POTOSI - With six minutes and twenty nine seconds to play in last Saturday’s WIAA Division 7 first round playoff football game, the host Potosi Chieftains were holding on to a 32-22 lead.
Exactly one minute and twenty seconds later, it was visiting Hillsboro who had switched the tables and taken a 34-32 advantage.
Coach Eric Auel’s Tigers (8-2) held on to upset the second seeded Chieftains (8-2) who were the top ranked team in Division 7 according to the WisSports.net coaches poll.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be called an upset at all, as Hillsboro’s two losses this year were a 7-0 final against Necedah, who is a No. 1 seed in their D5 bracket, and a 38-20 final to Bangor, a three seed in the D6 playoffs.
Either way, it was a tough first-round draw for both teams, who knew going in that it wasn’t going to be easy.
Though Potosi scored on its first two possessions to take a 13-8 lead, Hillsboro never let them get too far ahead.
After recovering a Hillsboro fumble at their own 22-yard line, the Chieftains capped off a three-play drive with a 29-yard halfback pass from Hunter Leibfried to Mitchell Langkamp. The extra-point kick by Fritz gave Potosi an early 7-0 lead with 8:11 showing on the first-quarter clock.
Hillsboro had a rather quick response with a three-play scoring drive of their own that ended with a 58-yard TD pass from Spencer Treu to Brandon Stanek. James Griffin’s two-point conversion run gave the Tigers an 8-7 lead at the 6:50 mark.
The Chieftains were quick to take back the lead with a seven-play scoring drive that covered 70 yards and took just over three minutes off the clock.
Fritz found Hunter Leibfried on a 19-yard scoring pass, and with the missed extra-point kick, gave Potosi a 13-8 advantage.
It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that the Tigers re-took the lead, by putting together a nine-play scoring drive that started out on their own 30.
With just 24 seconds to play in the half, Treu scored on a one-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-goal. The two-point conversion run failed, leaving the Tigers with a narrow 14-13 lead.
On the ensuing kick off though, Potosi’s Alex Wright scooped up a grounder, weaved through Hillsboro’s initial coverage front, and raced down the left sideline for an 82-yard kick return touchdown. Potosi’s two-point conversion run failed, leaving the halftime score at 19-14.
It looked as if Potosi had taken complete control of the game in the third quarter with two more touchdowns passes from Fritz, one to Leibfried, and the other to Chase Kruser.
Sandwiched in between was a Hillsboro score, a 23-yard TD pass from Treu to Nick Hammer.
The 32-22 Potosi lead held up until the 6:28 mark of the fourth quarter when Brandon Sebranek stepped in front of a Fritz pass on second-and-nine, plucked it out of the air and returned it 44 yards for the score.
With the failed two-point conversion pass, Potosi was hanging on to a 32-28 lead.
On Potosi’s very next possession, a fumble by Alex Wright on the Chieftain’s 28-yard line was recovered by the Tigers.
On a third-and-seven from the 25-yard line, Hillsboro executed a reverse halfback option pass to perfection for what turned out to be the game winning score.
With 5:09 to play in the game, Potosi found itself trailing 34-32, but still had a chance when they recovered a Hillsboro fumble at their 24-yard line. A second interception thrown by Fritz ended the threat with 1:33 showing on the clock.
After taking all three of their timeouts on Hillsboro’s final drive, Potosi had the Tigers in a fourth-and-three situation from the Chieftain’s 48-yard line. Hillsboro lined up to go for it, and was able to get the Potosi defense to jump offsides to seal the deal.
While Hillsboro moves on to face Seneca this Saturday afternoon, Potosi ended a rather great season with a two-game losing streak.
“This is going to hurt for a while,” said Potosi coach Mark Siegert. “I really didn’t have very many words for the team. It’s just really tough to come up with any words that would help in that situation.”
Potosi finished the game with 131 yards rushing on 23 attempts, and was led by Jase Udelhofen’s 55 yards on 11 carries.
Through the air, Fritz completed 16-of-27 passing attempts for 257 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. Langkamp was the team’s top receiver with six catches for 100 yards, while Leibfried hauled in three TDs.
“We had 400 and something yards of offense, so it’s not like we were shut down,” said coach Siegert. “We had our opportunities to put the game away and we didn’t. It’s a learning experience.”
The Tigers finished the day with 190 yards rushing on 53 attempts, led by James Griffin’s 114-yard performance on 22 carries.
Spencer Treu completed 6-of-11 passing attempts for 144 yards, while Jeremy Stanek hauled in two passes for 95 yards.
“Our whole thing was that if they’re going to beat us, they need to throw the football,” said coach Siegert of his defensive plan. “Unfortunately, they made enough plays in their passing game that they did convert on a number of plays.”
Rather than sitting back in zone coverage like they have done all season, Potosi felt they had to put an extra man in the box to stop Hillsboro’s running game, forcing their secondary to play man-to-man the entire game.
With the end of the season comes the end of the line for six seniors, who played their final prep football game last Saturday. They include: James Mahoney, Tom Keene, Kyle Scholl, Bret McMahon, Alex Reinecke and Eric Hinderman.
“Our senior class did a great job, we just needed a lot more of them,” said coach Siegert.
Hillsboro 34, Potosi 32
(WIAA D7 Level 1 playoff game from Saturday, Oct. 22)
Hillsboro 8 6 8 12 - 34
Potosi 13 6 13 0 - 32
P - Leibfried, 29-yard pass from Langkamp (Fritz kick)
H - Stanek, 58-yard pass from Treu (Griffin run)
P - Leibfried, 19-yard pass from Fritz (pass failed)
H - Treu, 1-yard run (run failed)
P - Wright, 82-yard kick return (run failed)
P - Leibfried, 38-yard pass from Fritz (pass failed)
H - Hammer, 23-yard pass from Treu (Griffin run)
P - Kruser, 5-yard pass from Fritz (Fritz kick)
H - Sebranek, 44-yard interception return (pass failed)
H - Griffin, 25-yard pass from Nothaus (run failed)
First downs - H 13, P 18. Rushing - H 53-190, P 23-131. Passing yards - H 169, P 286. Passes - H 7-12-0, P 17-28-2. Fumbles lost - H 2, P 2. Penalties-yards - H 4-35, P 10-70.
Rushing - H: James Griffin 22-114; P: Udelhofen 11-55. Passing - H: Spencer Treu 6-11-0, 144; P: Tim Fritz 16-27-2, 257. Receiving - H: Jeremy Stanek 2-95; P: Langkmap 6-100.