PLATTEVILLE - Darlington scored first, but Platteville came back strong pasting 54 unanswered points on the scoreboard to bury the visiting Redbirds, 54-6, in a non-conference prep football game at UW-Platteville’s Ralph E. Davis Stadium on Friday, Aug. 19.
The Redbirds came into the season battling inexperience following heavy graduation losses- 19 seniors, including 12 All-SWAL performers– and they were even more shorthanded in Friday’s season opener with several more returning starters on the sideline due to various reasons.
Platteville, on the other hand, came back fully-loaded and ready to go with 17 letter winners back from last year’s 7-4 playoff team.
“I know we’re young, but you have to take pride in what you do and pride in preparation. We have to prepare better,” said Darlington head coach Scott Zywicki.
Darlington (0-1 overall) struck the opening blow on the very first play from scrimmage when new starting quarterback Zach McArthur hit a wide-open Mitchell Whalen in the middle of the field and Whalen sprinted 76 yards before getting tripped up at the Platteville 4-yard line.
Three plays later, McArthur threw a well-placed fade pass to Brandon Hardyman to put the ‘Birds on the board. The extra point failed, leaving the guests ahead 6-0 less than two minutes into the game.
The Hillmen (1-0) quickly shook off the Redbirds’ stunning blow thanks to a 75-yard kickoff return by David Bast down to the Redbird 9, and the hosts tied the game on their first play from scrimmage on a 9-yard pass from Logan Emendorfer to Nate Fielder.
Firas Jadaan’s extra point put Platteville ahead to stay at 7-6.
The Hillmen had another short field to work with on their second possession after a mishandled snap on a punt attempt set the hosts up at the Redbird 13. Three plays later, Garrison Jones bulled in from the 2 to make it 14-6.
Platteville added three more scores in the second quarter on drives of 59, 56 and 54 yards. Emendorfer connected with Dylan Tranel for a 17-yard TD and with Fiedler again from 11 yards out to make it 26-6, and Jones charged in from 4 yards out to up the lead to 33-6 at the half.
The Hillmen added a knockout punch early in the third quarter when Bast returned the second half kickoff 86 yards for a score, and they added a 39-yard TD pass from back-up quarterback Josh Bernhardt to William Cooley in the period.
Later in the third quarter, Jesse Heer return an interception 65 yards for another score to close the scoring at 54-6.
After going 80 yards on their first drive of the game, the Redbirds managed just 91 yards on their next 11 possessions. The Hillmen finished the game with 288 total yards, including 160 through the air and 128 on the ground.
Levi Wedig led the Redbirds’ ground attack with 53 hard-earned yards on 16 carries, while McArthur completed 3-of-15 passes for 94 yards and a TD with two picks.
“Offensively in the first half we did some nice things and moved the ball a little bit,” noted Zywicki. “Defensively, I was not pleased. I thought our kids played soft. They were going to their knees to make tackles like they were afraid. We have to get better. We have to get tougher and we have to make corrections.”
Things don’t get much easier for the ‘Birds, who travel to face 2010 Division 4 state runner-up Brodhead/Juda in Brodhead on Friday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m.
The Cardinals (0-1) were blanked by River Valley, 14-0, in their opener on Friday night.
“Hopefully we can learn from this and get better because the alternative is not pretty,” Zywicki admitted. “We just have to keep working hard and never quit.”
Darlington... 6 0 0 0 - 6
Platteville.... 7 26 21 0 - 54
D – Brandon Hardyman, 5 pass from Zach McArthur (kick failed)
P – Fiedler, 9 pass from Emendorfer (Jadaan kick)
P – Jones, 2 run (Jadaan kick)
P – Tranel, 17 pass from Emendorfer (kick failed)
P – Fiedler, 11 pass from Emendorfer (kick failed)
P – Jones, 4 run (Jadaan kick)
P – Bast, 86 kickoff return (Jadaan kick)
P – Cooley, 39 pass from Bernhardt (Bailie kick)
P – Heer, 65 interception return (Bailie kick)
Team Stats: First Downs- D 7; P 8. Rushing- D 33-60; P 24-128. Passing- D 3-15-2, 94; P 8-10-0, 160. Fumbles-Lost- D 2-1; P 1-0. Penalties- D 3-15, P 9-55.
Darlington Leaders: Rushing (Att-Yds-Td)- Levin Wedig, 16-53-0. Passing (Comp-Att-Int-Td-Yds)- Zach McArthur, 3-15-2-1, 94. Receiving (Cat-Yds-Td)- Mitchell Whalen, 1-76-0.