LANCASTER – While Lancaster’s potent rushing attack accumulated 345 yards and four touchdowns in last Friday night’s division 5 first-round playoff game against visiting Westby, the Flying Arrow defense was as stingy as ever in a 31-13 victory over the Norsemen.
With last week’s win, coach John Hoch’s second-seeded football team advanced to Level 2, where they will host third-seeded Laconia (4-2, 8-2) this Friday night at 7 p.m.
Friday night’s contest with the Norsemen was certainly a hard-hitting affair, which carried over from their first meeting this season on Sept. 10, which Lancaster won, 21-0.
“Westby is physical,” said coach Hoch. “They are a very physical team.”
When it comes to being physical, you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of players who are more physical than the offense and defensive lines of the Flying Arrows.
Defensively, guys like Gabe Hudson, Jacob Ihm, Ethan Klar and the addition of Dalton Gardner, have been doing a great job up front. Gardner, who is getting reps for the injured Jordan Mohlmann, has been a great addition to the defensive front.
Then you’ve got the Lancaster linebackers of Justin Allen, Matt Withey, Troy Klein and Jacob McCabe, who swarm to the ball and engulf the ball carrier, while the defensive backs of Mack Mundy, Jordan Reuter, Garrett Birkett, Tanner Reuter, Drew Reuter, Austin Lucey and Trae Kuenster offer an impenetrable last line of defense.
In all, the Lancaster defense held Westby to just 139 yards of total offense last Friday night, 56 of which came on a fourth-quarter touchdown bomb.
The Norsemen were limited to just 61 yards rushing on 29 attempts for an average of 2.1 yards per carry, and completed just 4-of-21 passing attempts for 78 yards.
“I thought our defense played exceptionally well, and I thought they flowed to the ball,” said coach Hoch. “I thought they were tentative the week before and they came back to play like they’ve been playing the last half of the season, just everybody swarming to the ball.”
Though the Norsemen did score 13 points in Friday night’s playoff game, their first score was the result of a 47-yard scoop-and-score on a Lancaster fumble early in the first quarter.
Leading Lancaster’s defense last Friday night with six tackles and half a sack was Matt Withey, while Justin Allen had 5.5 tackles and Jordan Reuter 4.5.
Offensively, the Flying Arrows attacked from the ground, where they accumulated 345 rushing yards and four TDs on 59 attempts for an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
Junior fullback Evan Gates inched closer to the school’s single-season rushing record with 221 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries.
Garrett Birkett took full advantage of his seven carries Friday night, scoring two touchdowns and finishing with 61 yards, while quarterback Evan Straka added 59 yards and one score on 18 rushing attempts.
Of course none of Lancaster’s success on the ground would be possible without the impressive blocking by the big boys up front like John Wagner, Quinten Kreul, Theron Schindler, Larry Moore, Will Uppena and Nick Seiler.
Also coming up big for the Lancaster offense all season, and again last Friday night, has been the kicking of sophomore Tanner Oyen, who against Westby made 4-of-4 extra-point kicks, as well as a 24-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
With the ground attack racking up yards, Lancaster’s passing attack was limited to 27 yards, as Straka completed 3-of-9 passing attempts, two going to Tanner Reuter for 23 yards.
It’s not the lack of balance that has Hoch concerned about his offense, but rather the rate at which the ball is being put on the ground. Last Friday night the Arrows fumbled the ball six times, losing three, one of which was returned for a score.
On the year, Lancaster has fumbled the ball 47 times and lost 16.
“We have got to hang onto the ball, or we’re going to be short-lived in the playoffs,” said Hoch.
Standing in the way of Lancaster this week is Laconia, who is coming off a 55-34 victory over Horicon/Hustisford.
The Spartans finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Flyway conference behind Saint Mary’s Springs. Others from that conference advancing to the playoffs were Winnebago Lutheran (D5) and Omro (D4).
Laconia comes into Friday night’s contest averaging 31.2 points per game, while giving up an average of 22.2.
They average 266 yards rushing per contest and 66.9 yards passing, while Lancaster averages 295.7 yards rushing and 69.6 yards passing.
“They run the ball, run the ball and run the ball, and then all of a sudden they throw it and try to catch you sleeping,” Hoch said of the Spartans. “They aren’t the huge monsters they were in 2013. They just don’t hurt themselves. They play very clean.”
Lancaster and Laconia last met in the second round of the playoffs in 2013, where the Flying Arrows posted a 34-13 victory on their way to the D5 state runner-up title.
Lancaster 31, Westby 13
(D5 Level 1 playoff gae from Friday, Oct. 21)
Westby 6 0 0 7 - 13
Lancaster 0 10 7 14 - 31
W - Ryan Daines, 47-yard fumble return (kick failed)
L - Garrett Birkett, 18-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
L - Tanner Oyen, 24-yard field goal
L - Garrett Birkett, 22-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
W - Owen Hluch, 56-yard pass from Kyle Anderson (Konner Olson kick)
L - Evan Gates, 2-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
L - Evan Straka, 12-yard run (Tanner Oyen kick)
First downs - W 6, L 22. Rushing - W 29-61, L 59-345. Passing yards - W 78, L 27. Passes - W 4-21-0, L 3-11-0. Fumbles-lost - W 2-0, L 6-3. Penalties-yards - W 4-30, L 5-45.
Rushing leaders: W: Ryan Daines 14-42, Kyle Anderson 6-9, Konner Olson 6-5.; L: Evan Gates 31-221, Garrett Birkett 7-61, Evan Straka 18-59, Drew Reuter 1-3, Tanner Reuter 1-2.
Passing leaders: W: Kyle Anderson 4-21-0, 78; L: Evan Straka 3-9-0, 27.
Receiving leaders: W: Owen Hluch 2-65, Erik Luebke 1-8 Ryan Daines 1-5; L: Tanner Reuter 2-23, Evan Gates 1-4.