The Richland Center Hornets challenged the Lancaster Flying Arrows but could not hand them a loss Friday night at Lancaster.
For the second straight week, coach Greg Schoepp’s Hornets played inspired football against an undefeated opponent only to endure a setback.
Lancaster quarterback Justin Hore rushed for 144 yards on 23 attempts and scored two touchdowns as the Flying Arrows topped the Richland Center Hornets, 27-12.
The Hornets limited the Arrows to their lowest point total so far this season and held them to fewer than half of their season average to date.
Hore engineered the option attack and led the Arrows to their sixth straight win. With the win Lancaster remains undefeated at 6-0 and atop the SWC standings with Platteville at 2-0.
Meanwhile, the Hornets slipped to 0-2 in the conference and 1-5 overall.
“I’m still disappointed with the outcome, but I can’t be disappointed with our effort,” said coach Schoepp. “We played well. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had early in the game. Three times we had the ball in the red zone and didn’t score when it was still 0-0. Twice we were stopped on fourth down and another time a penalty wiped out a long run (by Todd Wienkes) which would have given us the ball at their 10.
“We did do many things quite well. We didn’t have any turnovers for the first time, and we did a pretty good job defensively against a good offense although I counted five missed tackles on one of their touchdown runs.”
Senior Darian Bangert’s fumble recovery set up the Hornets’ first scoring opportunity. A 44-yard pass from Wienkes to Kory Stevens gave the Hornets a first down at the Lancaster 11, but Wienkes was stopped on fourth down. Unable to generate a first down, the Arrows punted and the Hornets took over at the Lancaster 44. The Hornets reached the 26 before a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
Yet, again the Hornets prevented Lancaster from getting a first down and forced a punt. After picking up a first down, Wienkes scrambled to the Lancaster 10, but a penalty resulted in the gain being nullified and the ball moved back to the RC 45.
After forcing the Hornets to punt, Lancaster took over at their 32 and went on an eight-play drive which was capped by Hore’s 22-yard sprint to the end zone with 7:28 left in the first half. Nathan Budack added the conversion.
After another three-and-out, the Arrows drove 40 yards in five plays. Tre Mezera blasted over from six yards out with 4:00 left, and Budack’s kick provided a 14-0 lead.
This time the Hornets answered. They responded with a 78-yard march. The key play was a 47-yard connection from Wienkes to Jacob Killoy. After Stevens carried to the three, Wienkes sneaked over with 1:29 left before halftime. The Arrows, however, blocked Wienkes’ attempted conversion to preserve a 14-6 halftime lead.
The Hornets took the second half kickoff. Passes to Stevens and Denzel Connor helped the Hornets reach Lancaster’s 44. However, a fourth down fake punt pass from Wienkes to Stevens fell incomplete.
Lancaster threatened and reached the Hornets’ seven, but Hore was sacked on fourth down at the 19.
When the Hornets were unable to make a first down, they gave up the ball at the 28. Four plays later, Hore and the Arrows found paydirt on fourth down. He ran 22 yards on a keeper, but Budack missed the conversion with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Trailing 20-6, the Hornets answered. They went 65 yards in four plays. Stevens gashed the Arrows for 58 yards on the first play. Three plays later, Wienkes sneaked the final yard, but he was stopped on the attempted two-point conversion with 11:30 remaining in the game.
The Hornets nearly had another opportunity. Mezera was separated from the football by a jarring tackle on the ensuing kickoff. But the Arrows’ Curtis Olson outwrestled a Hornet for the loose pigskin.
They drove 64 yards for the “dagger” in eight plays. No play loomed larger than a fourth down reverse pass off the option from Kile Jerrett to Troy Baker covering 24 yards. Budack’s kick with 6:57 left gave the Arrows a 27-12 edge.
Lancaster had a 13-11 edge in first downs. The Arrows ran for 304 yards on 53 attempts. They managed only one completion in eight attempts for 24 yards.
The Hornets ran for 120 yards in 39 carries and passed for 165. Wienkes hit on 10 of 19 passes. Connor caught four for 50 yards. Stevens was the top rusher with 16 carries for 116 yards.
In other conference action, River Valley blanked Dodgeville, 41-0, as Seth Liegel scored three touchdowns. And Platteville’s Logan Emendorfer fired five TD passes and ran for another as the Hillmen walloped Prairie du Chien, 51-14.
Despite an 0-2 SWC mark and a 1-5 overall record, the Hornets’ playoff hopes are still flickering. But while three weeks remain in the regular season, Schoepp said, “The playoffs start now for us.”
The Hornets could still make the playoff field with three wins, but they cannot afford any more losses.
They will travel to River Valley (1-1) to face the Blackhawks on Friday night at 7 p.m.
In other action, the SWC co-leaders will be on the road. Lancaster (2-0) will go to Prairie du Chien (1-1) and Platteville (2-0) will go to Dodgeville (0-2).