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Hillmen find a way
Platteville overcomes record-breaking night from Lancaster's Nic Wood to earn playoff berth
pla fb defense
Plattevilles Donovan Blevins (3), Cody Schambow (5) and Jason Withrow (6) combine to smother Lancasters Tanner Reuter during Fridays 2826 Senior Night victory.

Platteville will live to fight another night.

Needing a victory over Southwest Wisconsin Conference rival Lancaster to clinch a sixth straight postseason berth, coach Kyle Craig’s Hillmen rose to the challenge.

Platteville raced out to a 14–0 lead in the game’s first five minutes — on an 18-yard run by junior Luke Fugate and a 26-yard fumble return by senior Mitch Knockel -— and held on for a 28–26 Senior Night victory despite a record-breaking performance from Lancaster senior Nic Wood.

Wood rushed for a school-record 349 yards (205 in the second half) and three touchdowns to fuel a late comeback, but it wasn’t enough. He also had a 35-yard catch and set a new single-game school record with 384 all-purpose yards.

One play after the Arrows inexplicably went for it — and failed — on 4th-and-8 from their own 24-yard line with more than five minutes and all three timeouts remaining, Platteville delivered the knockout blow.

Sophomore Donovan Blevins scored from 24 yards out on an end around and sophomore Zach White added the all-important extra point to make it a two-score game at 28–19 with 4:54 remaining in the game.

Wood ripped off a 41-yard run and scored one play later from a yard out to make it 28–26 with 1:40 to play.

But Platteville recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to earn their first victory over Lancaster since 2010 — which ironically clinched a playoff berth on the final night of the regular season — and first victory at home over the Arrows since 2004.

The Hillmen finished the regular season 4–5 overall and 3–2 in the SWC after beginning the year just 1–4.

Their reward is a playoff rematch with top-ranked, top-seeded and unbeaten Lodi (9–0) this Friday a 7 p.m. to begin

the WIAA Division 4 playoffs.

“The high school football playoffs are special; you have to earn your way into the postseason,” said Craig. “When you do, it’s a great moment to celebrate as a team.

“Our seniors felt pressure to lead the team to a sixth consecutive playoff birth, and 12th in the last 13 years, and it took a couple weeks to embrace that pressure and let it fuel them. They taught our younger players an invaluable lesson about perseverance through adversity. At 1–4, we had our backs up against the wall and even more so at 2–5, needing to win the final 2 games to get into the postseason. They refused to give up the fight and it speaks volumes to their leadership and character.  Beating Lancaster to earn our place in the playoffs, on Senior Night, was especially meaningful to our team.”

Lodi (9–0) dominated previously unbeaten Columbus (8–1), 37–7 to claim the Capitol North conference title Friday night. A year ago, the Blue Devils ended Platteville’s season with a 32–6 victory in Level II.

Senior Mark Nellen has rushed for 1,578 yards and 18 touchdowns to lead the Blue Devils, who have outscored their opponents 313–34 this year. The Lodi defense has only allowed three touchdowns all season, and didn’t allow a single point until a 42–3 victory over Poynette in Week 6.

“Lodi is physical and plays incredibly good defense,” said Craig. “It will be another challenge for our offensive and defensive line. We will have to continue to play well in all phases of the game to win.  It’ll be another 48 minute battle, as were the last two weeks, but we’re battle tested and hardened because due to the season we’ve had. Everything that has occurred the last 11 weeks together has happened for a reason and we are in the exact position we’re supposed to be in. We’re playing our best football at the right part of the season and that has us feeling very good.”

Fugate finished Friday’s win over Lancaster with a team-high 151 yards on 30 carries.

His 18-yard touchdown four minutes into the game capped a 11-play, 69-yard game opening drive.

Lancaster fumbled a handoff on its second offensive play of the game moments later, and Knockel picked up the loose ball and raced untouched 26 yards for a 14–0 lead with 7:30 left in the opening quarter.

“It’s difficult to score points in any high school football game, especially in a rivalry game against a team as talented and well coached as Lancaster,” added Craig. “Having an 11-play, 69 yard opening drive was about as perfect a start to the game we could have. It generated a lot of momentum and our defense really fed off of that. The defensive touchdown Knockel scored, on the fumble forced by Chandler Miesen, really carried us for the entire first quarter of the game.  We knew Lancaster wouldn’t back down though, but the early lead put us in a great position to get the win we needed.

The Arrows (4–5, 3–2 SWC) got on the board early in the second quarter when Wood scored from 17 yards out.

Platteville answered with a quick three-play drive that was capped by a 31-yard TD run by senior Jason Withrow. The rest of the half was scoreless and the Hillmen went to the locker room with a 21–6 lead.

Lancaster quarterback Drew Reuter scored on a 4-yard run on the opening drive of the second half, but his two-point conversion pass was intercepted by Alex Traxler to keep it a two-score game at 21–12.

Wood’s 67-yard scamper with 8:21 left in the game made it 21–19.

Since taking over the starting fullback role, Wood has rushed for 1,358 yards and 17 touchdowns in six games. During that time he was averaged 226 yards per game and nearly 8.4 yards per carry.

"The way he's played the last five-plus games, his is one of the best we've had," said Lancaster head coach John Hoch of Wood. "He's taken the team on his shoulders and he's staying healthy, knock on wood, or knock on Nic Wood, whatever you want to say. When he gets into the open field, he's magical."

However, Wood's exploits weren't quite enough on Friday night.

The Arrows forced a Hillmen punt and took over at their own 21 with six minutes left, but turned the ball over deep inside their own territory after four straight runs failed to net 10 yards.

Blevins 24-yard TD run on the next play made it a nine-point game with just 4:54 left.

Lancaster will travel to third-seeded Westby (7–2) Friday night to open the Division 5 playoffs.

Platteville 28, Lancaster 26
(from Friday, Oct. 16 @ UW–Platteville)
Lancaster      0    6    6    14     — 26
Platteville    14    7    0     7     — 28

First quarter
P: Luke Fugate 18 (Zach White kick)
P: Mitch Knockel 26 fumble return (White kick)
Second quarter
L: Nic Wood 17 run (kick blocked)
P: Jason Withrow 31 run (White kick)
Third quarter
L: Drew Reuter 4 run (run failed)
Fourth quarter
L: Wood 67 run (kick good)
P: Donovan Blevins 24 run (White kick)
L: Wood 1 run (kick good)
Team Statistics
First downs — L 21, P 12. Rushing — L 56-430, P 43-244. Passing — L 7-12-1, 64, P 8-15-0, 76. Fumbles–lost — L 2-2, P 2-1. Penalties-yards — L 7-55, P 8-71.
Individual Statistics
Rushing — L: Nic Wood 39-349; P: Luke Fugate 30-151. Passing — L: Drew Reuter 7-12-0, 64; P: Cody Schambow 8-13-0, 76. Receiving — L: Tanner Reuter 5-17; P: Jason Withrow 6-50.