CUBA CITY – Behind a dominating defensive effort and a productive rushing attack, the Flying Arrow football team picked up its first victory of the season last Friday night with a 21-0 non-conference win over the host Cubans of Cuba City.
The win gave Lancaster a season record of 1-1 following their season-opening loss to Fennimore a week earlier, while the Cubans dropped to 0-2 on the year after opening their season with a loss to Platteville.
For coach John Hoch, the biggest improvement that he saw from one week to the next was simply the fact that some of the younger players are gradually getting used to the speed and intensity needed to play at the varsity level.
“I think the young guys are just getting their feet wet,” coach Hoch said. “Those guys that weren’t playing varsity football are getting their feet wet and are understanding what it takes to play varsity football.”
The speed and intensity required to play at the varsity level was on full display by the Lancaster defense Friday night, as they attacked the Cubans from every angle and disrupted what was projected to be a potent offense.
On 24 rushing attempts, the Cubans were held to just seven yards of rushing offense, and completed 12-of-22 passing attempts for 133 yards against the Lancaster defense.
The Cuban’s dynamic playmaker, Kordell Stillmunkes, was limited to just 11 yards rushing on nine carries, while hauling in five receptions for 35 yards.
The Flying Arrows had six tackles for loss in the game, including three from senior Gabe Hudson and two from Ethan Klar. Hudson led the Lancaster defense with 7.5 total tackles, while sophomore linebacker Caden Straka had five and senior Jacob McCabe 3.5. Junior Damian Kauffman had the team’s only interception and Dalton Gardner the team’s only sack.
“We have a very good front with our 4-2, and we feel confident that we can stop the run,” Hoch said of his defense. “The defense was flying to the ball and they seemed to rise to the challenge.”
“I don’t think there was one individual that stood out, I think as a whole they did really well and they got better covering the pass as it went,” Hoch added.
Offensively for the Arrows, the rushing attack gained 277 yards and three touchdowns on 53 attempts for an impressive average of 5.2 yards per play.
Lancaster scored on its first offensive possession of the game, going 76 yards on seven plays.
Senior fullback Evan Gates had four carries in the opening drive for 42 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown with 7:58 to play in the opening quarter.
Gates again found the end zone late in the third quarter when he sprinted 25 yards to cap off a seven-play drive that started at Lancaster’s own 11-yard line.
It was a 17-yard touchdown run by fellow senior Garrett Birkett midway through the fourth quarter that sealed the deal for the Flying Arrows, as Tanner Oyen’s third successful extra-point kick of the night gave Lancaster a 21-0 lead with 6:23 to play in the game.
Gates finished the night with 162 yards rushing and two TDs on 29 attempts, while senior quarterback Evan Straka added 60 yards rushing on nine attempts. Birkett finished with 24 yards and one TD on four carries.
According to coach Hoch, the offensive line graded out substantially better this week, and having senior Ty Mayne back on the field was a big boost to help Cole Zenz, Theron Schindler, John Wagner and Joseph Recker in opening holes.
Through the air, Straka completed 5-of-10 passing attempts for 54 yards, but the Arrows did throw two interceptions, both coming on half-back option passes.
Lancaster’s leading receiver with two catches for 31 yards was Birkett, while Jordan Reuter had one catch for 14 yards.
While the Lancaster offense did manage to sustain long scoring drives last Friday night and put up nearly 300 yards rushing, coach Hoch is still waiting for the big plays that he knows will come.
“We aren’t getting the big plays, but they will come, because our guys are blocking and they’re getting downfield,” Hoch said. “When we’re moving the ball consistently though, then we’re blocking consistently.”
Not to be overlooked is the importance of a productive return game, which for years at Lancaster has aided the offense with good field position and short fields, often times leading to quick scores.
Against the Cubans last Friday night, the offense was often times pinned back deep on their own side of the field, in part to Stillmunkes who averaged nearly 40 yards on six punts. Lancaster though averaged 1.5 yards on two punt returns and 15 yards on one kick return.
All 11 of Lancaster’s possession began on their side of the field, with the average field position being at their own 30-yard line.
This Friday night the Arrows travel to Black River Falls (0-2), who completed 34-of-49 passing attempts for 357 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 40-20 loss to Tomah.
Lancaster 21, Cuba City 0
(from Friday, Aug. 25)
Lancaster 7 0 7 7 - 21
Cuba City 0 0 0 0 - 0
L - Evan Gates - 13-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
L - Evan Gates - 25-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
L - Garrett Birkett, 17-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
First downs - L 23, CC 8. Rushing - L 53-277, CC 24-7. Passing yards - L 54, CC 133. Passes - L 5-12-2, CC 12-22-1. Fumbles-lost - L 2-1, CC 2-0. Penalties-yards - L 5-50, CC 12-95.
L: Evan Gates 29-162, Evan Straka 9-60, Garrett Birkett 4-24, Dawson Bowen 7-22, Cole Kruel 2-11.
CC: Kordell Stillmunkes 9-11, Ryan Hoppenjan 4-9, Mason Reuter 4-8, Andy Clendenen 3-(-5), Benjamin Marti 4-(-16).
L: Evan Straka 5-10-0, 54.
CC: Benjamin Marti 9-18-1, 85, Andy Clendenen 3-4-0, 48.
L: Garrett Birkett 2-31, Jordan Reuter 1-14, Morgan Seippel 2-9.
CC: Benjamin Marti 2-46, Kordell Stillmunkes 5-35, Mason Reuter 1-23, Ryan Hoppenjan 3-20, Andy Clendenen 1-9.