WALWORTH — Platteville’s gritty defensive effort against heavily-favored Walworth Big Foot was saved by a pair of outstanding individual plays by a pair of junior defensive backs.
First, Blake Wagner made a clutch tackle of Daniel Pearce on the sideline stopping the Big Foot receiver less than an inch short of a first down on fourth-and-9 at the Platteville 4-yard line with just over five minutes remaining. Then Chance Kupersmith made an athletic one-handed interception at the Platteville 40-yard line with 2:05 remaining to thwart a pair of potential game-winning drives.
Platteville survived some tense moments in the waning seconds, but after junior quarterback Brett Morris’ 22nd pass attempt of the night, Platteville had upset the top-ranked and previously undefeated Chiefs 7–2 in a WIAA Division 4 state quarterfinal game at Big Foot High School.
Wagner’s and Kupersmith’s plays were the standout moments of a bitter defensive battle played in equally bitter cold and windy conditions.
Despite facing substantial size disadvantage against Big Foot’s massive offensive line, which had paved the way for the Chiefs to average 38 points a game in their first 11 contests, Platteville’s tenacious front seven held the favored home team to just 109 yards rushing on 29 carries and just 186 yards of total offense.
“We cannot give our defense enough credit for their effort and performance Friday night,” said Platteville head coach Scott Statz. “We are getting tremendous play from our defensive line and our linebackers. Those guys deserve a lot of credit holding Big Foot to 109 yards rushing.”
After picking up only two first downs on its first four drives and trading punts for much of the first half, Platteville turned to senior halfback William Cooley and a nifty trick play to produce the game’s first score, and only touchdown.
On second-and-6 from the Platteville 46, wide receiver Derek Schambow took a reverse handoff and completed a 22-yard pass to Kupersmith into the driving south wind.
Cooley ripped off 18 yards on second-and-10 to get to the Big Foot 14, then on third-and-2 senior quarterback Logan Butson completed a four-yard pass to junior fullback Ryan Weber for a new set of downs.
Three plays later, on his sixth carry of the 14-play, 80-yard drive into the wind, Cooley sidestepped a tackler in the backfield and bounced around the right end and rumbled into the end zone from two yards out to give Platteville a 7–0 lead with 1:04 left in the half.
Aided by an 18-yard completion to senior standout Gus Wedig, and a pass interference Big Foot got in position to attempt a 38-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the half, but Ian Gallagher’s attempt — which had plenty of distance — bounced off the top third of the right upright.
Big Foot fumbled a punt at its own 33-yard line early in the third quarter, but Platteville couldn’t take advantage of the gift miscue.
Platteville ran 21 plays to Big Foot’s six in the third quarter, but the Hillmen failed to increase its lead.
The Chiefs’ high-powered offense finally put together a lengthy drive early in the fourth quarter. But the 13-play, 56-yard drive ended at the Platteville 4 when Wagner’s tackle and a measurement gave Platteville the ball on downs.
A bad snap out of the end zone on fourth down punt attempt on Platteville’s ensuing possession gave Big Foot a two-point safety and the ball back with 3:45 remaining.
But Cooley boomed the free kick from the 30 inside the Big Foot 10-yard line and after a minimal return the Chiefs started at their own 18.
Morris completed 2 of 3 passes, the second a 20-yard connection to Pearce, to move Big Foot to midfield, but on the very next play Kupersmith leapt and batted a Morris pass, and corralled his own deflection for the turnover.
Platteville failed on fourth-and-6 from the Chiefs 29 with less than a minute left, and had to survive three Morris passes before the game was final.
While Big Foot’s season ends with a loss on its home field and an imperfect 11–1 record, Platteville (8–4) advances to the WIAA semifinal round for the first time since 1995, when the Hillmen lost a Division 3 semifinal contest to eventual state champion New Berlin Eisenhower 27–9.
Platteville also reached the state semifinals in 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1992. The Hillmen are only 1–4 in such contests all-time, defeating DeForest 42–30 in the Divison 4 semifinals in 1983 before winning the D4 state title with a 16–6 victory over Mosinee.
“All three phases of the game are clicking right now and that is what you need to advance at this time of the year,” added Statz. “Our kids are driven and locked in, so I would be very surprised if we do not play well Friday night. This group simply does not want to put their pads away. At this level everyone is good and someone has to win, so why not us? The team that takes care of the football, blocks and tackles the best, will advance. It is a pretty simple formula really.”
WIAA Division 4, Level 3 playoff
Platteville 7, Walworth Big Foot 2
(from Friday, Nov. 8 @ Brodhead)
Platteville 0 7 0 0 — 7
Big Foot 0 0 0 2 — 2
P: William Cooley 2 run (James Bailie kick)
BF: Team Safety, Platteville snap ball out of the end zone
First downs — P 10, BF 12. Rushing — P 40-128, BF 29-109. Passing Yards — P 80, BF 77. Passing — P 10-21-0, BF 6-23-1. Fumbles–lost — P 1-0, BF 1-1. Penalties-yards — P 8-64, BF 10-61.
Rushing — P: William Cooley 26-98; BF: Long 22-89. Passing — P: Logan Butson 9-20-0, 58; BF: Morris 6-22-1, 77. Receiving — P: William Cooley 2-25; BF: Pearce 4-50.