A slow start and a potentially disastrous injury to senior Derek Schambow couldn’t derail Platteville in Friday’s season opener versus Darlington.
The Hillmen overcame a sluggish first half — which included a scary knee injury to their star wide receiver/safety — to defeat the enormous Redbirds 28–15.
“We weren’t nearly as physical as we needed to be,” said Hillmen coach Scott Statz of his team’s slow start. “Darlington is a pretty big team and their size gave us some trouble early on offense. Defensively, especially in the second quarter, we were playing a bit slow. We were sitting back catching ball carriers instead of attacking them and making first contact.”
After defensive ends Zach Hoppenjan and John Skubal combined to sack forced Darlington to punt from deep in its own territory, Platteville took full advantage of the short field.
The Hillmen (1–0) drove 32 yards in eight plays and senior halfback William Cooley plowed in from a yard out to make it 7–0 with two minutes left in the opening quarter.
Darlington (0–1) responded with a 66-yard TD march that was capped by Myles Leahy’s 1-yard plunge early in the second quarter. Cole McDonald’s conversion pass to Aric Geissbuhler gave Darlington an 8–7 lead.
Schambow went down with 3:40 left in the half after taking a hit to his right knee while running along the sideline on a 17-yard reception.
He never returned to the game and spent the second half on crutches with his knee wrapped in ice.
Initially fear was a torn ACL, but good news came Monday when an MRI revealed no tear to either the ACL or MCL. The injury is being called a severe sprain.
It is uncertain when Schambow will return, but he is expected to play again this season.
The Hillmen defense had a goal-line stand just before the half, keeping Darlington out of the end zone on four straight plays inside the 10-yard line.
Platteville regained the lead on its opening drive of the second half when Cooley scored from five yards, and senior quarterback Logan Butson connected with junior fullback Ryan Weber on the 2-point conversion to make it 15–7. The 62-yard drive included a pair of Butson to Weber passes good for 31 and 24 yards respectively.
Darlington tied the game on Tanner Wiegel’s 4-yard run and Hayden Black’s ensuing extra point with 3:08 left in the third.
The Hillmen caught Darlington napping on the ensuing drive when Cooley completed a 35-yard halfback option pass to sophomore receiver Jason Withrow.
Two plays later Butson scored on a one-yard sneak.
The Platteville defense once again bent, but didn’t break putting together another goalline stand on the ensuing drive, denying Darlington three straight times from inside the six.
Fullback Mitch Niehaus’ 27-yard TD run with 1:23 left put the game out of reach and moments later a Cooley interception sealed the victory.
“It was a very good win,” said Statz. “Darlington is a very good team with very high aspirations this year. Our kids didn’t back down and played much better in the second half. It was a good solid win, but there are still a lot of things we can take from the film to improve and get better.”
Butson finished the night completing 6 of 14 passes for 114 yards with one interception in his first varsity start.
Cooley racked up a team-high 115 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 27 carries. Junior Jacob Bernhardt added 28 yards on seven carries.
Weber caught three passes for 76 yards. Schambow also caught three passes for 38 yards before his injury.
Platteville will begin SWC play this Friday at home against Dodgeville, the first of two meetings this season with the Dodgers.
Platteville 28, Darlington 15
(from Friday, Aug. 23 @ UW–Platteville)
Darlington 0 8 7 0 — 15
Platteville 7 0 15 6 — 28
P: William Cooley 1 run (James Bailie kick)
D: Myles Leahy 1 run (Aric Geissbuhler pass from McDonald)
P: Cooley 5 run (Ryan Weber pass from Logan Butson)
D: Tanner Wiegel 4 run (Hayden Black kick)
P: Butson 1 run (Bailie kick)
P: Mitch Niehaus 27 run (kick failed)
First downs: D 13, P 12. Rushing: D 43-274, P 40-170. Passing Yards: D 58, P 149. Passing: D 3-9-1, P 7-15-1. Fumbles–lost: D 3-1, IG 2-0. Penalties-yards: D 4-25, P 5-40.
Rushing: D: Leahy 10-145; P: Cooley 27-115. Passing: D: McDonald 3-9-1, 58; IG: Butson 6-14-1, 114. Receiving: D: Muhlstein 1-12; P: Weber 3-76.