Black Hawk coach Cory Milz and his assistants didn’t mince words. They had a pointed message for the Warriors’ running backs at halftime of Thursday’s WIAA Division 7 state football championship game at Camp Randall Stadium.
Milz believed Edgar’s physically punishing defense was getting the better of his team, which trailed by one point at the break.
“Our backs ran a little tentatively and they were challenged at halftime, and I thought they really responded in the second half with running behind their shoulder pads and picking up key north-south first downs and yardage,” Milz said.
The Warriors’ offensive line and backs took the halftime words to heart. They controlled possession for 9 minutes, 54 seconds during an 18-play, 63-yard drive, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on senior quarterback Kyle Lovelace’s 1-yard run with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
That proved to be the winner as undefeated Black Hawk earned its second state title with a 22-15 victory over previously unbeaten Edgar.
“It’s been a dream of all of ours since we were just little guys, before we could even walk,” Black Hawk senior running back Colby Argall said. “Football is a big deal at our school. Watching the other guys as we grew up, this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to go out on top.
“I’m so proud of my teammates and my brothers. They all played a heck of a game today. Edgar is a heck of a football team. So, to come here and beat them like we did, it is really special.”
Argall — who scored on a 1-yard, second-quarter touchdown run that pulled Six Rivers Conference champion Black Hawk (13-0) within 15-14 — wound up with a game-high 109 yards rushing on 34 carries.
“I tried to run a little harder between the tackles (after halftime),” said Argall, Black Hawk’s leading rusher this season. “Our offensive line did a heck of a job in the second half. They are really good. We just pounded the rock and that’s what we like to do.
“(The coaches) weren’t wrong. I’m not going to lie. I was a little timid in the first half. I came out, ‘OK, this is my last half ever playing high school football, so I’m giving everything I’ve got.’ I lowered the shoulder a couple times and got the extra yard.”
Argall, who had 49 yards on 16 attempts in the first half, carried 11 times for 32 yards on the decisive third-quarter drive. On a third-and-7 play, Lovelace had a key 9-yard completion to junior Cayden Milz to the Edgar 39-yard line. Otherwise, Black Hawk ran on the other 17 plays.
“We always talk about being hammers and not nails, being on the giving end and not the receiving end,” Cory Milz said. “I thought (Argall) was a little tentative in the first half.”
The Warriors, who rushed for 259 yards on 58 carries, dominated time of possession — 34:50 to 13:10 — against Marawood Conference champion Edgar (13-1).
“Time of possession was so key in this football game,” Milz said. “(The Wildcats) have such an electric offense. They have a lot of speed and we wanted to keep their offense off the field. We were able to do that and the result was a win.”
After Edgar fumbled at midfield on its first play, Black Hawk jumped ahead on senior running back Mitchell Quinn’s 44-yard run 1:43 into the game.
Edgar bounced back with 15 first-quarter points, scoring on senior quarterback Karson Butt’s 4-yard run and Butt’s 4-yard touchdown strike to senior tight end Brock Handrick. But three lost fumbles cost Edgar, which only had 34 offensive plays and 164 yards.
“We did some really uncharacteristic things, (such as) turning the ball over, which we haven’t done all season,” Butt said.
Milz said winning the title — the program’s first since 2013 — was particularly meaningful because Black Hawk (located in South Wayne) plans to play football as a co-op program with Warren (Illinois) High School next year, pending WIAA approval in February.
“It feels incredible, it really does,” said Milz, whose team was Division 7 runner-up to Bangor last year.
“That feeling when we lost last year was the worst feeling in the world,” Argall said. “I never wanted to feel that way again. … It was redemption. We wanted to come back to ‘The Camp’ and go out right.”
Edgar 15 0 0 0 — 15
Black Hawk 8 6 8 0 — 22
BH — Quinn 44 run (Quinn run).
E — Butt 4 run (Brehm pass from Butt).
E — Handrick 4 pass from Butt (Miller kick).
BH — Argall 1 run (run failed) BH — Lovelace 1 run (Schiferl pass from Argall).
First downs — E 6, BH 15. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — E 25-96, BH 58-259. Passing yards — E 68, BH 29. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — E 6-9-0, BH 4-6-2. Fumbles-lost — E 5-3, BH 4-0. Penalties-yards — E 7-47, BH 2-10.
Rushing: E — Brewster 3-33; Stoudt 3-30; Raatz 5-15; Hafferman 2-12; Butt 12-6. BH — Argall 34-115; Lovelace 15-78; Quinn 9-75. Passing: E — Butt 6-9-0-68. BH — Lovelace 4-6-2-29.
Receiving: E — Guden 2-55; Hafferman 3-9; Handrick 1-4. BH — Shelton 2-13; Milz 1-9; Argall 1-7.
Punting: E — Stoudt 3-51.3; BH — Shelton 3-33.7.
Tackles: E — Guden 13, Knetter 9, Hafferman 8; BH — Shelton 7, Quinn 4, Argall 4.
Interceptions-yards: E — Handrick 1-0, Guden 1-(-1).
Fumble recoveries: BH — Shelton 1, Schiferl 1, Milz 1.