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Platteville earns a share of second-straight SWC title with 2518 win over Lancaster
Junior Gabe Tashner (4) forces a key fumble late in the fourth quarter of Plattevilles 2517 victory over Lancaster. The Hillmen improved to 81 and earned a share of the Southwest Wisconsin Conference title.

PLATTEVILLE — The Platteville football team has faced its fair share of adversity this year with injuries, suspensions and a frustrating 21–14 loss to Prairie du Chien just three weeks ago.

Friday night the battle-tested Hillmen persevered through a number of self-inflicted wounds to defeat visiting Lancaster 25–17 to earn a share of a second straight Southwest Wisconsin Conference title.

Platteville improved to 8–1 overall and finished tied with Lancaster (7–2) at 4–1 in the SWC. This is Platteville’s 33rd conference title since 1925 and the 29th for Lancaster during that same span.

“It was another great win for our guys,” said Platteville head coach Ryley Bailey. “They have proven to be one of the elite teams in the SWC and have earned everything that they have done so far. I couldn’t be happier for our team, and am excited to see them grow as we continue in the WIAA playoffs, we believe there is still a lot of room for growth and we are playing our best football at the right time of the year.

“I also thought our guys were resilient and were able to battle through the ups and downs of a game that was very crazy.”

The Platteville defense recovered four fumbles and had an interception to stifle Lancaster’s high-powered rushing attack and help overcome a pair of safeties allowed by the Hillmen offense.

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Platteville limited senior Evan Gates, who recently became Lancaster’s all-time rushing leader, to 162 yards and a pair of on 28 carries in a hard-hitting conference SWC sluggfest.

The Hillmen defense recovered three fourth-quarter fumbles that helped turn the tide after Lancaster senior quarterback Evan Straka left the game with a lower leg injury late in the third quarter.

“I think losing their quarterback was a difference maker in the game,” said Bailey. “We experienced the same thing against Prairie du Chien. I do not know too many high school football teams with two quarterbacks that are of the same caliber. Unfortunately, that is part of the game we have to deal with. We are wishing him a speedy recovery.”

A.J. Barner’s 36-yard kickoff return gave Platteville great field position to open the game. The Hillmen drove 54 yards in eight plays, overcoming an illegal substitution penalty along the way that wiped out an Austin Wein touchdown catch, and took an early 6–0 lead when senior Donovan Blevins took a 4th-and-13 receiver screen pass from classmate Ethan Bernhardt and turned it into an 18-yard touchdown.

It was Blevins’ school record 17th TD catch of the season and Bernhardt’s single-season school record 30 TDth pass of the year.

The Platteville defense forced a punt on Lancaster’s first possession, but the very next play the Hillmen were whistled for a safety when Bernhardt’s errant from his own end zone sailed out of bounds when a Hillmen receiver ran a wrong route.

Lancaster went 52 yards in five plays and took a 9–6 lead on a 10-yard touchdown run by Gates with 5:34 left in the opening quarter.

Platteville drove deep into  Lancaster territory on its ensuing possession, but Lancaster senior Jordan Reuter stepped in front of a Bernhardt throw at the 9 yard line to end the scoring threat.

Platteville took over near midfield after junior Gabe Tashner forced a fumble, but four straight incompletions ended the Hillmen drive at the Lancaster 25. Platteville turned the ball over on downs again on its next drive at the Arrows’ 29 as neither team scored in the second quarter.

Platteville tied the game midway through the third quarter on a 20-yard field goal.

Gates finally found a rhythm on Lancaster’s next drive, ripping of a 40-yard gain on first down. He added a 13-yard run two plays later and took it the final 20 yards for the touchdown and a 15–9 lead. The Arrows’ Tanner Oyen missed the extra point.

Barner reeled off a 29-yard run on Platteville’s next offensive play, then after a 34-yard Bernhardt to Jacob Niehaus pass, Barner got loose around the left end for a 17-yard touchdown to tied the game at 15–15 with 3:27 left in the third. White missed the extra point.

The key play of the game came early in the fourth quarter when junior Quinn Kafar blew up a Lancaster handoff attempt, sending the ball flying 20 yards backwards. Senior Colemen Brecke recovered at the Arrows’ 37.

Bernhardt completed another huge fourth-down pass to Blevins for an 11-yard game to keep the drive alive, then two plays later drove in from 2 yards out. White’s extra point gave the Hillmen a 22–15 lead with 6:54 remaining.

Two plays later Tashner stripped Lancaster backup quarterback Morgan Seippel and senior Cam Brant recovered at the Lancaster 30.

Bernhardt then hit Blevins for a 22-yard gain to move to the 8. A few plays later he scored on quarterback keeper, but was called for illegal motion on 3rd and goal at the 1. After an incomplete pass Bailey elected to kick and White converted a 23-yard field goal to make it 25–15 with 3:49 left to play.

“I think that Zach White stepping up in the kicking game made a huge difference for us offensively, giving us the option to kick field goals when we got into the red zone,” said Bailey. “That takes a lot of pressure off me as a play caller.” 

Seippel connected on a 44-yard pass to freshman Hayden Knapp on Lancaster’s next play to move the Arrows to Platteville’s 22, but the Hillmen defense stopped Gates for minimal gains on back-to-back plays and stopped Seipple short of the first-down marker on 4th-and-5. 

With less than two minutes left, it appeared the game was over, but the Hillmen gave Lancaster once last chance. 

The first-down snap sailed over Bernhardt’s head and the Platteville QB had to pounce on it in the end zone for a safety to avoid an easy Lancaster touchdown.

The ensuing free kick from the 20-yard line bounced out of bounds and the Arrows had the ball at the Platteville 45 and a tie to tie with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

But Lancaster fumbled again on the ensuing play, Brant recovered again, and Platteville was finally able to run out the clock.

Bernhardt finished the night 17 of 33 for 201 yards with one TD and one interception. Blevins led all Platteville receivers with six catches for 74 yards. Barner quietly had a great game with 123 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Sophomore Trevor Heim made a team-high eight tackles, while Kafar and senior Brad Budden were each in on eight stops for the Hillmen.

Platteville earned the four seed in its eight-team WIAA Division 4 playoff bracket and will face fifth-seeded Beloit Turner (7–2) in Friday’s opening round at 7 p.m. Turner finished third in the Rock Valley Conference after Friday’s 15–0 win over McFarland.

Platteville’s bracket is one of the toughest in the entire state regardless of division with four ranked teams in the eight-team grouping. Top-seeded Lodi (9–0) is ranked second in D4. Second-seeded Racine St. Catherine’s (9–0) was ranked fourth in last week’s D5 poll on, third-seeded Lake Mills (8–1) is ranked fifth in D4 and Platteville is ranked ninth in D4.

“I think our eight-team group is one of the best if not the best group of eight in all the divisions,” said Bailey. “Getting the four seed is what it is. To win the gold ball at the end you have to beat the best teams, whether that is in level one or level three. I don’t read to much into the seeding.

“To win on Friday against Turner we just have to play our game, eliminate all self inflicted wounds, and make the easy plays into big plays; things that we have been doing all year.”  


Platteville 25, Lancaster 17

(from Friday, Oct. 13 @ UW–Platteville)

Lancaster 9 0 6 2 — 17

Platteville 6 0 9 10 — 25

First quarter

P: Donovan Blevins 18 pass from Ethan Bernhardt (kick failed)

L: Team safety (Platteville called for intentional grounding in the end zone)

L: Evan Gates 10 run (Tanner Oyer kick)

Third quarter

P: FG Zach White 20

L: Gates 20 run (Oyen kick)

P: A.J. Barner 17 run (kick failed)

Fourth quarter

P: Bernhardt 2 run (White kick)

P: FG White 23

L: Bernhardt falls on bad snap in end zone

Team Statistics

First downs — L 15, P 23. Rushing — L 49-221, P 36-142. Passing (comp-att-int, yds) — L 4-8-1, 78, P 17-33-1, 201. Fumbles–lost L 5-4, P 1-0. Penalties-yards L 10-70, P 7-60. 

Individual Leaders

Rushing — L: Evan Gates 28-162. P: A.J. Barner 23-123. Passing — L: Evan Straka 3-5-0, 34. P: Ethan Bernhardt 17-33-1, 201. Receiving — L: Hayden Knapp 2-54, Cole Kreul 2-24. P: Donovan Blevins 6-74, Zach White 5-56, Austin Wein 5-37. Tackles — L: Jacob McCabe 9, Troy Klein 8. P: Trevor Heim 9, Brad Budden 8, Quinn Kafar 8.