Late TD lifts Prairie over Lancaster, Hawks gain share of SWC title

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Prairie du Chien’s Tyler Smock rushed for a whopping 273 yards and five touchdowns to help defeat Lancaster Friday night. (Photos by A.J. Gates, Sports Editor, Grant County Herald Independent)

Prairie’s Gavin Gillitzer was 11 of 24 in the air for 181 yards and 1 TD pass.

 

By Zach Mara

 

The Prairie du Chien Blackhawks traveled to Lancaster on Friday night, looking to spoil the Arrows’ homecoming and improve to 4-0 in conference play. 

The game was a tale of two halves, as the Hawks (7-1, 4-0) jumped out to a big lead early to take a 20-point lead into halftime. 

After the half, Lancaster (5-3, 2-2) came out and put forth a tremendous effort to take the lead before giving the Hawks one final drive with the game on the line. 

The play calling and execution during the final drive were superb, and the Hawks pulled off a comeback in a wild 39-34 win.

After lightning in the area delayed the start time of the game to 8 p.m., Lancaster jumped on the board first, returning the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was good, and the Arrows took the early 7-0 lead. 

After that opening score, the first half would belong exclusively to the Blackhawks. The Hawks first drive went 70 yards on 8 plays, capped by a 23-yard pass from Gavin Gillitzer to Mason Kramer. Clayton DuCharme’s extra point was successful, and PdC tied the game at 7. 

After a Lancaster 3-and-out, Tyler Smock wasted no time putting up his first score of the game, rushing two times for 60 yards and a TD. The extra point was no good, but the Hawks had taken a 13-7 lead. 

Lancaster seemed to be piecing together a nice drive on the ensuing possession, but the drive stalled and the Arrows turned the ball over on downs near midfield. 

One play later, Smock was in the end zone again, this time winning a footrace from 56 yards out. DuCharme converted the PAT to increase the lead to 20-7 with under 2 minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Arrows’ next drive carried over in the second quarter, as Lancaster again was driving deep into PdC territory. They got all the way down to the 11-yard line before a pre-snap penalty and a sack forced a 3rd-and-22. On the 3rd down play, Dylan Coleman jumped in front of a pass from QB Hayden Knapp and gave the Hawks the ball on the PdC 23-yard line following the interception. 

Two plays later, Tyler Smock was off to the races for his 3rd TD in the first half, this time bursting through the defense for a 70-yard score. The extra point was good, extending the Hawks’ lead to 27-7. 

The Hawks’ defense put together one final stand in the first half, forcing a turnover on downs at the PdC 7-yard line. The Blackhawks ran out the clock, taking a 27-7 lead into halftime.

The second half began with a PdC 3-and-out, and Lancaster took over at their own 43-yard line. Lancaster then began using a system of off-tackle runs to gain short chunks of yardage and move down the field. The Arrows went 11 plays for 57 yards and their first offensive TD of the game. The PAT was good, trimming the lead to 27-14 with just over 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. 

The Hawks used a different approach, as they once again turned to Tyler Smock, who made a beautiful cut at the line of scrimmage on his way to an 83-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked, but the Hawks had a seemingly comfortable 33-14 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. 

After an impressive stand by their defense to get the ball back, PdC was once again forced to punt, giving Lancaster the ball at midfield as the 3rd quarter wound down.

The Arrows stayed with their ground-and-pound approach, again scoring on a long drive for 51 yards. The extra point was good, and the Arrows had come within striking distance: They now trailed 33-21 with 9:27 remaining. 

The Hawks began using up the clock, driving 46 yards on 7 plays before turning the ball over on a mishandled snap at the Lancaster 20-yard line. 

Five plays later, Knapp found a receiver open down the sideline for a 68-yard TD pass to trim the deficit to 33-28 with 3:36 remaining. The Hawks, in an attempt to run out the clock, stuck with the running game, but on the second play of the drive, a pitch play was mishandled by the running back, and Lancaster fell on the live ball at the PdC 20-yard line. Two plays later, Lancaster had taken a 34-33 lead with 2:10 remaining in the game. The Hawks stuffed the 2-point try to keep the deficit at 1. 

The Hawks’ ensuing possession would prove to be one to remember for PdC football fans.

Gillitzer passed the ball 12 times for 82 yards and overcame three 3rd and long situations to set up the game winning TD run from 4 yards out to regain a 39-34 lead with 12 seconds remaining.

The 2-point try was no good, but the Hawks were 12 seconds away from wrapping up a share of the SWC title. The Hawks forced incompletions on the first two pass attempts from Knapp and survived a Stanford Band-esque play to hold onto a 39-34 win. 

With the win, the Hawks improved to 4-0 in conference play and earned themselves the opportunity to achieve an outright SWC title next week.

Tyler Smock led the rushers with 15 carries for 273 yards and 5 touchdowns. Gavin Gillitzer was 11-24 in the air for 181 yards and 1 TD pass. Leading the receivers was Mason Kramer, who hauled in 7 passes for 128 yards and 1 touchdown. Ben Riter added two receptions for 30 yards in the game. Aaron Neisius led the defense with 11 tackles and a ½ sack. Keenan Holley added 11 tackles, and Ben Riter and Grant Martin had 9 tackles apiece.

Next week, the Blackhawks host the Richland Center Hornets (1-7, 0-4) as they look to go undefeated in conference and win an outright conference title for the first time since 1988. If the Hawks would win next week, it would almost guarantee the Hawks 2 home games in the playoffs. Come cheer on the Blackhawks on Friday night! Game time is 7 p.m.

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