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PLATTEVILLE vs. LANCASTER: The lost rivalry
Platteville – Lancaster series put on hold due to football-only conference realignment. Hillmen and Arrows won’t meet on the gridiron this fall for the first time since 1968
In the Sept. 15, 2006 meeting at Lancaster, Platteville senior running back Louia Nzegwu hauled in this game-winning, fourth down, 16-yard touchdown pass with only 26 seconds left to lift the Hillmen to a 32–28 victory over the Flying Arrows. Nzegwu went on to play for the Wisconsin Badgers and three NFL teams (Atlanta, Miami, Carolina). - photo by file photo by Jason Nihles

Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in the Aug. 1 Grant County Herald Independent. It was the fifth and final installment of a summer long series entitled “The times they are a changin',” which chronicled Lancaster’s now defunct football conference rivalries.

Over the past year, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has approved two separate conference realignment proposals affecting high school football in Wisconsin for the next two seasons.

The significance of those changes will directly affect the Lancaster football program more than any other school in the area, as the Flying Arrows depart from the Southwest Wisconsin Conference (SWC) to join the Southwest Wisconsin Activities League (SWAL) starting this season.

With the Flying Arrows departure, the long-standing gridiron rivalry with neighboring Platteville — a co-op partner in boys’ and girls’ swimming, boys’ and girls’ soccer and gymnastics — will come to an abrupt end.

With the approval of the recent realignment proposals, and the  WIAA’s future intent to maintaining fair play in the sport of football, it’s quite likely the Flying Arrows may never again take the field against their former SWC rivals from Platteville, Prairie du Chien, River Valley, Dodgeville and Richland Center, all of which have a significantly higher student enrollment than Lancaster.

There may be the occasional non-conference game scheduled against one, or even two, of their old rivals, but it won’t have the same feeling as those heated conference contests, which began over a century ago.

With that being said, it’s worth looking back through the history books and taking a walk down memory lane, recounting Lancaster’s storied history against each of their five opponents that made up the former SWC.

In this final week of the SWC series, I saved the best rivalry for last.

There is little debate that Lancaster and Platteville have had one of the best, and longest, football rivalries in the entire state. In fact, this season will be the first in 50 years in which Lancaster and Platteville will not play each other on the football field.

“It will be different, because we’ve developed some relationships with those schools that we’ve played for a long time, and the coaches that we’ve faced for a long time,” said Lancaster coach John Hoch of not playing in the SWC.

“It will be disappointing not facing Platteville and Prairie, like we’ve always done. Those two teams are probably the ones, for some reason, where Lancaster seemed to bring out their best and our best at the same time, so it was always a great game. I’ll be missing those. Probably our biggest rival, even though we co-op with them [in other sports], is Platteville.”

The first meeting between Lancaster and Platteville occurred in 1902, which Lancaster won 5–0.

With the exception of 1934, 1948, 1951, 1955 and 1968 Lancaster has played Platteville every season since 1931, and twice in 2006 and 2013.

From 1937 to 2018, Lancaster and Platteville have met 80 times on the football field, with the Hillmen winning 41, Lancaster 37, and two teams tying twice.

During that time, Lancaster has suffered 15 losses to Platteville by seven points or less, and have won six games over the Hillmen by seven points or less. In all, the two  teams have had 21 games in those 82 seasons decided by seven points or less.

Platteville will remain the only team from the SWC that Lancaster has a losing record against at .474. They are also the only program in the conference to win more league titles than the Flying Arrows.

In the past 94 seasons, dating back to 1925, Lancaster has won 29 conference titles, Platteville has won 32, and the two have shared the title together eight times (1927, 1971, 1989, 1994, 2006, 2007, 2016, 2017).

More times than not, the conference title came down to the winner of the Lancaster–Platteville game, and at no other time was this more evident than from 1993 to 1996. 

In each of those four seasons, the Arrows finished 5–1 in league play, losing only to the Hillmen, who won three conference titles outright, and shared one with the Arrows in 1994, under Hall of Fame head coach Mark Berg.

Let’s now take a trip down memory lane and a look at some of the closer games during the historic football rivalry between the Lancaster Flying Arrows and the Platteville Hillmen.

Oct. 28, 1949

Prior to the WIAA adopting an overtime rule, Lancaster and Platteville played to a 7–7 tie back in 1949.

The Arrows had to come from behind in the contest, using a 70-yard scoring drive.

In the Nov. 4, 1949 coverage of the game in the Grant County Independent, defensive credit was give to junior tackle Roger Croft.

The article read, “The 6-foot 4-inch, 224 pound junior tackle had always been big, but never brilliant. Friday he amazed everyone as he rose up to stop play after play as it came through the line. At times it seemed Croft was playing both sides of the line, for he showed up at the bottom of the pile continuously, no matter which side the Platteville runners tried to break through.”

Praise was also given to Stanley Zenz, which the article states, “Zenz’s ball carrying, pass catching and defensive work were once again outstanding. If he alone had been taken off the field, Platteville would probably have completely outclassed Lancaster.”

Following a scoreless tie in the first half, Platteville put together their only scoring drive after the opening kickoff to start the second half.

A big kick return by Jim Seeley gave Platteville good field position at the Lancaster 38-yard line, but it was a big fourth-down conversion that broke the scoreless tie.

“On fourth down, Platteville pulled a sneaker — a startlingly fast short pass over the line, Wayne Pett to end Jim Gill, and it was 6–0 for Platteville,” the article described. “Even though the pass from center was terrible and bobbled along the ground, the kick for the extra point was good, making it 7–0.”

On their second offensive possession of the second half, Lancaster finally put some points on the board.

(Dave) Buchanan picked up 13 yards for a first down on the 50 yard line. Ken Irish cracked right tackle for six and Buchanan added the remainder for another first down,” the article said.

“After three more running plays, it was fourth down and five yards to go, and Schneider sailed a pass to (Stanley) Zenz on the 10 yard line. Zenz and two Platteville men jumped for the ball, knocking it high wide and handsome, but Zenz circled around under it and snagged it as it came down.”

(Jim) Shaw hit tackle for five, Block hit center for three, and then Schneider plowed over on a quarterback sneak for the Lancaster touchdown. Ken Irish also saved Lancaster from defeat with a twisting, snaky run through right tackle, to score the extra-point, and tie the game up at 7–7.”

On Lancaster’s final offensive possession, a fourth-down heave was intercepted by Platteville at the 49-yard line, who was then content to run the clock out and end the game in a tie.

With the tie, Lancaster moved its record to 4–1–1, while Platteville went to 3–2–2 in the original 10-team Southwest Wisconsin Conference. Darlington (7–0–0) was the conference champs that year, scoring 237 total points in six games, while giving up only seven. 

Oct. 10, 1952

With Lancaster coach Mert Wulf home sick, Platteville handed the Arrows a 15–14 loss in the fourth week of the season.

The Hillmen mounted the first scoring threat when they drove the ball down to Lancaster’s four. There they fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Lancaster’s Toni Hatch, who went on to play at Iowa.

Unable to move the ball, Lancaster was forced to punt, which Platteville blocked. With the ball bouncing out of the back of the end zone, Platteville took a 2–0 lead on a safety.

On the ensuing possession, the Hillmen marched down the field, getting a touchdown run from Bob Taylor, but the extra-point try was no good, leaving Platteville with an 8–0 lead.

Lancaster quickly answered on a TD pass from Darold Morrison to Larry Luckey, and a one-point conversion run by Hatch pulled the Arrows to within a point at 8–7.

After recovering a muffed punt, Platteville found the end zone yet again on a TD pass from Jerry Richards to Don Schambow. Burnell Jones kicked the extra point for a 15–7 Platteville lead.

Midway through the fourth quarter, John Stevens picked off a Platteville pass and returned it 47 yards to the end zone, which was followed by a conversion run by Hatch to pull Lancaster within 15–14.

The Flying Arrows had one last chance late in the final quarter. Faced with a fourth-and-two, Morrison gained eight yards on a quarterback keeper and was down at Platteville’s 45-yard line with 1:20 to play.

Hatch ran right end and gained 14 yards before diving out of bounds to stop the clock. Hatch injured his leg on the play and left the game. Two plays later, a Lancaster pass was intercepted by the Hillmen, sealing the win for Platteville.

With the win, Platteville improved to 3–1 in SWC play, and Lancaster fell to 1–3 with the loss. The Hillmen went on to finish fourth in the 10-team SWC.

Sept. 25, 1959

Platteville handed Lancaster its first loss of the 1959 season with a narrow 7–6 final, which dropped the Arrows to a 2–1 conference record, while Platteville improved to 3–0.

The Hillmen scored first in the contest when Steve Pothour intercepted a pass thrown by Lancaster quarterback Greg Smith, and raced all the way to the end zone. A pass from Pothour to Bob Woodward was good for the extra point that made the difference in the game.

Lancaster made a valiant attempt to tie the game late in the second half when Greg Smith blocked a Platteville punt on the 45-yard line to set up Lancaster’s scoring drive.

Runs by Bob Eddy, Bob Blackbourn and Bob Boardman set Lancaster up with a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line.

After three tries to cross the goal line, Greg Smith hit Kent Austin with a fourth-down pass in the end zone for the touchdown. Unfortunately for the Arrows, on the try for extra point, Charlie Kranz’s kick went just to the left of the goal post, leaving the score, 7–6.

Platteville went on to finish third in the SWC at 6–2 behind champion Cuba City (8–0) and Darlington (6–1–1).

Oct. 21, 1960

The following season, Lancaster again lost a one-point contest to the Hillmen, who held on for a 13–12 victory over the Arrows after a hard-fought conference contest.

Lancaster scored first on a 35-yard TD run by Gary Frye, but the extra-point kick was blocked.

The second quarter started with a Hillmen punt return to the Arrow’s eight-yard line before Gary Bell scored Platteville’s first touchdown. A quarterback sneak on the point after gave the Hillmen a 7–6 lead.

Lancaster answered when Frye took a reverse 12 yards for the score, but the pass for the conversion failed, leaving Lancaster with a lead of 12-7.

Before the first half came to a close, Platteville found the end zone once more on a nine-yard TD run by Bell. The Hillmen failed on their conversion attempt, but held a 13–12 lead at halftime.

Neither team scored in the second half, though Platteville was stopped on fourth down by the Lancaster defense at the 11-yard line, and later in the game lost a fumble at Lancaster’s 18-yard line to end another drive.

The loss gave Lancaster a conference record of 3-3-1, while Platteville improved to 6–1 en route to a second-place finish in the SWC behind only Darlington (8–0).

Oct. 28, 1966

The Hillmen and Arrows met in the 1966 season finale with a conference championship on the line for Platteville, which entered the game with a league record of 6–1. Lancaster came into the game at 5–1–1 looking to play spoiler.

At the conclusion of the night’s action, Mt. Horeb and River Valley both finished the year at 7–1 to share the 1966 SWAL title, while Platteville finished third in the final league standings at 6–1–1 after a 6–6 tie against the Arrows.

Under coach Richard Bixby, the Lancaster squad was a heavy underdog coming into the game, and he never saw his offense score on a night dominated by defense.

The Hillmen, on the other hand, saw running back Dennis Butson rush for 109 yards on 23 carries, including Platteville’s only touchdown from 16 yards out.

Lancaster scored first in the game though, as Jim Becker intercepted a Hillman pass and raced into the end zone for the score, the extra-point kick by John Myers was wide on the windy night, and Lancaster had a 6–0 lead.

On the second play after the kick, Platteville fumbled and Doug Knapp recovered for the Arrows. Two plays later, Jim Lawinger intercepted a Pat Paulin pass and Platteville had the ball again on their own 26-yard line.

The Hillmen moved to the Lancaster 33 where Becker intercepted another pass. Lancaster’s first run ended in another fumble though, and John Rosenthal jumped on the ball for Platteville.

A few plays later, Myers made a beautiful one-handed interception at midfield and raced all the way back to Platteville’s eight-yard line before being hit. Part of the credit for the interception goes to Knapp, who crashed into the passer just as he was throwing.

After a fumble and recovery on first down, an eight-yard pass, and an incomplete pass, Lancaster was faced with a fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line. 

A delay of game penalty then moved the Arrows back five yards, setting up a Myers' field goal attempt that hit off the crossbar and bounced the wrong way. Before the first half came to an end, Lancaster marched down to the Hillmen 19-yard line before losing another fumble.

Platteville scored on their first possession of the second half on Butson’s 16-yard run, but the extra-point kick was no good.

The Hillmen later recovered another Lancaster fumble and after moving down to the Arrow’s 11-yard line, had a pass intercepted by Myers on the four-yard line.

With a little more than two minutes to play in the game, Platteville had the ball on Lancaster’s 48-yard line, but followed with two unsportsmanlike penalties on the Hillmen coaches, and a quarterback sack by the Lancaster defense, pushing the ball down to the six-yard line.

On Platteville’s next play, the Lancaster defense stuffed a run up the middle at the line of scrimmage, but the ball had been lateraled back to the quarterback, who was tackled in the end zone for what appeared to be a game-winning safety.

Fortunately for Platteville, the whistle had been blown at the original point of contact and the Hillmen kept possession, but were eventually forced to punt.

The game concluded when a Lancaster pass attempt was picked off on their final possession.

Oct. 8, 1982

As is often the case in close games, extra points played a major role in Platteville’s 14–12 win in 1982.

Each team scored two touchdowns in the contest, but the Hillmen converted two extra-point kicks, while Lancaster failed on both of its two-point conversion runs.

Lancaster’s only real scoring threat in the first half came with just seconds remaining until halftime, but a field goal attempt was off the mark.

Following a scoreless first half, Platteville broke the tie with an 11-yard TD pass in the third quarter from quarterback Paul Chryst to Scott Oomens (the same Paul Chryst who coaches the Wisconsin Badgers). Steve Belmager kicked the extra point for a 7–0 lead.

Lancaster then pulled to within 7–6 on an 18-yard quarterback keeper by John Snider, but the extra-point conversion failed, leaving Lancaster to trail by one.

In the fourth quarter, Platteville extended its lead on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Chryst and another extra-point kick by Belmager.

Lancaster made the most of a late scoring opportunity with a four-yard TD run by Jeff Landon with 2:21 to play  in the game. In an attempt to tie the game, coach John Hoch called Landon’s number again, who was stopped short on the two-point conversion attempt.

Platteville won the Southern 8 with a perfect 8–0 record and advanced to the Division 4 semifinals before ending the season with a 54–14 to eventual D4 champion De Forest. A year later Coach Mark Berg’s Hillmen avenged the loss to De Forest in the D4 semifinals before defeating Mosinee 16–6 to win the D4 state title. 

Platteville hammered Lancaster 48–12 in 1983.

Sept. 18, 1987

Following a conference opening loss to Prairie du Chien the week before, the Flying Arrows came into their game with the Hillmen as a heavy underdog.

Quite strange to think about now for Lancaster, but back then a 15–14 loss to the Hillmen was considered a step in the right direction, and in many respects a moral victory for the Arrows.

For years the Hillmen had dominated their series with the Arrows, and in this game coach Hoch saw something that he hadn’t seed in prior seasons.

“This is the first time in the six years I’ve been here that our team believed they could play with, and beat Platteville,” Hoch said in a Sept. 23, 1987 Grant County Herald Independent story.

In Hoch’s first five seasons at Lancaster, beginning in 1982, the Arrows had never beaten the Hillmen, and in those five seasons had been outscored, 176–40, including shutouts of 48–0 and 47–0 in 1984 and 1985.

Lancaster played from behind the entire contest, but managed to recover two onside kicks and three times picked up first downs with a fourth-down quarterback sneak.

Trailing the Hillmen, 15–8, with just more than six minutes to play in the contest, Lancaster senior quarterback Scott Houtakker hit junior flanker Eric Steinhoff on a 51-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 15–14.

In their attempt to take their first lead of the game, a two-point conversion pass from Houtakker to tight end Kelly Richgels was deflected in the end zone.

The Arrows then recovered an onside kick and in four plays found themselves three yards away from scoring the potential winning touchdown.

But Platteville linebacker Marty McGinley picked up consecutive sacks, leaving Lancaster with a third-and-goal back at the 21-yard line.

An illegal-motion penalty sent Lancaster backwards even further, but on the very next play Steinhoff caught a tipped pass three yards from the goal line.

Another illegal-motion penalty on the Arrows moved the ball back in the wrong direction, and two plays later, Platteville took over on downs before running out the final 2:13 to win.

The Hillmen (8–0) went on to win the SWAL I title, its sixth conference championship in eight years.

Lancaster finally got over the hump against Platteville the two seasons later, beating the Hillmen, 23–7, and giving coach Hoch his first victory over the Hillmen in eight tries.

Sept. 15, 2006

The Arrows and Hillmen met twice in 2006, the first meeting going to Platteville, 32–28, which came from behind to win on a 16-yard fourth down touchdown pass to future Wisconsin Badger and NFL player Louis Nzegwu with 26 seconds to play in the game.

The meeting pitted the state’s top ranked team in Division 5 (Lancaster), against the state’s second-ranked team in Division 4 (Platteville), both teams coming into the contest unbeaten.

Nzegwu led the Hillmen attack by rushing for 293 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, while also hauling in the game-winning touchdown pass.

Lancaster held a 21–13 lead entering the final quarter of play, but with just two minutes expired from the fourth-quarter clock, the Hillmen scored on an 18-yard end around TD pass from Michael Feldman to Ryan Siegert, though the two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Lancaster with a 21–19 lead.

The Arrows fumbled the ball with 7:18 to play in the game, setting the Hillmen up at the Hillmen 31-yard line.

Platteville used eight plays to travel 69 yards, and converted on a fourth-and-10 from the 35, before Nzegwu scored from eight yards out with 4:29 to play. Platteville again couldn’t capitalize on their two-point attempt, leaving them with a lead of 25–19.

Late in the game, Lancaster’s Eric Chojnowski came up with a Platteville fumble, which the Arrows converted into a touchdown five plays later, getting a one-yard TD plunge from Landon. The extra-point kick put Lancaster up, 28–25 with only 2:10 showing on the clock.

“We weren’t really concerned about scoring too fast in that situation, until we had the ball down to the one,” said coach Hoch in the Sept. 21, 2006 Grant County Herald Independent story. “When we did score, I realized we may have left too much time on the clock.”

Following back-to-back penalties on the Arrows for kicking the ball out of bounds, Platteville took over on their won 43 with 2:10 to play in the contest.

On their first play, Platteville connected a 32-yard pass to Feldman that set the Hillmen up with a first-and-10 at Lancaster’s 25-yard line.

Nzegwu then ran the ball to the 15, setting up another 1st-and-10. An incomplete pass, then a one-yard loss, followed by another incomplete pass set Platteville up with an improbable 4th-and-11 from the 16.

The Hillmen appeared ready to attempt a game-tying field goal of 33 yards, but when Lancaster called a time out, Platteville kicker Spencer Jacobson picked up the kicking tee and ran off the field. 

Following the time out, Platteville’s offense then ran out onto the field, making it clear that they were going for the win.

With quarterback Kyle Wagner back under center, Nzegwu went in motion to his right. Wagner took the snap, dropped back one step and put the ball up in the air for Nzegwu.

Covering the 6’3” phenom was Lancaster’s Deangelo Yurcek (5’11”), who appeared to be in great position to defend the pass. Nzegwu though, leaped higher than Yurcek and pulled down the game winning score.

Nzegwu was named the league’s Player of the Year in 2006, and went on to play defensive end for  the Wisconsin Badgers. Then, as an undrafted free agent spent some time in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers.

Oct. 19, 2006

In their second meeting of the 2006 season, Lancaster avenged a 32–28 loss to the Hillmen earlier in the season with a 21–20 come-from-behind victory at Platteville five weeks later.

Trailing the Hillmen 20–7 late in the third quarter, Lancaster got a 46-yard TD run from QB Brian Dressler, followed by a three-yard TD run from fullback Tyler Landon. Again, Travis Whitish was perfect on the night, making 3-for-3 extra-point attempts, which proved to be huge in the win.

Platteville had the ball just once in the entire fourth quarter, and it looked as though they were going to make the most of it with what appeared to be the game-winning drive.

The Hillmen used eight plays to go 62 yards, finding themselves at Lancaster’s 15-yard line. On the next play though, Platteville fumbled and Lancaster’s John Stader jumped on it at Lancaster’s 13-yard line.

With 7:51 remaining on the clock, Lancaster ran 17 consecutive running plays to run out the clock.

After Platteville’s final time out was taken, Lancaster sealed the win by converting on a fourth-and-two from the Hillmen 18 with 1:18 to play in the game.

The win gave Lancaster a share of the SWC title, as the Arrows and Hillmen both went 6–1 in league play that year.

Oct. 16, 2015

Playing for a share of the SWC title in their regular-season finale, the Flying Arrows came up short in a 28–26 loss to the Hillmen, despite a record-breaking performance from senior fullback Nic Wood.

Wood set two school records in the loss, rushing for 349 yards on 39 carries, and finishing with 384 all-purpose yards. Both records have since been broke by Evan Gates.

At halftime of the game, Lancaster trailed, 21–6, and with a four-yard TD run by quarterback Drew Reuter in the third quarter, trailed just 21–12 going into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, Wood busted loose on a 67-yard TD run, while freshman kicker Tanner Oyen followed with the extra-point kick. Wood’s score came with 8:21 to play in the game, pulling Lancaster to within 21–19.

Oyen missed the extra-point kick after Lancaster’s first score in the second quarter, and after Lancaster’s second score, the Arrows failed on a much-needed two-point conversion pass.

The Lancaster defense followed with a critical three-and-out, forcing the Hillmen to punt from their own 47-yard line, which was downed at Lancaster’s 21.

After the first three plays netted a combined three yards for the Flying Arrows, coach Hoch rolled the dice on fourth-and-seven from his own 24-yard line with 5:03 to play in the game and all three timeouts at his disposal.

A run to Wood was stopped for no gain by the Hillmen defense, who took possession at Lancaster’s 24-yard line with 4:54 showing on the clock.

It took just one play for the Hillmen to find the end zone on an end-around reverse, giving Platteville a 28–19 lead.

Lancaster’s next offensive possession ended at the Hillmen 42-yard line   when a fourth-and-five pass attempt fell incomplete with 3:06 to play in the game.

Back-to-back offensive holding penalties on the Hillmen backed them up to their own 30-yard line, and after using their last two timeouts, the Flying Arrow defense forced Platteville to punt.

Starting at the Platteville 42-yard line, Lancaster had 1:53 to make something happen.

On the very first play, Wood took the hand off and raced straight up the middle for a 41-yard gain, then plunged into the end zone on the next play, taking just 13 seconds off the clock. 

The extra-point kick by Oyen pulled Lancaster to within 28–26, but the Hillmen were able to run out the remainder of time after recovering an on-side kick.

From 1953–2018, a total of 17 players from Platteville have been named the league’s Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, or Defensive Player of the Year.

Those earning league Player of the Year honors were Terry Kramer (1968), Tom Osterholz (1969), Paul Kreuger (1972), Mark Taylor (1980), Paul Chryst (1982), Scott McKernan (1983), Jim Kramer (1984), Mark Bestor (1985), Isaac Shanley (1992), Tom Wunderlin (1995, 1996) and Adam Bartels (2004).

Those earning the league’s Offensive Player of the Year honor were Louis Nzegwu (2006), Logan Emendorfer (2011) and B.J. Cooley (2012), while hose earning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor included Matt Withrow (2007), Mitch Fure (2012) and Zach White (2017).

Like Lancaster, the Hillmen have also had their share of outstanding coaches, three of whom have been awarded the leagues’ Coach of the Year honor. They are Mark Berg (1984, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1995), Scott Statz (2004, 2006) and Ryley Bailey (2017).