PLATTEVILLE - It wasn’t suppose to be that easy.
When unbeatens Lancaster and Platteville met last Friday night at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium for the Southwest Wisconsin Conference football title, it was suppose to be a fight to the finish, not a one-sided victory.
None the less, the Flying Arrows collected a 49-21 win over the Hillmen, giving Lancaster a league record of 5-0, an overall record of 9-0, and the program’s sixth conference title in the past seven years.
The Hillmen finished the regular season with an SWC record of 4-1 and an overall mark of 8-1 heading into the playoffs this week.
Friday’s game appeared to be everything it was advertised to be for one and a half quarters, until Lancaster’s defense came up with a stop and completely took the momentum.
The two teams each scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, making for a 21-21 tie early in the second quarter.
Lancaster got a 42-yard TD run from quarterback Justin Hore early in the first quarter, followed two first-quarter scores by fullback Trae Mezera, one on a 75-yard kick return, and the other on a 29-yard run.
The Arrows took a 28-21 lead on a four-play, 54-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a 13-yard run by Mezera.
Up to that point, the two teams had combined to score seven touchdowns with neither team forced to punt.
That is until the Lancaster defense forced the Hillmen to punt on a fourth-and-nine from the 46-yard line with 6:39 to play in the first half.
Lancaster used just three plays to go 86 yards for their fifth score of the game, as Mezera took it in from 22 yards out. The extra-point kick by Hunter Budack gave the Arrows a two-score lead, 35-21, midway through the second quarter.
“I think the turning point was us getting a defensive stop,” said Lancaster coach John Hoch. “Our defense really seamed to come together that way.”
“Honestly, we got into a two-score lead, which was crucial, because after that it seemed like they were challenging themselves a little bit to score quickly than to be patient,” added Hoch.
On Platteville’s next possession, Lancaster’s Wes Schnepper and Curtis Olson hit quarterback Logan Emendorfer during an attempted pass. The ball came out and was recovered by Adam Henry at the 50-yard line with 1:37 to play in the half.
From there, Lancaster used four plays and a 1:19 to score their sixth TD of the game and take a convincing 42-21 lead into the locker room at the half.
It was Hore scoring his second TD of the game just before the half on a 24-yard score up the middle.
It was the Lancaster defense stealing the show in the second half, as they held the Hillmen scoreless in the final 24 minutes.
Defensive back Kile Jerrett came up big with two interceptions, one coming at Lancaster’s 15-yard line with 57 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Before the game had come to an end, Mezera rushed for his fifth touchdown of the game, the last coming from 71 yards out with 5:46 to play in the game.
With Platteville’s defense obviously more concerned about stopping Lancaster’s outside running game than they were with the inside running game, Mezera ran for 272 yards and four TDs on 21 carries. He also had the 75-yard kick return for a fifth score.
“We kind of thought that going in, so it worked out good,” said coach Hoch of what he expected from Platteville’s defense. “We had made some adjustments with our blocking schemes to keep our fullback in the game.”
Also taking advantage of the running room up the middle was Hore, who finished with 154 yards rushing and two TDs on 18 carries.
Lancaster’s two speedsters, Troy Baker and Matt Ihm, finished with a combined 18 yards on four carries.
Through the air, Hore completed 1-of-3 passing attempts for 11 yards to Kile Jerrett, while Wes Schnepper hooked up with Troy Baker on a 12-yard gain.
Big yards and lots of scoring isn’t possible without the horses up front, which earned the praise of coach Hoch.
“Our offensive line just did a super job,” said Hoch. “For the last three weeks, every week we’ve gotten a little bit better, by not making mistakes that we were making early on in the season, offensively and defensively.”
The Lancaster defense, which gave up 276 yards passing and 149 rushing, was led by junior safety A.J. Day, who recorded 7.5 tackles on the night. Cody Glass was in on six stops, while Mitchell Schildgen had five tackles.
For years, coach Hoch has always approached the final game of the regular season as if it were a playoff game.
The playoffs actually start this Friday night for the Arrows when they host Arcadia (6-3, 4-2) in a 7 p.m. contest.
There’s little doubt it will take a good team to knock these Arrows out of the playoffs, who are the No. 2 seed in their bracket beneath Necedah (9-0, 7-0).
“I’m real happy with the way we’re playing, and we’ve got to continue to get better with each week,” said Hoch. “Either you build on it or else you go flat, and we hope we’re going to build on it.”
On the injury front, senior defensive back Tony Craugh still hasn’t passed his concussion tests as of earlier this week, leaving his status for Friday night’s game unclear.
Also unclear is the status of Wes Schnepper, who has been playing the last couple of weeks with a bone chip in his ankle.
(from Friday, Oct. 14)
Lancaster 21 21 0 7 - 49
Plattteville 14 7 0 0 - 21
L - Justin Hore, 42-yard run (Hunter Budack kick)
P - Bailie, 51-yard pass from Emendorfer (Jadaan kick)
L - Trae Mezera, 75-yard kick return (Budack kick)
P - Fure, 7-yard pass from Emendorfer (Jadaan kick)
L - Mezera, 29-yard run (
P - Emendorfer, 13-yard run (Jadaan kick)
L - Mezera, 13-yard run (Budack kick)
L - Mezera, 22-yard run (Budack kick)
L - Hore, 24-yard run (Budack kick)
L - Mezera, 71-yard run (Budack kick)
First downs - L 14, P 19. Rushing - L 43-444, P 33-149. Passing yards - L 22, P 276. Passes - L 2-4-0, P 15-28-2. Fumbles lost - L 0, P 1. Penalties-yards - L 10-87, P 5-50.
Rushing - L: Mezera 21-272; P: Emendorfer 21-71. Passing - L: Hore 1-3-0, 10; P: Emendorfer 15-27-2, 276. Receiving - L: Baker 1-12; P: Bast 6-97.