CUBA CITY — An uneven performance resulted in a hard-fought 21–13 non-conference victory for the Platteville Hillmen in Friday’s season opener at Cuba City.
Senior running back Luke Fugate rushed for 267 yards and three first-half touchdowns to power the Hillmen offense and the Platteville defense shook off an early blow coverage and limited the Cubans to just two first downs in the contest.
“I was very happy with how our defense played,” said second-year Platteville head coach Kyle Craig. “Our D line was the key to the game. The way they played up front allowed us to not play with a safety in the middle of the field all night. Kordell Stillmunkes is a special athlete and our defensive line and linebackers did a nice job of containing him. We were not perfect by any means, and still have work to do, but we are off to a good start defensively.”
Both offensives started slowly first trading punts, then trading interceptions, then Platteville fumbled on its third drive of the game.
One play later, the host Cubans caught the Platteville defense off guard and senior Isaac Meier threw a quick pass to junior wide receiver Nathan Timmerman that turned into a 29-yard TD pass with 3:35 left in the opening quarter.
“That one falls on the coaching staff and myself for not having the kids prepared for that formation,” admitted Craig. “They caught us with one defensive back defending two receivers on the short side of the field and we as coaches were busy coaching up other positions and didn’t realize it until it was too late.”
Platteville (1–0) answered back four plays later, when Fugate took a pitch and raced around the right end for a 59-yard score. Zach White’s extra point tied the game at 7–7.
The Hillmen defense forced a three-and-out, then the Platteville offense drove 74 yards in nine plays, taking the lead on a 1-yard run by Fugate. The senior running back gained 40 yards on six carries on the drive. Junior quarterback Ethan Bernhardt completed three passes to senior Alex Traxler for the other 34 yards.
After another Cuba City punt, Fugate again moved the Hillmen down field. Fugate had gains of 24 and 11, and after a nine-yard pass to junior fullback Cam Brant, Fugate again scored on a one-yard plunge to make it 21–7 with 3:24 left in the half.
“We thought we would be able to have some success offensively,” said Craig. “Our offensive coaching staff got in a nice play-calling rhythm and Luke ran extremely hard. He made a couple of guys miss on a few runs and had his mojo going.”
Platteville’s offensive struggled in the second half, gaining only two first downs while punting seven times and losing a fumble.
Cuba City pulled within eight points when Stillmunkes outjumped a Platteville defensive back for a Meier pass around the 25-yard line then raced untouched for a 58-yard TD catch with 5:03 left in the game. The extra point was blocked and the Hillmen led 21–13.
“Cuba City is going to give some teams trouble this year,” said Craig. “Their defensive staff made some adjustments at halftime that gave us some troubles. It was hot too and maybe we got a little tired in the second half. It was one person here and one person there missing an assignment that stalled some drives. We just executed better in the first half. But everything that went wrong in the second half is coachable and can be easily fixed. We were just happy to get out of there with a win after we struggled offensively in the second half.”
This was Platteville’s first meeting against Cuba City since 2002, when both were part of the old SWAL I. Friday’s victory avenged the Cubans 14–7 victory 14 years ago.
The Hillmen will face a much stiffer test this Friday when they welcome Capitol North preseason favorite Columbus to town.
The Cardinals (1–0) hammered Ripon 44–6 in last week’s non-conference season opener. Columbus returns a talented senior class that helped the Cardinals go 10–2 a year ago and reach the third round of the WIAA Division 4 playoffs before suffering a 15–14 loss to conference rival Lodi.
“They are a very good, very physical, senior-dominated team,” said Craig. “They are the favorite to win their conference and an early favorite in Division 4, but we have goals of our own. It will be a good test for us. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
Platteville 21, Cuba City 13
(from Friday, Aug. 19 @ Cuba City)
Platteville 7 14 0 0 — 21
Cuba City 7 0 0 6 — 13
CC: Nathan Timmerman 29 pass from Isaac Meier (Timmerman kick)
P: Luke Fugate 59 run (Zach White kick)
P: Fugate 1 run (White kick)
P: Fugate 1 run (White kick)
CC: Kordell Stillmunkes 59 pass from Meier
First downs — P 12, CC 2. Rushing — P 46-240, CC 20-63. Passing Yards — P 89, CC 104. Passing — P 8-14-1, CC 7-24-1. Fumbles–lost — P 3-2, CC 1-1. Penalties-yards — P 7-40, H 2-10.
Rushing — P: Luke Fugate 35-267; CC: Kordell Stillmunkes 10-52. Passing — P: Ethan Bernhardt 8-14-1, 89; CC: Isaac Meier 6-22-1, 87. Receiving — P: Alex Traxler 5-60; CC: Kordell Stillmunkes 5-60.