DARLINGTON — Over the span of 48 minutes Friday afternoon Platteville junior B.J. Cooley made the best possible first impression.
Cooley, who played primarily on JV and only sparingly as a varsity backup last year, went from a relatively unknown to presumably Platteville’s next star halfback in a string of recent stud rushers that includes the state’s former all-time leading rusher Tom Wunderlin, former conference MVP Adam Bartels, two-time NCAA Division III track and field All–American Casey Goffinet, and current NFL defensive end Louis Nzegwu.
The 6-foot, 211-pound Cooley burst on to the scene with 311 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the visiting Hillmen to a 45–19 victory at Darlington.
“B.J. had a great day,” said Hillmen coach Scott Statz. “Anytime in this offense the tailback goes off, there are a lot of good things happening up front. Our offensive line was solid, especially since four of those guys had their first varsity start. Our fullbacks (Nate Fiedler and Mitch Fure) are special and our TE (Ryan Weber) had a nice day.”
Cooley rushed for 29 yards on four carries on Platteville’s first series and capped the seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive with a 6-yard run. James Bailie’s point-after made it 7–0 at the 5:38 mark of the opening quarter.
Platteville’s opening drive began with a 31-yard end around run by junior wide receiver Derek Schambow.
After forcing a second straight Redbird punt, Platteville needed just one play to find pay dirt this time around.
Running behind offensive linemen Hunter Johnston, Vinny Anderson, Justin Henry, Briar Schillam and Adam Brogley, Cooley burst through a hole on the left side of the line and raced 79 yards for the score.
The Hillmen drove inside Darlington’s 20-yard-line on their next drive and appeared poised to take a three-score lead, but a fumble at the 17 halted the threat.
The Redbirds responded with a nine-play march that was aided by a 23-yard pass to fullback Dylan Nyffenegger, a 31-yard pass to tight end Cole Whalen and a Platteville holding penalty.
Darlington pulled within 14–7 on a 1-yard plunge by senior halfback Storm Wiegel.
Schambow returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to set Platteville up on the Darlington 40. But three plays later Cooley fumbled at the 4-yard-line.
“Our backs need to have much better ball security; we would have put Darlington away in the first half if we protected the ball,” said Statz.
Platteville’s next drive stalled at the Redbird six, but Bailie converted a 25-yard field goal to make it 17–7.
Darlington missed a 21-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half.
After an uneven first half Platteville put the game away with an offensive assault in the third period.
Cooley scored six plays into the second half on a 46-yard jaunt that was made possible by a devastating lead block by Fure that decleated the Darlington linebacker.
Darlington hung around thanks to a 38-yard touchdown pass from Cole McDonald to Aric Geissbhuler on the next possession, but Platteville scored the next three times it had the ball to the contest into a route.
Cooley scored his fourth TD of the day from 17 yards out, then Adam Brogley recovered a Darlington fumble.
New Hillmen quarterback senior Josh Bernhardt completed a 26-yard fade pass to Schambow down the left sideline before sophomore tailback Jacob Bernhardt scampered around the right end and dove into the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown run.
Cooley broke free one last time for a 55-yard TD run that gave the Hillmen a commanding 45–13 lead with 9:49 left in the game.
Darlington tacked on a 3-yard Jason Singer touchdown run on the final play of the game to account for the final score.
“We were pleased overall with how the team played,” said Statz. “We have a ways to go defensively if we want to compete with everyone. We had too many experienced players playing inconsistently on that side of the ball.”
On the day Platteville racked up 513 yards of offense, 386 on 35 carries.
Josh Bernhardt, who was making his first career, start completed 8-of-10 passes for 127 yards.
Schambow caught four passes for 78 yards, and had two carries for 28 yards.
The Platteville defense allowed 334 total yards, 223 on 47 carries.
“We played ok on defense,” said Statz. “As I stated earlier, we need to be more consistent and disciplined on defense. Each player has to be locked into getting their job/assignment done first.”
Platteville (1–0) will travel to Mauston (0–1) this Friday for another non-conference game.
Laconia defeated Mauston 40–8 on Friday.
Platteville 45, Darlington 19
(from Friday, Aug. 24 @ Darlington)
Platteville. 14 3 21 7 — 45
Darlington 0 7 6 6 — 19
P — B.J. Cooley 6 run (James Bailie kick)
P — Cooley 79 run (Bailie kick)
D — S. Wiegel 1 run (Black kick)
P —Bailie 25 FG
P — Cooley 46 run (Bailie kick)
D — Geissbuhler 38 pass from McDonald (kick failed)
P — Cooley 18 run (Bailie kick)
P — Jake Bernhardt 8 run (Bailie kick)
P — Cooley 55 run (Bailie kick)
D — Singer 3 run (no conversion attempt)
First downs — P 13, D 13. Rushing — P 35-386, D 47-223. Passing yards — P 127, D 111. Passes — P 8-10-0, D 6-15-1. Fumbles–lost — P 3-3, D 1-1 . Penalties–yards — P 11-81, D 6-37.
Rushing — P: B.J. Cooley 22-311; D: Nyffenegger 12-74. Passing — P: Josh Bernhardt 8-10-0, 127; D: McDonald 6-15-1, 111. Receiving — IG: Derek Schambow 4-78; D: Whalen 3-41.