MADISON – The color of the trophy the Black Hawk football team brought home from the WIAA Division 7 state championship game may not have been what they desired, but the memories the Warriors gained during their state run will always be golden.
The 2017 Warriors became the 11th team in school history to earn a conference title, the 23rd team to earn a playoff berth and just the third team to make the state finals.
This year’s D7 runner-up trophy will go into the school’s trophy case besides the gold ball Black Hawk won in 2013 and the silver ball the Warriors earned in D6 in 1998.
“I’m proud of my guys. We worked really hard for this goal,” said senior All-State running back and linebacker Brody Milz following the game. “The memories of all that hard work we put in to get here and all the fun times we had to get here I’ll always remember. It’s a great gift and a very special moment.”
The #3-ranked Warriors reeled off 13 straight victories to advance to Thursday’s state final game at Camp Randall, but their winning streak came to a end with a 37-14 loss to the unbeaten and #2-ranked Bangor Cardinals.
Bangor claimed their second state title in the last three years led by a senior class which posted a 40-1 record during that time.
Black Hawk’s seven seniors went 35-12 during their four-year run on the gridiron, including a 7-4 mark in four playoff appearances which culminated in a trip to Camp Randall in their final season.
All seven were selected to the 2017 Six Rivers Conference All-Conference team with six of the seven earning first-team honors and four getting selected to the first-team on both sides of the ball.
“You’re only as good as your seniors in terms of setting the tempo, the attitude and the expectation,” commented Black Hawk head coach Cory Milz. “This year’s group set the attitude that they were going to work hard and they the expectation that they were going to do things the right way. Their leadership was important.”
Black Hawk scored 681 points this season (48.6 ppg.) while rushing for nearly 4,700 yards and 70 TDs and passing for over 1,200 yards and 18 TDs. On defense, the Warriors gave up 144 points (10.3 ppg.) while yielding 1,400 rushing yards and 800 passing yards with a +19 turnover margin.
B. Milz led the way on both sides of the ball, leading the Warriors’ high-scoring offense from his fullback position and the defense from his inside linebacker position. He was named the Six Rivers Conference Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year this season.
He was a first-team WFCA All-State selection on defense after racking up 163 tackles (57 solo, 106 assists) with 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and three interceptions.
He was also named to the All-State honorable mention team after rushing for 1,685 yards on 179 carries with 28 rushing TDs and 19 conversion runs and making nine catches for 127 yards with a TD and a conversion. He also led the team in scoring with 220 points this season (30 TDs, 20 2-pts).
Milz ends his career with 462 tackles, 35 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, four interceptions and a fumble recovery, while gaining 3,432 rushing yards, 338 receiving yards and 563 passing yards along with 366 points scored after tallying 50 TDs and 33 conversions. He also threw for five TDs.
“He really deserves everything he gets,” said his proud coach and even more proud father. “He doesn’t take short cuts. I’m really proud of him. He’s a talented kid, but nobody sees the time he puts in.”
Senior quarterback/defensive back Michael Flanagan finished the season with 1,089 passing yards with 14 TDs and led the team with six interceptions on his way to All-Six Rivers first-team offense and defense along.
Senior wide receiver/defensive end Jett Rufenacht had 26 catches for 572 yards with eight TDs and three conversions and he led the team with nine sacks and two forced fumbles, while senior tight end/linebacker Jason Treuthardt added 13 catches for 335 yards with six TDs and four conversions.
Both players were two-way first-team All-Six Rivers selections, while Rufenacht also made the the second-team squad as a punter.
Senior Nathan Hull was a first-team selection at offensive tackle and senior Ben Holland was an honorable mention selection at center, while senior Noah Metz made the first-team defense at tackle.
“Every season has its own dynamic and you’re so proud of your kids no matter what they accomplish,” said Coach Milz. “With Brody being a senior and knowing these kids as long as I have, how sweet is it to end it on this field. Outside of a state championship, it couldn’t have gone any more perfect for those kids’ last season.”
Coach Milz had not one but two sons on this year’s team with sophomore Cayden joining his older brother playing for their dad, which only added another element to this season’s success.
“This season was extra special because I’ve known all these kids through my sons,” noted Milz.
Black Hawk was the smallest school playing 11-man football in the WIAA playoff field this season, but that didn’t stop them from making it to the state finals. The school’s enrollment is going down next season, but the expectations won’t for the Warriors.
“Our kids themselves, they kind of have a chip on their shoulder when people talk about that small-school thing,” admitted Coach Milz. “In fact, we have a saying hung up in our locker room that says, ‘Be big-school at a small school.’”
The cupboards will not be bare as the Warriors are set to return several starters on each side of the ball next season, including junior running back Colby Argall, a second-team All-Six Rivers selection who rushed for 1,459 yards with 25 TDs and 12 conversions this season.
Three starting offensive lineman will return led by first-team All-Conference guard Mitchell Quinn. Junior tight end/defensive back Rece Shelton was a two-way All-Six Rivers pick earning second-team honors on defense and honorable mention honors on offense.
“There is a lot of talent in the junior and sophomore classes, and they’ll follow the lead of the seniors,” Coach Milz said.
Win or lose, one thing that remains constant is the support the school and the community gives to the team and the pride in which the players carry themselves to live up to the Warrior moniker.
“What it does is it speaks to the level of support for the kids in the community. Our community makes them feel like it’s worthwhile to play football and be part of something like this. They play really hard because they don’t want to let the community down.”