PORTAGE – There weren’t many clouds in the sky on a picture perfect fall day to kick off the WIAA playoffs. But, when Black Hawk took the field, there was plenty of thunder and lightning.
Senior fullback Michael Walker provided the thunder rushing for 114 yards on 22 carries and scoring three times from inside the 5-yard line, and senior Jace Johnsrud added the lightning running for 175 yards on 15 carries with touchdown runs of 80 and 19 yards as the Warriors stormed Rio, 35-7, in a WIAA Division 7 Level 1 playoff football game at Portage High School on Saturday, Oct. 22.
“Our backs did a nice job of breaking tackles and running with high energy, and the offensive line did a great job in picking up the various blitzes that Rio liked to bring. The line also did a nice job in allowing us to run off tackle,” said Black Hawk head coach Cory Milz.
Walker got the Warriors (8-2 overall) rolling on the opening drive, pounding the ball seven times for 35 yards during a 13-play, 80-yard scoring march that end with his 4-yard blast into the end zone with 6:32 to play in the first quarter.
Walker added the extra point to put Black Hawk ahead to stay at 7-0.
The Warriors covered 88 yards on the ground on the next drive with Johnsrud striking from 80 yards out on the first play of the second quarter to extend the lead 14-0.
Rio (7-3) answered with a scoring drive of their own on their next possession to cut the deficit to 14-7. A 40-yard run by Brennan Kearney moved the Vikings to the Warrior 15 and, four plays later, Logan Hutzler hit pay dirt from three yards out to get Rio on the scoreboard.
The Warriors went back to work on their next possession with Walker capping a 15-play, 77-yard trek with a 2-yard TD run to push the lead to 21-7 at halftime, and the Black Hawk fullback added a 1-yard plunge with 1:48 remaining in the third quarter to extend the advantage to 28-7.
Johnsrud closed the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 19-yard TD jaunt to lock up the 35-7 victory.
Black Hawk finished the game with 396 yards rushing on 51 carries and they added another 57 passing yards for 453 yards of total offense.
Sophomore running back Jayden Rufenacht added 51 yards on just six carries for the Warriors, while junior quarterback Kyle Walters ran eight times for 56 yards and completed 4-of-10 passes for 57 yards. Hayden Schliem hauled in three catches for 43 yards to pace the Warriors’ air attack.
Rio ran 41 times for 188 yards against the Warrior D, but they managed just seven yards through the air and turned the ball over twice.
Kearney ran nine times for 98 yards and had one catch for eight yards to lead the Vikings.
“We were real pleased with the discipline we showed on defense. We really only had one big breakdown,” noted Milz. “We played pretty well by limiting our penalties and turnovers, which are both key elements in winning playoff games.”
Black Hawk advances to the second round of the WIAA playoffs where they will face defending D-7 runner-up Catholic Central in Burlington on Saturday, Oct. 29, starting at 2 p.m.
The Hilltoppers (6-4) beat the Warriors, 40-6, in the opening round of the playoffs a year ago en route to their third straight trip to Camp Randall for the D-7 state finals, and the ‘Toppers opened the playoffs this year by routing the #1-seeded Randolph Rockets, 45-12, in Randolph last Saturday.
Earlier in the season, Randolph defeated Rio, 41-14, on their way to the Trailways Small Conference championship.
“We need to continue to play smart and disciplined if we want any shot at Catholic Central. They are a very good football team with not a lot of weaknesses. Their conference continues to evolve into a pretty good football conference with many premier athletes,” Milz stated.
“The key for us will be to limit the big play and make them earn their points. Offensively, we are going to have to take advantage of their aggressiveness and spring some big plays. They have been susceptible to the big play this year.”
WIAA DIVISION 7 LEVEL 1
Black Hawk… 7 14 7 7 - 35
Rio………..….. 0 7 0 0 - 7
BH – Michael Walker, 4 run (Walker kick)
BH – Jace Johnsrud, 80 run (Walker kick)
R – Hutzler, 3 run (Selji kick)
BH – Walker, 2 run (Walker kick)
BH – Walker, 1 run (Walker kick)
BH – Johnsrud, 19 run (Walker kick)
Team Stats: First Downs- BH 18, R 9. Rushing- BH 51-396; R 41-188. Passing- BH 4-10-0, 57; R 3-7-1, 7. Fumbles-Lost- BH 1; R 1. Penalties- BH 5-30, R 2-10.
Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Jace Johnsrud 15-175-2; Michael Walker 22-114-3. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Kyle Walters 4-10-0-0, 57. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Hayden Schliem 3-43-0.