The football season that didn’t go as planned has taken another twist.
The twist was not Platteville’s beating River Valley 14–7 in the Hillmen’s Homecoming and regular season finale, a game the Hillmen had to win to clinch their 10th WIAA football playoff berth in the past 11 seasons.
“We cannot emphasize enough how hard our guys played Friday night,” said Hillmen coach Scott Statz. “Football means a lot to these guys and they do not want the season to end. We have been in playoff mode for five or six weeks now and it is paying off.”
The twist was that the Hillmen (5–4, 4–4 Southwest Wisconsin Conference) earned a third seed in their Division 4 group and will host sixth-seed Dodgeville (5–4, 4–4 SWC) at UW–Platteville’s Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium Friday at 7 p.m.
Friday’s game is believed to be the first time in the history of Wisconsin high school football that two teams will play three times in one season. Dodgeville beat Platteville 48–45 in a nearly four-hour-long game Aug. 30, but the Hillmen shut out the Dodgers 36–0 Oct. 4.
“These guys deserve to be in the playoffs and getting a number-three seed proves that,” said Statz. “These kinds of games at this time of year are what you want if you are competitive.”
The Hillmen have essentially been in playoff mode since their 1–3 start. Friday’s game indeed had playoff intensity and late-season weather.
“Friday night was a blast,” said Statz. “Our defense has been the difference in our turnaround this season.”
“Blast” could describe how well Platteville’s defense played, particularly compared to the first River Valley game — a 39–21 Blackhawk win with 495 yards of Blackhawk offense, 375 of them on the ground, compounded by 38 missed Hillmen tackles. One week earlier, River Valley gained more than 400 yards on the ground against Dodgeville.
On Friday, the Blackhawks struggled for 93 yards on the ground and 51 yards in the air, half what River Valley had in their first meeting. The Blackhawks’ only touchdown, a 40-yard Hunter Schwingle run, came after a fumble on the first play of the second half, giving RV a short field.
“The defense is taking care of the little things, communicating pre-snap, reading their keys, playing fast, getting off blocks, and most importantly tackling much better,” said Statz. “They believe in one another and the scheme.”
Platteville took the lead on an eight-play 61-yard scoring drive late in the first quarter. William Cooley’s eight-yard run on third and four was followed by a 31-yard pass from Logan Butson to Derek Schambow, setting up Cooley’s two-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in the first half.
The Hillmen extended their lead to 14–0 on a seven-play 39-yard drive, following a short punt that in turn followed the Blackhawks’ losing nine yards on a sack of quarterback Beau Solomon and an illegal-procedure penalty. Cooley’s 32-yard touchdown run with 2:47 left in the first half gave Platteville what, thanks to the Hillmen defense, turned out to be an insurmountable lead.
Other than on their scoring drive, which started at the Platteville 39, River Valley crossed midfield only one other time, on their final drive, when they got to the Platteville 29-yard line in the final minute. But one incomplete pass, a five-yard pass, another incompletion and stuffing running back Hunter Schwingle for no gain on fourth-and-5 clinched the Hillmen’s hard-fought playoff berth.
In a defense-oriented game, Platteville played less well on offense. Cooley led the Hillmen with 26 carries for 149 yards and both touchdowns. Butson was 8 of 15 for 106 yards. The Hillmen turned the ball over once, and committed 76 yards of penalties, all on offense or special teams.
“Offensively, we have some work to do,” said Statz. “We are not staying on our blocks very long and if we do not clean that up it is going to cost us.”
On the one hand, for Platteville to get a third seed over two teams with better records — seventh seed Milwaukee St. Thomas More and eighth seed University School of Milwaukee are both 6–3 — may seem unusual, until you consider that seven of Platteville’s nine games this season were against playoff teams. Three of Platteville’s five wins were over teams that will be playing this weekend.
“We are happy to be in, but not satisfied,” said Statz. “This team wants to win playoff games … that is what you can be remembered by.”
Platteville 14, River Valley 7
(from Friday, Oct. 18 @ UW–Platteville)
River Valley 0 0 7 0 — 7
Platteville 7 7 0 0 — 14
P: William Cooley 2 run (James Bailie kick)
P: Cooley 32 run (Bailie kick)
RV: Schwingle 40 run (Eastlick kick)
First downs — RV 4, P 10. Rushing — RV 26-71, P 42-186. Passing Yards — RV 51, P 106. Passing — RV 7-16-0, P 8-16-0. Fumbles–lost — RV 0-0, P 1-1. Penalties-yards — RV 2-15, P 9-76.
Rushing — RV: Schwingle 13-64; P: William Cooley 14-186. Passing — RV: Solomon 7-16-0, 51; P: Logan Butson 8-15-0, 106. Receiving — RV: Shifflet 2-25; P: Mitch Knockel 4-52.