Hawks win first outright conference crown since 1988

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Prairie’s Carter Pederson hauls in a 39-yard touchdown pass to make the score 49-0 at halftime. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

Prairie’s Mason Kramer stops the Richland Center ballcarrier Friday night to help the Blackhawks win their first outright conference crown in 30 years.

The Blackhawks’ Colten Wall (9) goes after a Hornets’ fumble deep in Richland Center territory Friday night.

Prairie's Ben Riter grabs a touchdown pass.

Ben Riter (bottom) and Zach Swiggum (24) team up for a tackle.

Isaac Avery makes a good open field tackle Friday night.

 

By Zach Mara

 

The Prairie du Chien Blackhawks welcomed the Richland Center Hornets to town Friday night, needing one final win to wrap up an undefeated outright SWC title. The Hawks (8-1, 5-0) looked to hold the Hornets (1-8, 0-5) winless in the SWC for the sixth consecutive season. On this night, the Hawks wouldn’t disappoint the home crowd, as the offense used a variety of different sets to jump out to an early lead. The defense played a textbook game, and the Hawks poured it on, taking a 49-0 lead into halftime. From there, the PdC VR team took advantage of a running clock to hold on and defeat Richland Center 55-21 to wrap up their first outright championship since 1988.

After the Hawks won the toss and elected to receive, Richland Center tried a surprise onside kick to open the game. Sophomore Bradyn Saint covered up the kick perfectly, giving the Hawks excellent field position to start the game. Six plays later, Tyler Smock was off to the races, opening the scoring with a 22-yard TD rush. Clayton DuCharme successfully converted the extra-point, and PdC had an early 7-0 lead. The Hawks’ defense then held up their end of the bargain, forcing a 3-and-out and giving the Hawks the ball at the RC 41-yard line after the punt was shanked. Four plays later, Smock was outrunning the defense for his second touchdown of the game, this time from 31 yards out. DuCharme nailed the PAT to increase the lead to 14-0 with 7 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Three plays later, Zach Swiggum was falling on a muffed snap near midfield, and the Blackhawks had the ball with great field position once again. This time it took the PdC offense 5 plays to find the end zone, as Gavin Gillitzer found Ben Riter open for a 21-yard TD pass. The extra point was no good, but the Hawks now led 20-0 with 3 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

After another Hornets 3-and-out, the Hawks pieced together an 8-play, 50-yard drive capped by 17-yard TD pass from Gillitzer to Mason Kramer. DuCharme’s PAT was good, increasing the lead to 27-0 early in the second quarter. The Hawks defense stepped up big on the ensuing possession, forcing a turnover on downs in PdC territory. One play later, Tyler Smock gave the Hornets another case of deja vu, streaking down the field for a 59-yard TD run, his third of the half. The Hawks turned to Swiggum for the 2 point try, and he barrelled his way into the end zone to increase the lead to 35-0 with 7 minutes to go in the first half. After a big sack from Isaac Avery on third down, the Hornets were forced to punt again, and the Hawks had good field position once again. On the ensuing possession, Gillitzer connected with Keenan Holley for a total for 43 yards, including an 11-yard TD pass. The extra-point was good, and the Hawks had increased the lead to 42-0. After the Hornets’ fourth 3-and-out of the first half, the Hawks would score one final time in the first half, finding Carter Pederson open for a 39-yard TD as the half came to a close. DuCharme was once again successful on the PAT attempt, and the Hawks led 49-0 heading into halftime.

With the running clock, the Blackhawks would turn to the VR team for the entirety of the second half, preserving the starters as the Hawks prepare for a playoff run. The Hornets would manage to get on the board on their opening possession of the second half, putting together a 9-play, 63-yard drive to score their first 7 points of the game. The Hawks’ VR offense would then answer with a long drive of their own, a 12-play, 59-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard TD run from Colten Wall. The extra point was blocked, but the Hawks now led 55-7 with 10:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. After a PdC turnover on downs, the Hornets quickly added another score to trim the lead to 55-14. The Hornets would manage one more TD in the game before the Hawks marched the starters back onto the field for Gavin Gillitzer to kneel the ball twice to secure the 55-21 victory. This 5-0 conference performance marks to Blackhawks’ first outright conference championship in 30 years, back when the Blackhawks made a long state tournament run led by Hall of Fame Coach Paul Bebow.

Tyler Smock led the rushers with 8 carries for 161 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bradyn Saint added 4 carries for 42 yards and Colten Wall rushed 6 times for 31 yards and 1 TD. Gavin Gillitzer was 8-14 in the air for 159 yards and 4 TD passes. Carter Pederson led the receivers, hauling in 2 passes for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. Keenan Holley and Ben Riter added 1 TD each and Tyler Smock caught 1 pass for 28 yards. Leading the defense was Keenan Holley with 5 tackles. Isaac Avery recorded 3 tackles and a sack and Luke Wright added 3 tackles and ½ sack.

On the merits of an impressive season, the Blackhawks were granted a #2 seed and will host the #7 seed New Glarus/Monticello Glarner Knights (4-5, 2-2) next Friday night in Round 1 of the WIAA Division 5 playoffs. This will mark the Hawks’ third playoff appearance in the last 4 seasons, and the senior-dominated Hawks appear better equipped than ever to make a deep postseason run. Come support your Blackhawks on Friday night! Game time is 7 p.m.

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