by Jason Nihles
Not many people saw it coming, including the sixth-ranked Platteville Hillmen.
Coach Ryley Bailey’s Platteville squad entered Friday’s Parents’ Night showdown with fellow unbeaten Prairie du Chien as the favorite, but left beaten, battered and licking its wounds.
The visiting Blackhawks intercepted Platteville four times and knocked standout senior Ethan Bernhardt out of the game in the third quarter, and junior running back Tyler Smock racked up a career-high 270 yards on 29 carries to lead Prairie du Chien to a 21–14 upset victory over the Hillmen Friday night at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium.
The electric 5–8, 155-pound Smock ran through, around and away from Hillmen defenders over and over again. His 56-yard breakaway touchdown run with 6:50 left in the first quarter answered Platteville’s opening score, and his 41-yard game on 3rd-and-7 with less than a minute left ended it.
“Smock is a great athlete, he has it all,” said Bailey. “He has the speed to outrun you, the agility to make you miss, and the power to finish runs.”
Platteville (5–1, 1–1 SWC) averted disaster on the game’s opening drive when a Bernhadt pass was intercepted in the end zone on fourth down, but Prairie du Chien fumbled on the very same play and Brad Budden recovered giving the Hillmen a fresh set of downs.
Four plays later Bernhardt threaded the needle for a 9-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal and junior Quinn Kafar added the extra point to make it 7–0 just 3:45 into the game.
On Prairie’s fourth offensive play Smock swept around the right end and went the distance. Cory Check’s point after tied the game at 7–7.
Platteville once again drove deep into PdC territory, but Bernhardt was again intercepted on fourth down.
Junior Gavin Gillitzer then engineered a 7-play, 80-yard scoring drive, completing a 38-yard pass to Drake Coelman and a 29-yard strike to Ben Riter, before going the final yard himself to put the visiting Blackhawks up 14–7.
Prairie du Chien (6–0, 2–0 SWC) drove to the Hillmen 21 on their next drive, but fourth-down a sack by Kafar and Zach White ended the scoring threat. The teams then traded punts.
The Platteville offense again found a rhythm on its fifth drive of the game.
Budden ran for four, then Bernhardt found Jacob Niehaus wide open on the backside for a 38-yard gain to the PdC 5. After a Platteville timeout, Bernhardt hit White for a 5-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
Smock set up the game-winning touchdown midway through the third quarter with a 54-yard run to the Platteville 1. Gillitzer plowed in from a yard out on the final play and Check’s PAT accounted for the final point of the game, but it was not the end of the drama.
Bernhardt threw his third interception of the night on Platteville’s ensuing drive and was knocked out of the game with 1:50 left in the third quarter when he took a shot that knocked his helmet off and sent him to the bench for the rest of the night. It is unknown is Bernhardt is considered day-to-day and could play in Friday’s game game at Dodgeville (3–3, 0–2).
White, who missed last week’s game at Richland Center and didn’t practice all week while recovering from an hamstring injury assumed the QB duties for the Hillmen. Sophomore backup quarterback Tyler McClain did not suit up Friday night and was unavailable after suffering an injury early in the week in Platteville’s JV game.
A still gimpy White did his best to rally the Hillmen, who were also without starting running back A.J. Barner and starting right guard Caleb Lueder for a second straight week.
“Losing Ethan really put a thorn in our side,” added Bailey. “We have been very limited the past couple weeks on both sides of the ball with players being out with injuries and other issues. We had a lot of guys playing both sides of the ball, and honestly, we didn’t have a backup quarterback. You could say it was the perfect storm for Prairie. We are looking to bounce back this week, and our kids are very positive.”
White ran the ball for seven yards on his first snap, but Budden and the Hillmen were stopped just inches short on 4th-and-1 at the Prairie du Chien 17 with 1:05 left in the third.
White completed a pair of passes on Platteville’s next possession as the Hillmen picked up back-to-back first downs, but a costly block in the back penalty stalled another promising drive and Platteville was forced to punt with 4:36 left in the game.
Smock fumbled four plays later to give Platteville one last chance at the PdC 41 with 2:35 left, but Check intercepted a floating White pass at the 20-yard line on the very next play.
The Hillmen defense forced a 3rd-and-7, but Smock raced around the right end for a 41 yard gain and Prairie du Chien was able to run out the clock with one kneel down.
Bernhardt completed 13 of 27 passes for 183 yards, 2 TDs and three interceptions before departing with the injury. White completed 3 of 6 for 20 yards and rushed for a team-high 17 yards on four carries.
Senior Donovan Blevins caught a team-high seven passes for 109 yards. Niehaus had four receptions for 64 yards in the loss.
Platteville will look to bounce back Friday night at Dodgeville (3–3, 0–2 SWC). The Dodgers are coming off a 42–0 loss to River Valley.
Prairie du Chien 21, Platteville 14
(from Friday, Sept. 22 @ UW–Platteville)
Prairie du Chien 14 0 7 0 — 21
Platteville 7 7 0 0 — 14
P: Jacob Niehaus 9 pass from Ethan Bernhardt (Quinn Kafar kick)
PdC: Tyler Smock 56 run (Cory Check kick)
PdC: Gavin Gillitzer 1 run (Check kick)
P: Zach White 5 pass from Bernhardt (Kafar kick)
PdC: Gillitzer 1 run (Check kick)
First downs — PdC 20, P 11. Rushing — PdC 44-297, P 20-14. Passing (comp-att-int, yds) — PdC 7-16-0, 125, P 16-33-4, 203. Fumbles–lost — PdC 2-1, P 0-0. Penalties-yards — PdC 3-20, P 6-50.
Rushing — PdC: Tyler Smock 29-270. P: Brad Budden 9-17, Zach White 4-17. Passing — PdC: Gavin Gillitzer 7-16-0, 15. P: Ethan Bernhardt 13-27-3, 183. Receiving — PdC: Ben RIter 3-48. P: Donovan Blevins 7-109. Tackles — PdC: n/a. P: Trevor Heim 7, Quinn Kafar 6, Austin Wein 6, White 6.