SPRING GREEN – With last Friday night’s 20-19 victory over previously unbeaten River Valley, coaches, players and fans from throughout the Southwest Wisconsin Conference have now gotten the message that Lancaster is not, and never will be, a team they should count out.
On all accounts, this season is supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Flying Arrows, who have lost a wealth of talent to graduation this past spring and return just five senior starters.
But, this year’s team continues to get better each week, and has followed a 1-3 non-conference start to the season, with two straight conference victories.
The Flying Arrows (3-3, 2-0) played spoiler to River Valley’s Homecoming last Friday night, by making sure the Blackhawk’s gambling ways didn’t pay off.
Following a scoreless first quarter, the Arrows got on the board first when senior fullback Nic Wood broke free for a 57-yard scoring run with 3:14 to play in the first half. Quarterback Drew Reuter’s two-point conversion pass attempt to sophomore John Wagner fell incomplete.
In absence of senior kicker Jack Schaffer, who was playing in a soccer game last Friday night, Lancaster coach John Hoch had little option but to go for two after every Lancaster score.
The Blackhawk’s wasted little time in answering Lancaster’s score, using just two plays and 1:43 to cover 73 yards.
Quarterback Elijah Alt connected with Cole Mahoney for a 68-yard TD strike, and the made extra-point gave River Valley a 7-6 lead with 1:31 to play in the half.
On their first possession of the second half, Lancaster regained the lead with a six-play scoring drive that covered 71 yards, and was capped off with a 15-yard TD run by Wood.
Again going for two, Reuter’s pass attempt again fell incomplete, leaving the Arrows with a 12-7 lead.
After stopping the River Valley offense on their first possession of the second half, the Lancaster defense gave up another big play on their second possession, this one an 89-yard TD pass from Alt to Cole Eastlick.
Holding a slim lead of 13-12, River Valley coach Tim Eastlick took the first of three gambles when he elected to go for two in hopes of taking a three-point lead.
The Blackhawk’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete though, leaving them with a one-point advantage with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kick off, sophomore Garrett Birkett returned the ball 42 yards to the Blackhawk’s 39-yard line, setting the Arrows up with a short field.
It took Lancaster eight plays to find the end zone, as Drew Reuter scored from four yards out on a second-and-goal.
With an 18-13 lead, coach Hoch had no choice but to go for two again, after failing to score on the two previous two-point conversion passes.
When the team needed it most though, Wood gave the Arrows a seven-point lead, 20-13, on a successful two-point conversion run with 10:20 to play in the game.
On River Valley’s next possession, they took yet another risk by going for it on fourth-and-six from their own 43-yard line.
Lancaster junior Jacob Ihm came up big for the Arrows with a sack of quarterback Elijah Alt that resulted in Lancaster taking possession on the Blackhawk’s 36-yard line.
On the sixth play of the drive though, Lancaster gave the ball back to the Blackhawks when a pass attempt by Drew Reuter was picked off at the 14-yard line with 5:50 to play in the game.
Delete - Merge Up Four plays later, the Arrows got the ball back when Joe Recker deflected a Blackhawk pass, which was then picked off by John Giesen at the River Valley 28-yard line with 4:38 showing on the clock.
After losing four yards on their first three plays, the Arrows were faced with a fourth-and-15 from the Blackhawk 33-yard line.
Looking for Wood near the goal line, Drew Reuter’s pass attempt was picked off by River Valley at the 13-yard line and returned to the 23 with just 2:42 to play.
After a running play that gained two yards, and a passing play for 24 more, the Blackhawk’s Hunter Schwingle broke loose for a 48-yard TD run, pulling the Blackhawks to within one point, 20-19, with 1:45 showing on the clock.
Coach Tim Eastlick then rolled the dice one last time and elected to go for the win on a two-point run attempt, which was stuffed by Tanner Reuter and Justin Allen in the River Valley backfield.
After Wood secured the high pooch kick on the ensuing kick off, the Flying Arrows took a knee three times to run out the clock and secure the victory.
“Our kids played well. I was really impressed with how our defense played,” said coach John Hoch. “Except for a few plays, they really came to play and did not let them get any big drives or momentum. I think our defense really kind of set the tone right away.”
In a game that essentially came down to a two-point conversion attempt, the Blackhawks were 1-for-1 on extra-point kicks, but 0-for-2 on two-point tries. Lancaster was 1-for-3 on two-point conversion attempts.
The Arrows, who finished with 308 yards of total offense, could have made things easier on themselves, but came up empty three times when inside River Valley’s 20-yard line.
Wood concluded the game with 194 rushing yards and two TDs on 31 carries, while junior Tanner Reuter had 26 yards on four attempts.
Drew Reuter completed 7-of-12 passing attempts for 91 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, while Tanner Reuter had four catches for 50 yards.
Behind a solid defensive effort, the Lancaster offense is beginning to look like the dangerous unit that Flying Arrow fans are used to.
“We’re hanging onto the ball, and we’ve been preaching to the boys to believe in themselves and I think they are now starting to believe in themselves,” said Hoch.
“Our quarterback is starting to perform better, and we’re blocking better,” Hoch added. “But, we have a long ways to go.”
Defensively, the Flying Arrows gave up 351 yards of total offense, 205 of which came on their three touchdowns.
Junior linebacker Matt Withey led the team with five tackles, while sophomore Garrett Birkett had five, and senior Dustin Reynolds 4.5. Jacob Ihm had the team’s only sack, while John Giesen had an interception.
On the injury front, senior linebacker Deep Patel suffered a knee injury early in Friday night’s contest, and was replaced by sophomore Jake McCabe.
Patel reportedly had an MRI earlier this week, and his status in the coming weeks is uncertain.
This Friday on Homecoming night, the Flying Arrows host Dodgeville, who has yet to win a game this season.
The Dodgers nearly beat River Valley in week five, but lost a 21-17 final, then had Prairie du Chien on the ropes before giving up a 35-28 loss last week.
Lancaster 20, River Valley 19
(from Friday, Sept. 25)
Lancaster 0 6 6 8 - 20
River Valley 0 7 6 6 - 19
L - Nic Wood, 57-yard run (pass failed)
RV - Cole Mahoney, 68-yard pass from Elijah Alt (Kurt Sschaller kick)
L - Wood, 15-yard run (pass failed)
RV - Cole Eastlick, 89-yard pass from Alt (pass failed)
L - Drew Reuter, 4-yard run (Wood run)
RV - Hunter Schwingle, 48-yard run (run failed)
First downs - L 14, RV 11. Rushing - L 48-217, RV 34-166. Passing yards - L 91, RV 185. Passes - L 7-12-2, RV 3-11-1. Fumbles-lost - L 1-0, RV 1-0. Penalties-yards - L 7-50, RV 3-20.
L: Nic Wood 31-194, Tanner Reuter 4-26, Drew Reuter 13-(-3).
RV: Hunter Schwingle 16-106, Elijah Alt 14-40.
L: Drew Reuter 7-12-2, 91.
RV: Elijah Alt 3-10-1, 185.
L: Tanner Reuter 4-50, Nic Wood 2-34, Josh Hentrich 1-7.
RV: Cole Eastlick 2-117, Cole Mahoney 1-68.