground on 16 runs, converting on one fourth-down from their own 45 and overcoming a holding penalty during the drive.
“It was a great drive. We answered when we had to answer. I'm very happy for our kids tonight," remarked Coach Milz.
The Knights were held without a yard on their final two drives of the first half, but they kept the score at 6-0 deep into the third quarter thanks to a red-zone fumble recovery by sophomore Ben Werner at the end of the first half and an interception by junior Chandler Kelly on the Warriors’ first drive of the second half.
But, the Warriors would not be held down for long. Senior Jaylen Rufenacht got the hosts back into the red zone with a 38-yard gain late in the third quarter; and, two plays later, senior quarterback Ethan Williams scored from a yard out. Milz hooked up with Rufenacht on the conversion to make it 14-0 with 1:10 to go in the stanza.
The hosts got the ball right back on an interception by senior Lucas Flangan to close the third quarter, and then hit pay dirt on the first play of the fourth quarter when Williams connected with senior Brady Hagen on a 39-yard scoring strike to make it 20-0.
The Knights answered with their lone scoring drive of the night. Sophomore Brandon Hoppman move the guests into scoring position with a 43-yard run, and he scored on a 5-yard fourth-down run to make it 20-6 with 9:32 remaining.
Rufenacht came right back with a 5-yard TD run of his own to put the Warriors on top 27-6. Then, freshman Lucas Milz closed the scoring with a 27-yard TD jaunt with 3:01 remaining as the Warriors locked down their 18th consecutive victory, while handing the Knights their first loss.
“Being able to plow straight ahead behind those big boys, it’s pretty tough to stop and it wears on teams eventually. I think you saw that in the second half. Our big bodies kept leaning on them until we broke it open,” Coach Milz pointed out. “The fact that we didn’t have a ton of those silly penalties tonight was crucial.”
C. Milz carried the ball 10 times for 140 yards and a TD, while Rufenacht went off for 117 yards on 18 carries with a TD. Senior Cody Blosch added 72 yards on eight totes, and L. Milz gained 31 yards on two carries with a TD for the Warriors.
Williams went 3-of-7 passing for 67 yards with a TD and an interception.
Hoppman led the Knights with 65 yards and a score on four carries. Lawrence added 40 yards on eight carries and one catch for 10 yards.
“I’m very proud of the effort the guys gave tonight. I can’t complain about that. We needed a little more strength in the trenches,” said Bastian.
The Knights will host Southwestern (3-2, 2-0) in Benton’s Homecoming Game at Swift Park on Friday, Sept. 27, also starting at 7 p.m.
BSMS…… 0 0 0 6 – 6
BH/War…. 0 6 8 19 – 33
BHW – Cayden Milz, 4 run (run failed)
BSMS – Ethan Williams, 1 run (Jaylen Rufenacht pass from C. Milz)
BHW– Brady Hagen, 39 pass from Williams (run failed)
BSMS – Brandon Hoppman, 5 run (run failed)
BHW – Jaylen Rufenacht, 5 run (Bruno Sole Manor kick)
BHW – Lucas Milz, 27 run (kick failed)
Team Stats: First Downs– BSMS 3, BHW 18. Rushing– BSMS 23-116; BHW 51-381. Passing– BSMS 1-10-1, 10; BHW 3-7-1, 67. Fumbles-Lost– BSMS 0-0; BHW 2-1. Penalties- BSMS 2-21; BHW 6-37.
BSMS Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Brandon Hoppman, 4-65-1; Will Lawrence, 8-40-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Chandler Kelly, 1-10-1-0, 10. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Lawrence, 1-10-0.