Blackhawks pull away in second half to defeat Blugolds

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Mason Kramer breaks into the open field to gain good yardage on a kickoff return in the first half Friday night.

Prairie's Tyler Smock eludes a pair of would be tacklers and gets to the outside Friday night. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

This pass was tipped but ended up in the hands of Mason Kramer (33) for a big first-half gain.

Traeton Saint scores a 2-point conversion after a fake kick Friday night against Aquinas.

Prairie du Chien quarterback Gavin Gillitzer races to his left for a good gain versus La Crosse Aquinas Friday night on Parents' Night.

Reid Koenig (23) and Traeton Saint make a stop Friday night against the Blugolds.

 

By Zach Mara

 

The Prairie du Chien Blackhawks opened up their 2018 football season on Friday night against visiting LaCrosse Aquinas. Aquinas (0-1) traveled to Prairie du Chien looking for revenge after dropping the season opener two years in a row to the Hawks (1-0). 

Both teams would turn to the running game early, but the Blugolds had one thing in mind entering the game: Stop Tyler Smock. As a result, Aquinas used a series of blitzes and run-stopping defensive formations early in the game. As the game progressed, the Hawks would turn to a more-balanced pass-run combo, which led to an increase in both rushing and passing production during the second half.

The Hawks defense, not to be outdone, stepped up and accomplished a second-half shutout as the Blackhawks defeated the Aquinas Blugolds 36-14 in the season opener.

After stopping the Blackhawks’ opening drive on 5 plays, Aquinas would take over on their own 42 yard line early in the first quarter. Seven plays later, QB Gavin Wetzel punched the ball into the endzone from 4 yards out for the first score of the game. The 2-point attempt was unsuccessful, but the Blugolds had grabbed an early 6-0 lead. After a holding call threatened to force a PdC punt, QB Gavin Gillitzer dropped back, looked down the field, and targeted Tyler Smock deep down the middle. The ball was tipped up in the air, but came down into the waiting arms of Mason Kramer, who scrambled down to the Aquinas 3 yard line. Gillitzer then plowed into the endzone on a QB keeper to tie the game at 6 with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter.

The Hawks faked the extra-point, scoring on a pitch to Traeton Saint, to take an 8-6 lead. After an Aquinas 3-and-out, the Hawks took over on their own 48 yard line. Prairie slowly and steadily moved down the field before the drive stalled and PdC turned the ball over on downs during the final minute of the first quarter.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Wetzel threw a screen pass to Brandon Merfeld who scrambled 73 yards up the sideline into the endzone. Aquinas’ 2-point attempt was successful and the Blugolds had regained a 14-8 lead. The Blackhawks responded quickly, however, as Gillitzer capped a 66-yard drive by breaking 3 tackles on his way to the endzone for a 37-yard score. Clayton DuCharme’s PAT was good, and the Hawks took a 15-14 lead. 

After the kickoff, the Blugolds started a 12 play drive on their own 42 yard line. After being pushed all the way to the PdC 23 yard line, the Hawks defense stepped up and stuffed the Blugold offense on two consecutive plays to take over with 3:32 remaining before halftime. The celebration didn’t last long, however, as on the first play of the ensuing possession, Aquinas forced a fumble and recovered at the PdC 30 yard line with plenty of time to punch in another score before halftime.

However, the Blackhawks’ defense had other plans. Picking up right where it left off, the defense allowed 1 first down before completely shutting down the Blugolds’ offense and sacking Wetzel at the PdC 27 on 4th down. The Blackhawks took over with 1:15 and 1 timeout remaining in the half. The Hawks seemed to be in trouble, however, as they fell to a 3rd-and-15 situation with the clock ticking down. Just as it seemed the drive was coming to an end, Gillitzer found a hole and scrambled 15 yards for the 1st down to set up a series of passes that led the Hawks down to the 6 yard line with 1 second remaining. The Blackhawks called their final timeout, and DuCharme jogged out onto the field to attempt a 23-yard field goal to send the game to halftime. The kick from the left hash was true, and the Hawks took an 18-14 lead into the half.

It didn’t take long for the Blackhawks’ defense to get back to business in the second half as Sam Fernberg recovered a fumble on a poor handoff to set up another PdC score. Three plays after the fumble, Smock raced in from 28 yards out to extend the lead to 24-14. 

After forcing a 3-and-out, the Hawks pieced together another spectacular 11-play, 72-yard drive capped by an 18-yard TD pass from Gillitzer to Ben Riter. The PAT was unsuccessful, but the Hawks had extended the lead to 30-14 with the 3rd quarter coming to a close.

On Aquinas’ ensuing possession, the PdC defense shut down the Blugolds on four plays, taking over at the Aquinas 43-yard line to begin the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, after a holding call on the Hawks set them back 14 yards, the Blugolds managed to strip and fall on the ball during another big run. However, the Blackhawks defense was unfazed, and Mason Kramer intercepted Wetzel on the second play of the ensuing possession. 

Seven plays later, Gillitzer found Mitchell Luster open in the endzone for a 14-yard score with 9:07 remaining in the game. The extra point was no good, but the Hawks had a comfortable 36-14 lead with the game winding down. 

The teams exchanged punts before Kramer went up and caught his second interception of the night with 4:31 remaining in the 4th quarter. The Blackhawks’ VR offense entered the game to wrap up the win and managed 3 first downs before QB Jon Nicholson took a knee to give the Blackhawks a Week 1 victory.

The Blackhawks were led by Gavin Gillitzer who recorded 111 yards on the ground and rushed for two touchdowns in addition to completing 14 of 21 passes for 231 yards and 2 TDs.

Tyler Smock added 101 yards and a TD on the ground, and Mason Kramer led the receivers with 3 receptions for 90 yards. Ben Riter added 80 yards. Dylan Coleman hauled in 2 passes for 43 yards and Mitchell Luster caught one 14-yard TD pass. 

Traeton Saint led the defense with 9 total tackles. Dylan Coleman and Keenan Holley added 5 tackles apiece. Carter Pederson recorded 3 tackles and one sack.

The Blackhawks travel to Brookwood (1-0) on Friday night looking to continue producing on both sides of the ball and improve to 2-0 on the season. Game time is 7 p.m.

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