PLATTEVILLE — On a team full of talented stat producers, senior cornerback/wide receiver Braden Nies is often overlooked.
But it was Nies who sparked a spectacular defensive effort with a 65-yard interception return early in the first quarter.
Nies jumped a Houston Stanek out route and raced untouched for a 65-yard touchdown as the Hillmen cruised to a 38–0 Homecoming victory over visiting Dodgeville.
“Braden has flown under the radar for most of this season,” said Platteville head coach Kyle Craig. “He’s a ‘team before me’ type of guy and one of our best leaders. He’s drawn the challenge of covering the opponent’s top receiver all season and has accepted each challenge. He deserved that pick-6 as a reward for everything he has unselfishly done all season.”
The Platteville offense needed just five plays to cover 57 yards on the game’s opening possession. Junior Ethan Bernhardt threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior Alex Traxler and the Hillmen had a 6–0 lead just 73 seconds into the game.
A few plays later Nies stepped in front of a pass intended for Dodgeville junior standout Josh Shepler and was off to the races. Nies and the rest of the Platteville defense held Shepler without a catch in the game.
“A play like that takes the confidence and energy from scoring on our first offensive possession and compounds it exponentially,” added Craig. “The lasting effects from that one play are everything Braden’s leadership does for our team.”
The Hillmen added to their lead on their next drive as senior halfback Luke Fugate scored the first of his three touchdowns on the night — this one from two yards out. Dodgeville blocked a third straight extra point — about the only thing that didn’t go Platteville’s way on Friday night — but the Hillmen led 18–0 just six minutes into the game.
Fugate scored again from 20 yards out three minutes into the second quarter and capped his night with a 14-yard run in the final minute of the third quarter.
Fugate finished the game with 240 yards on 23 carries. He is currently second in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference and 24th in the state according to wissports.net with 1,052 yards and 18 TDs on 120 carries.
Bernhardt scored Platteville’s other touchdown on a 1-yard QB sneak in the third quarter. He finished 7 of 14 for 111 yards passing.
While the Hillmen offense again put up eye-popping numbers, the Platteville defense stole the show. The Hillmen held the Dodgers to 98 total yards and forced three turnovers in the shutout.
“Our defense has been having a lot of success due to a lot of guys playing unselfishly for each other,” said Craig. “No one individual really cares who gets attention from week to week or play to play; what they care about is getting the win and getting the ball to our offense in a position to score points. Everyone is locked onto their keys, focused on doing their individual jobs, and they all trust each other to do the same. Dodgeville is a very physical, talented team and to hold them to under 100 yards of total offense speaks volumes to the commitment to excellence from everyone associated with our defense, scout team included.”
With the win Homecoming win, Platteville improved to 6–1 on the season, 3–0 in the SWC and clinched a playoff berth.
“The fact that we could clinch a playoff berth kept all of the distractions of Homecoming at bay,” said Craig. “The boys had fun with some of the different events, including an outstanding acting performance by Grey (Genzoli) and Luke in the senior skit, but nothing was going to keep them from doing everything to get a victory on Friday night. It really goes back to the goals that the team set during training camp. We were able to check 1 off the list last week with the playoff berth. Now, the focus is on the other items on the list.”
Platteville’s conference title hopes remain alive and well heading into this Friday’s title at River Valley (4–2, 2–1). The Hillmen will close out the season with what could be a winner-take-all showdown for the SWC title at undefeated Lancaster (7–0, ranked third in Division 5) on Oct. 14.
Platteville 38, Dodgeville 0
(from Friday, Sept. 30 @ UW–Platteville)
Dodgeville 0 0 0 0 — 0
Platteville 18 6 14 0 — 38
P: Alex Traxler 15 pass from Ethan Bernhardt (kick blocked)
P: Braden Nies 65 interception return (kick blocked)
P: Luke Fugate 2 run (kick blocked)
P: Fugate 20 run (kick failed)
P: Bernhardt 1 run (White kick)
P: Fugate 14 run (White kick)
First downs — D 6 P 12. Rushing — D 29-85, P: 33-254. Passing Yards — D 13, P 111. Passing — D 2-9-2, P 7-14-1. Fumbles–lost — D 4-1, P 3-1. Penalties-yards — D n/a, P n/a.
Rushing — D: Stanek 12-48; P: Luke Fugate 23-240. Passing — D: Stanek 2-9-2, 13; P: Ethan Bernhardt 7-14-1, 111. Receiving — D: Uren 1-8; P: Cam Brandt 3-25, Alex Traxler 2-46, Donovan Blevins 2-41.