MIDDLETON – As eighth graders, Michael Flanagan and Brody Milz filmed Black Hawk’s run to the WIAA Division 7 state championship title and vowed that one day they too would take the Warriors to state.
That day will be this Thursday when the #3-ranked Warriors (13-0 overall) face off against the #2-ranked Bangor Cardinals (13-0) at Camp Randall in the WIAA Division 7 state championship game. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.
Black Hawk sealed their state berth at Middleton High School’s Otto Breitenbach Stadium on Friday, Nov. 10, by running roughshod over the #7-ranked Fall River Pirates, 56-8, in a D7 Level 4 playoff football game.
Flanagan threw for a pair of touchdowns and Milz ran for two more scores as the Warriors rolled up over 500 total yards of offense in the game, while the defense limited the Pirates (11-2) to just over 100 total yards on the night.
“It should be a great experience for these kids. I don’t think it’s something we fully expected at the beginning of the year. I know it was on their list of goals, but I don’t know if anyone figured we would do it. When we beat Potosi/Cassville, and then Pecatonica/Argyle, I think it started to become a reality and everyone started picking up their game. It’s wonderful that they get this chance,” said Black Hawk head coach Cory Milz, who led the Warriors to a state title in 2013 and now leads his son’s team back to Camp Randall for the program’s third appearance in a championship game.
“Watching (the 2013 team) fueled something in these kids. But, they are going to write their own story. They love football and they play like they love football,” their coach pointed out.
After forcing a quick three-and-out on the Pirates’ opening series of the game, the Warriors went to work. On the second play from scrimmage, Flanagan hooked up with senior Jett Rufenacht on a 54-yard pitch-and-catch to put the Warriors ahead for good.
Junior Colby Argall punched in the conversion to make it 8-0 less than three minutes into the game.
“They really have been focused all year. Every week has been a great experience being around these young men. They have a lot of fun, but they get down to business,” remarked Coach Milz.
Black Hawk added to their lead on their next six offensive possessions– and also tacked on a score on defense– to extend the lead to 56-0 midway through the third quarter.
B. Milz slammed in a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, while Argall darted in on scoring runs of 27 and 5 yards to put the Warriors ahead 36-0 at the intermission.
Flanagan teamed with senior Jason Treuthardt on a 45-yard scoring strike to start the third quarter to increase the Black Hawk lead to 42-0 moments into the third quarter, while Rufeancht returned a Pirate fumble 20 yards for a TD just 26 seconds later to make it 48-0.
Back-up quarterback Kyle Lovelace connected with junior Rece Shelton on a 35-yard TD pass later in the third quarter to push the lead to 56-0.
Fall River had one 67-yard drive in each half, however the Pirates were limited to a combined minus-four yards on their other nine possessions of the game.
“The familiarity with what Fall River was trying to do helped us stop them. I was very surprised with how well we were able to shut down the run. Hats off to our kids. They played fast and they played physical,” commented Coach Milz.
The Pirates had a chance to get back into the game midway through the first quarter after marching from their own 21-yard line to the BH 8, but Rufenacht sacked Pirate QB Luke Figol for a 3-yard loss on the 15th play of the drive as the Warriors turned them away at the goal line.
Figol finally got the Pirates on the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter when he tossed a 45-yard TD pass to Tanner Liebenthal against the Warriors’ second-team defense. Davyn Braker’s conversion run closed the scoring at 56-8.
Black Hawk finished the game with 504 yards of offense after rushing for 285 yards on 30 carries and completing all five of their passes for another 219 yards. The Warriors held Fall River to 38 rushing yards on 29 carries and 65 yards passing on the night.
Flanagan went 4-for-4 through the air for 184 yards and two scores. Rufenacht hauled in two catches for 98 yards and a TD.
“Mike did a great job on a cold night handling the ball and putting the ball in good spots. It’s nice to have that kind of balance,” Coach Milz said.
Argall carried the ball nine times for 140 yards and two scores, while B. Milz rushed 12 times for 70 yards and a TD and had one catch for 32 yards.
Defensively, Rufenacht registered two and a half sacks to go along with his fumble recovery for a TD. Noah Metz, Jason Treuthardt and Nick Whitcomb each added sacks, and Argall intercepted a pass for the Warriors.
Black Hawk will have its hands full in Madison on Thursday when they square off against the Cardinals, who won a D7 state title in their only other finals appearance in 2015. Two players on this year’s Bangor team started on their state championship team and five other played on special teams.
“That experience from being there before was a catalyst for getting back,” said Bangor head coach Rick Muellenberg, who led the Cardinals to the Scenic Bluffs title this season. “Defense is the heart of our team, and the offense puts up some points as well.”
On paper, the two teams are nearly identical. The Warriors average 51.3 points per game on offense and allow 7.9 ppg. on defense, while the Cardinals score 49.8 ppg. and allow just 3.8 ppg.
Black Hawk averages 343 rushing yards and 89 passing yards per game for a total of 432 ypg., and the Cardinals run for 347 yards and pass for 54 yards for 401 ypg.
B. Milz– who was recently announced as a WFCA All-State selection as both a running back and a linebacker– leads the Warriors with 1,568 rushing yards and 27 TDs, while Argall has added 1,432 yards and 25 TDs on the ground.
Flanagan has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 985 yards with 14 TDs and four interceptions. Rufenacht has 23 catches for 552 yards and eight TDs.
B. Milz also leads the team on defense with 118 tackles and 15 tackles for loss on the season. Flanagan has intercepted six passes and recovered five fumbles, while Rufenacht leads the team with five and a half sacks.
Senior running back Luke Reader has rushed for 1,697 yards and 29 TDs for the Cardinals. Senior quarterback Drew Johnson has threw for 703 yards with 14 TDs and only three interceptions, and has ran for 622 yards and 11 TDs.
Reader was selected to the WFCA All-State honorable mention team on defense, while senior lineman Garrett Krueger was a two-way honorable mention All-State pick for Bangor.
“Defense is the heart of our team, and the offense puts up some points as well,” Muellenberg said.
Sophomore linebacker Carter Horstman leads the Cardinals’ D with 131 tackles. Reader tallied 69 tackles with three sacks and three interceptions, and Krueger chipped in with 39 tackles with 11 TFLs and three sacks.
“Bangor is impressive. They are everything you need a team to be. There’s no weaknesses,” noted Milz. “It’s a great experience for our players, and it’s a great experience for our community. We’re going to enjoy the heck out of it. Our kids have gained confidence every week. Confidence is going to be a big thing for us on Thursday.”
The two teams have had two common opponents this year and they took care of them both in similar fashion. Bangor defeated Potosi/Cassville, 44-15, in week 7 of the season, while Black Hawk topped the Chieftains, 30-12, in week two of the regular season and then defeated them again, 28-7, in Level 3 of the playoffs. The Warriors beat Scenic Bluff’s New Lisbon, 68-6, in week three of the season, and the Cardinals defeated the Rockets, 57-0, the following week.
WIAA D7 LEVEL 4
Black Hawk… 14 22 20 0 – 56
Fall River…… 0 0 0 8 – 8
BH – Jett Rufenacht, 54 pass from Michael Flanagan (Colby Argall run)
BH – Brody Milz, 1 run (pass failed)
BH – Argall, 27 run (pass failed)
BH – Argall, 5 run (B. Milz run)
BH – B. Milz, 1 run (Argall run)
BH – Jason Treuthardt, 45 pass from Flanagan (run failed)
BH – Je. Rufenacht, 20 fumble return (pass failed)
BH – Rece Shelton, 35 pass from Kyle Lovelace (Lovelace run)
FR – Liebenthal, 45 pass from Figol (Braker run)
Team Stats: First Downs– FR 8, BH 12. Rushing– FR 29-38; BH 30-285. Passing– FR 8-18-1, 65; BH 5-5-0, 219. Fumbles-Lost– FR 1-1; BH 0-0. Penalties- FR 0-0; BH 13-103.
BH Individual Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)– Colby Argall, 9-140-2; Brody Milz, 12-70-2. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)– Michael Flanagan, 4-4-0-2, 184; Kyle Lovelace, 1-1-0-1, 35. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)– Jett Rufenacht, 2-98-1; Jason Treuthard, 1-45-1; Rece Shelton, 1-35-1.