SHULLSBURG – Highland senior John Ross Linscheid gets plenty of press for his offensive prowess on the gridiron, but it was his performance on the defensive side of the ball that stood out for the Cardinals in Saturday’s showdown on Shullsburg’s Homecoming Day.
With the hosts driving in for a potential go-ahead score with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Linscheid made back-to-back spectacular first-down saving tackles at the Highland 10-yard line to turn away the #7-ranked Miners and seal a 25-22 Cardinal victory in a battle of Six Rivers Conference unbeatens at Badger Park on Sept. 9.
“He’s a great football player whether he’s on offense or on defense,” said Shullsburg head coach Scott Matye about Linscheid. “If we don’t make the dang procedure penalty to make it a 15-yard first down, we make it and things might have turned out a little better.”
The Miners (5-1 overall, 4-1 SRC) found themselves trailing 22-8 at halftime despite a shaky first half that saw them turn the ball over five times in their eight first half possessions, but they bounced back to score on two of their first three possessions of the second half to deadlock the score at 22 all.
Senior running back Ben Sigwarth capped a seven-play, 50-yard scoring trek to start the second half with a 1-yard touchdown run. Sigwarth lost the ball at the goal line, however the ball bounced into the lap of center Alan Montayne in the end zone and Sigwarth was ruled to have been across the line anyway.
A two-point conversion pass from Noah Wand to Jeremiah Bailey cut the deficit to 22-16 with 9:23 to play in the third quarter.
The Miners got back into the end zone early in the fourth quarter when Wand teamed with senior tight end Joey Meyer on a 10-yard scoring strike to tie the score at 22-22 with 10:00 left in the game, and the score remained stuck there after the Cardinals (5-1, 4-0) stuffed their two-point conversion attempt.
Highland quickly marched deep into Miner territory on their ensuing drive and regained the lead on a 26-yard field goal by sophomore Drew Hennessey with 6:15 to play.
The Miners went back to work, driving right back down the field to get into scoring range with time ticking away. After overcoming a block in the back penalty to get a 1st-and-10 at the Highland 18, the hosts were called for a procedure penalty to make it 1st-and-15. A 3-yard run by Sigwarth and a 10-yard pass to Hunter Matye gave the Miners a 3rd-and-2 at the 10, but JR Linscheid tackled Nathan Wedige for no gain on third down and then stuffed Wand just shy of the first-down marker on fourth down to give the Cardinals a huge turnover on downs with 2:02 to go.
A 53-yard run by Hennessey on first down put the Miners’ in a dire situation, and JR Linscheid picked up another first down on a pair of keepers a short time later to seal the victory that made the Cardinals playoff eligible and kept them tied with Pecatonica/Argyle atop the league standings. The two conference leaders will meet next Friday night at Highland’s Tyler Field.
The Cardinals took the opening kickoff and marched 53 yards in 11 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Adam Wolfe closed the scoring drive with a 3-yard TD run.
Spencer Linscheid extended the lead to 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter when he recovered an errant Miner pitch in the end zone for a defensive score, but the Miners answered back with 55-yard TD pass from Wand to Matye with eight and a half minutes to go in the half to cut the deficit to 14-8.
Highland came right back and scored through the air with Hennessey taking a short pass from JR Linscheid at midfield and breaking three tackles before outrunning everyone to the end zone for a key score. JR Linscheid ran in the two-point conversion to put Highland up 22-8 at the half.
“We just made way too many mistakes in the first half. You can’t turn the ball over five times against anybody, especially a team like Highland,” noted Coach Matye. “I thought we came back and played pretty well after that. Our kids stayed the course.”
Shullsburg finished the day with 125 yards rushing and 138 passing for 263 yards of total offense, while Highland gained 195 yards on the ground and 131 yards through the air for 326 total yards.
Wand completed 11-of-16 passes for 138 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Matye caught eight passes for 108 yards and a score to lead the air attack. Sigwarth finished with 66 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Wedige added 58 yards on eight totes.
Defensively, Matye led the team with 13 tackles. Oren Charles tallied 10 tackles with a sack, while Montayne and Chris Trejo each added nine stops. Trejo and Will Burgess recorded sacks, and Bailey swiped a pass for the Miners.
JR Linscheid went 5-of-10 passing for 118 yards with a TD and an interception, and he led the Cardinals’ rushing attack with 92 yards on 24 carries. On defense, he recorded a team-high eight tackles with a sack, and he forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.
Hennessey ran seven times for 72 yards and caught three passes for 83 yards and a score, and Wolfe chipped in with 40 yards on 13 carries with a TD.
Shullsburg heads to Bloomington on Friday, Sept. 23, to face River Ridge () in a Six Rivers Conference affair starting at 7 p.m.
The Miners will be looking for a fifth conference win to lock up a guaranteed playoff berth, while the Timberwolves need a win to become playoff eligible.
Highland…… 7 15 0 3 – 25
Shullsburg… 0 8 8 6 – 22
H – Wolfe, 3 run (Hennessey kick)
H – S. Linscheid, 0 fumble return (Hennessey kick)
S – Hunter Matye, 55 pass from Noah Wand (Nathan Wedige run)
H – Hennessey, 50 pass from JR Linscheid (JR Linscheid run)
S – Ben Sigwarth, 1 run (Jeremiah Bailey pass fron Wand)
S – Joey Meyer, 10 pass from Wand (run failed)
H– FG, Hennessey 27 yard
Team Stats: First Downs– H 18; S 13. Rushing– H 46-195; S 29-125. Passing– H 6-11-1, 131; S 11-16-2, 138. Fumbles-Lost– H 0-0; S 4-3. Penalties– H 3-27; S 5-40.
Shullsburg Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Ben Sigwarth, 17-66-1; Nathan Wedige, 8-58-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Noah Wand, 11-16-2-2, 138. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Hunter Matye, 8-108-1.