Second time’s the charm

By Andrea Sidlauskas

It’s a rivalry many years in the making.

The UW-Oshkosh Titans have long been a conference foe for the Warhawk football team, with each squad tallying two victories over the past four meetings – the Titans’ most recent win just seven weeks ago, resulting in a tight 10-7 victory over the ’Hawks.

That regular-season conference match, which snapped the ’Hawks’ 36-game win streak and ultimately established the WIAC champion, came down to a game-deciding blocked field goal with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter – and this past Saturday’s contest between the No. 3 Titans and No. 5 Warhawks was just as close.

In a momentum-swinging NCAA Division III quarterfinal matchup, the 12-1 ’Hawks avenged its only loss of the season by defeating the 11-2 Titans, 31-29.

“What an amazing game,” head football coach Kevin Bullis said. “This isn’t our first time being in a dog fight. We’ve been in one several times in the postseason. Our guys have lived the experience of concentrating on what we gotta do, and good things will happen. And we hope the byproduct is being ahead on the scoreboard at the end of the game.”

The ’Hawks struck first with an eight-play, 74-yard drive punctuated by a touchdown via senior running back Jordan Ratliffe, who picked up more than 100 yards for the seventh time this year and added another score later in the game to bring his season total to 23.

After an interception by senior linebacker Justin Dischler set up a 33-yard Will Meyer field goal, the ’Hawks maintained a 10-0 advantage heading into the second quarter. But the Titans responded by scoring twice with less than four minutes remaining in the first half to tie the score, 10-10.

“That first half of the game was really interesting,” Bullis said. “We won the first quarter, they won the second quarter.”

At the end of two quarters, the ’Hawks had accumulated just 31 yards through the air, but were able to rack up 155 yards on the ground.

On the fourth play of the third period, junior quarterback Chris Nelson hit junior wide receiver Marcus Hudson on a 48-yard touchdown pass – his longest throw of the day – to put the ’Hawks up by seven.

After opening up the passing game in the second half, the ’Hawks’ went on to score on three of their first four possessions en route to a 31-16 lead as the fourth quarter approached.

“We wanted to win in the fourth quarter; that was pretty much the game plan,” Titans head football coach Pat Cerroni said. “We knew we were going to give something up in the third quarter, but we thought we’d have the fire power to bring it back to make this thing close in the fourth. It played out exactly the way we thought.”

UW-Oshkosh running back Devon Linzenmeyer scored on a 21-yard run to bring the Titans within one score of the ’Hawks just two minutes into the fourth quarter. Linzemeyer totaled 132 yards on the day – the most given up to a single back by the Warhawks this season.

Down by eight points with three minutes and 42 seconds remaining contest, the Titans managed a 15-yard touchdown and attempted a two-point conversion. But the Warhawks’ defense stopped the short pass and an offensive pass interference penalty negated any chance of a score on the play.

The ’Hawks regained possession of the ball, but were forced to punt on the ensuing drive, and the defense needed to make one more stop in order to maintain their lead.

On fourth and four from the UW-Whitewater 44-yard line, the Warhawk defensive line brought a heavy rush to force an incomplete pass by UW-Oshkosh quarterback Brett Kasper and squash any hope of the Titans coming back from the two-point deficit.

“We just gathered the troops,” Dischler said. “It really came down to just doing our jobs. We love ending the game on defense.”

Senior defensive back Ryan Winske led the Warhawk defense with 10 tackles. Senior defensive back Dylan Morang added eight stops, while junior linebacker Paul Foster posted seven tackles and his second interception of the season.

Offensively, the ’Hawks garnered 410 yards – compared to the Titans’ 444 – with 240 of those from the rushing attack. Ratliffe picked up 164, while freshman running back Jarrod Ware contributed 59.

Nelson completed 14-of-30 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns on the day, and Hudson led the receiving corps with 106 yards and two scores in six receptions.

“[The Warhawks] have great athletes,” Cerroni said. “We call it ‘Candy Land.’ That is a powerhouse program – it doesn’t matter who coaches it. It isn’t a mystery what went on out there today on the field. They know what we do.”

Up next, the Warhawks will take on a familiar postseason opponent in an unfamiliar place as they travel to Alliance, Ohio, to face off against No. 1-ranked Mount Union in a rematch of last year’s national championship game.

The ’Hawks have defeated the Purple Raiders for the national title five of the last six years, but this season’s semifinal matchup marks the first time they square off before the Stagg Bowl.

“We know they’re going to be a good team,” Ratliffe said. “We know it’s not going to be easy. Nothing’s going to be given to us, so we have to earn what we get. We’re going to be ready because we know what’s at stake.”

The Warhawks head to Mount Union Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 12 for the 10th meeting between the two teams in the past 11 seasons. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. central time.

“What an amazing game,” head football coach Kevin Bullis said. “This isn’t our first time being in a dog fight. We’ve been in one several times in the postseason. Our guys have lived the experience of concentrating on what we gotta do, and good things will happen. And we hope the byproduct is being ahead on the scoreboard at the end of the game.”

The ’Hawks struck first with an eight-play, 74-yard drive, punctuated by a touchdown via senior running back Jordan Ratliffe, who picked up more than 100 yards for the seventh time this year and added another score later in the game to bring his season total to 23.

After an interception by senior linebacker Justin Dischler set up a 33-yard Will Meyer field goal, the ’Hawks maintained a 10-0 advantage heading into the second quarter. But the Titans responded by scoring twice with less than four minutes remaining in the first half to tie the score 10-10.

“That first half of the game was really interesting,” Bullis said. “We won the first quarter, they won the second quarter.”

At the end of two quarters, the ’Hawks had accumulated just 31 yards through the air, but were able to rack up 155 yards on the ground.

On the fourth play of the third quarter, junior quarterback Chris Nelson hit junior wide receiver Marcus Hudson on a 48-yard touchdown pass – his longest throw of the day – to put the ’Hawks up by seven.

After opening up the passing game in the second half, the ’Hawks’ went on to score on three of its first four possessions en route to a 31-16 lead as the fourth quarter approached.

“We wanted to win in the fourth quarter; that was pretty much the game plan,” Titans head football coach Pat Cerroni said. “We knew we were going to give something up in the third quarter, but we thought we’d have the fire power to bring it back to make this thing close in the fourth. It played out exactly the way we thought.”

UW-Oshkosh running back Devon Linzenmeyer scored on a 21-yard run to bring the Titans within one score of the ’Hawks just two minutes into the fourth quarter. Linzemeyer totaled 132 yards on the day – the most given up to a single back by the Warhawks this season.

Down by eight points with three minutes and 42 seconds remaining, the Titans managed a 15-yard touchdown and attempted a two-point conversion. But the Warhawks’ defense stopped the short pass and an offensive pass interference penalty negated any chance of a score on the play.

The ’Hawks regained possession of the ball, but were forced to punt on the ensuing drive, and the defense needed to make one more stop in order to maintain their lead.

On fourth and four from the UW-Whitewater 44-yard line, the Warhawk defensive line brought a heavy rush to force an incomplete pass by UW-Oshkosh quarterback Brett Kasper and squash any hope of the Titans coming back from the two-point deficit.

“We just gathered the troops,” Dischler said. “It really came down to just doing our jobs. We love ending the game on defense.”

Senior defensive back Ryan Winske led the Warhawk defense with 10 tackles. Senior defensive back Dylan Morang added eight stops, while junior linebacker Paul Foster posted seven tackles and his second interception of the season.

Offensively, the ’Hawks garnered 410 yards – compared to the Titans’ 444 – with 240 of those from the rushing attack. Ratliffe picked up 164, while freshman running back Jarrod Ware contributed 59.

Nelson completed 14-of-30 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns on the day, and Hudson led the receiving corps with 106 yards and two scores in six receptions.

“[The Warhawks] have great athletes,” Cerroni said. “We call it ‘Candy Land.’ That is a powerhouse program – it doesn’t matter who coaches it. It isn’t a mystery what went on out there today on the field. They know what we do.”

Up next, the Warhawks will take on a familiar postseason opponent in an unfamiliar place as they travel to Alliance, Ohio, to face off against No. 1-ranked Mount Union in a rematch of last year’s national championship game.

The ’Hawks have defeated the Purple Raiders for the national title five of the last six years, but this season’s semifinal matchup marks the first time they square off before the Stagg Bowl.

“We know they’re going to be a good team,” Ratliffe said. “We know it’s not going to be easy. Nothing’s going to be given to us, so we have to earn what we get. We’re going to be ready because we know what’s at stake.”

The Warhawks head to Mount Union Stadium on Dec. 12 for the 10th meeting between the two teams in the past 11 seasons. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central Time.

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