By Andrea Sidlauskas
The Warhawk football team is sitting securely in the conference driver’s seat, as it clinched its 33rd WIAC Championship title in program history Saturday with a win against UW-Stevens Point.
Although the Pointers outgained the ’Hawks in total offense, the ’Hawks’ lockdown defense made up the difference, which ended in a 17-7 victory.
Senior linebackers Cole Klotz and Josh Williams led the team defensively, holding the Pointers to 14 rushing yards on 24 carries for an average of 0.6 yards per carry.
While the defense dominated the majority of the game, special teams came into play on several instances to set up scoring drives for the ’Hawks.
In the first quarter, junior wide receiver Justin Howard returned a punt 45 yards to the Pointers’ 4-yard line. The return allowed junior quarterback Matt Behrendt to find junior wide receiver Jake Kumerow in the end zone on the following drive, putting the ’Hawks ahead, 7-0.
The Pointers returned the favor in the second quarter when senior quarterback Mitch Beau ran 13 yards for the opposing team’s only touchdown of the game.
The ’Hawks answered back quickly. Howard returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, putting them back in the lead, 14-7. This marked the longest kickoff return in school history, previously set by Greg Montgomery in 1973 with a return of 97 yards.
The last score of the matchup came early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a field goal by senior kicker Eric Kindler, giving the ’Hawks a ten-point lead, 17-7, to end the game.
The ’Hawks’ defense held the Pointers to 38 total yards of offense in the second half, securing the win. Behrendt went 16-23 with 86 yards through the air, throwing one touchdown and no interceptions. Kumerow grabbed five passes for 45 yards and one touchdown.
The ’Hawks return home to take on UW-River Falls in the last regular-season game of the year Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. A Warhawk win would translate into an outright WIAC Championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.