PLATTEVILLE — Senior Mitch Fure’s best all-around game and most important play of the season couldn’t have come at a better time.
With his team clinging to a meager six-point lead and on the verge of blowing what was once a 19-point advantage in Friday’s WIAA Division 4 Level I playoff game against Lodi, Fure made what turned out to be Platteville’s play of the season thus far.
On 1st-and-10 from the 20-yard line Platteville senior quarterback Josh Bernhardt faked a handoff to junior halfback B.J. Cooley while Fure slipped out of the backfield and down the right sideline.
Bernhardt lofted a perfect pass to a wide open Fure, who had easily beaten the Lodi linebacker in coverage, and the senior fullback turned on the jets for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Hillmen a 32–20 lead with 8:25 left to play.
Platteville (7–2) survived a late Lodi touchdown pass and an onside kick attempt to escape with a 32–27 victory.
“It was a play-action play that was blocked up perfectly by our O-line and backs. Josh made a great throw and Mitch made a clutch catch,” said Platteville coach Scott Statz of the eventual game-winning play.
The catch was Fure’s fourth of the night and second TD of the game. He finished his career night with 109 yards receiving and 107 rushing, including a 31-yard touchdown in the first quarter, on eight carries.
“Mitch is a very unselfish football player,” said Statz when talking about Friday night’s standout. “He is an outstanding blocker, but Friday night the opportunity to get him the ball more was there so we took advantage of that. He is a true team player and has been playing very well on defense as well lately.”
The game-winning pass was Bernhardt’s third touchdown toss of the night and 14th of what is quietly turning out to be a fantastic individual season.
Bernhardt completed 10 of 17 attempts for 224 yards in the game.
Platteville actually built its 19–0 lead on the strength of Bernhardt’s first two TD passes.
The Hillmen drove 80 yards in nine plays on the game’s opening drive taking a 6–0 lead on a Bernhardt to junior Derek Schambow touchdown pass. James Bailie’s extra point attempt failed.
Lodi (5–4) fumbled on its third play of the game and three plays later Fure cashed in the turnover with his 31-yard touchdown run. Bernhardt’s conversion pass fell incomplete, but the Hillmen led 12–0 just 6 minutes, 12 seconds into the game.
Midway through the second quarter Bernhardt connected with senior Nick Tashner for a 35-yard TD pass on 4th-and-18, another momentum-building play.
“Anytime you can have a good start it helps in all phases of the game. It helps to settle everyone in,” said Statz. “We were able to take advantage of some match-ups early in the game and the kids did an outstanding job of executing on both sides of the ball.”
The visiting Blue Devils showed their resolve, putting together a much-needed scoring drive right before the half.
Backup running back Fred Manke, who was pressed into extended action due to the ineffectiveness of starter Garrett Bollant, scored on a 4-yard run with just 37 seconds left in the half to make it 19–6.
“At the half we talked about the pride they have and how no one in the play-offs will lie down for you,” said Statz, who was the head coach at Lodi from 1995–2000. “We give Lodi credit. They fought to get back into the game, but our kids did not flinch and responded every time they closed the gap.”
Lodi scored on its opening drive of the second quarter, on an 8-yard run by Manke.
Cooley’s 1-yard plunge on Platteville’s ensuing drive made it 26–13.
Lodi pulled within six at 26–20 on a 1-yard run by Radley Ripp with 8:39 to play.
After Fure’s 80-yard TD catch-and-run, Lodi answered and pulled within five at 32–27 with 1:20 left in the game on a 3-yard TD pass from Chance Browning to Cory Reinen on 4th-and-goal.
But sophomore Ryan Weber recovered the ensuing onside kick and Bernhardt took a knee three straight plays to kill the clock.
Platteville will now travel to Black River Falls to face the undefeated and top-seeded Tigers (9–0) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“Black River Falls is very fast and won their league,” the Coulee Conference, said Statz. “At 9–0 they are obviously a good team, but our group of kids will be ready.”
WIAA Division 4 Level I Playoff
Platteville 32, Lodi 27
(from Friday, Oct. 19 @ Platteville)
5) Lodi 0 6 7 14 — 27
4) Platteville 12 7 7 6 — 32
P: Derek Schambow 29 pass from Josh Bernhardt (kick failed)
P: Mitch Fure 31 run (run failed)
P: Nick Tashner 35 pass from Bernhardt (James Bailie kick)
L: F. Manke 4 run (kick failed)
L: F. Manke 8 run (D. Manke kick)
P: B.J. Cooley 1 run (Bailie kick)
L: Ripp 1 run (D. Make kick)
P: Fure 80 pass from Bernhardt (kick failed)
L: Reinen 3 pass from Browning (D. Manke kick)
First downs: L 15, P 13. Rushing: L 34-176, P 43-224. Passing Yards: L 123, P 239. Passing: L 10-33-2, P 10-17-1. Fumbles–lost: L 4-2, P 2-1. Penalties-yards: L 2-20, P 8-62.
Rushing: L: Manke 13-77; P: Mitch Fure 8-107, B.J. Cooley 23–93. Passing: L: Browning 10-33-2, 123; Pla: Josh Bernhardt 10-17-1, 224. Receiving: L: Moses 2-50; P: Fure 4-109.