warhawks tighten grip on wiac championship

Whitewater defeats UW-La Crosse 21-17, clinching game with late interception.

Alex+Peete+carries+the+ball+during+the+game+against+La+Crosse.+He+was+trusted+carrying+the+football+for+the+final+four+minutes%2C+as+La+Crosse+tried+to+force+fumbles.
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warhawks tighten grip on wiac championship

Alex Peete carries the ball during the game against La Crosse. He was trusted carrying the football for the final four minutes, as La Crosse tried to force fumbles.

Alex Peete carries the ball during the game against La Crosse. He was trusted carrying the football for the final four minutes, as La Crosse tried to force fumbles.

Dane Sheehan

Alex Peete carries the ball during the game against La Crosse. He was trusted carrying the football for the final four minutes, as La Crosse tried to force fumbles.

Dane Sheehan

Dane Sheehan

Alex Peete carries the ball during the game against La Crosse. He was trusted carrying the football for the final four minutes, as La Crosse tried to force fumbles.

Ethan Maurice, Sports Editor

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The Warhawks took another huge stride along the road toward a potential 37th WIAC Conference Championship after their victory over UW- La Crosse (5-3, 3-2 Conf.) by a score of 21-17.

The game went down to the wire, but a 4th quarter interception by Mark McGrath secured the game for the Warhawks (8-0, 6-0 Conf.)

Beating a perennial rival is always a positive boost, but head coach Kevin Bullis is trying to keep his team focused on what’s ahead.  

“It’s all about Tuesday,” Bullis  said, referring to the first practice of the coming week, beginning the build-up for Whitewater’s contest against UW-River Falls. Before that starts, here are three key points from the game against La-Crosse.

First and 10 sets the plate

The Warhawks struggled offensively in the first half, and were held off the scoreboard. According to Bullis, the problems started early in the series.

“Offensively we were struggling on first down,” he said. He talked about how the offense needs an efficient play on first down.

“What we call an efficient play is 4 yards,” said Bullis. “Defensively, we were playing that way, we were holding them under 4 yards on 1st and 10, which was allowing for efficient defense. Because 1st and 10, as we said before, sets the plate on second and third.”

However, whatever was said in the locker room at halftime flipped the script, which helped the ‘Hawks.

“Defense was struggling on 1st and 10, our offense was having great efficiency on 1st and 10. Big plays, explosive plays,” Bullis said.

Tough Guys

Playing in bad weather games is something the Warhawks have grown to master this season, between extreme rain and game-changing wind. However, as the days get shorter and colder, the Warhawks aren’t anticipating any trouble with the cold weather.

“Any time there’s snow, rain, any type of bad weather, Coach Bullis will call everyone together and kind of get everyone rallied up. It shows, the past couple years that I’ve been here and there’s a bad weather game, we always show up and embrace it, as opposed to “Oh no, it’s snowing,” said junior defensive back McGrath, who forced the game clinching interception.

They try to stay consistent during the week in practice too. WR Ryan Wisniewski said: “Practice in what you’re going to play with. Every Friday, I’m wearing the same exact stuff that I’m wearing (On Gameday).”

A common piece of the uniform are the white or black half-sleeves, but even those are a bit much for some players. Not wearing any extra layers is a show of toughness and dominance for some.

“We have a little rule in the Linebacker room that we’re actually not allowed to wear sleeves no matter the weather. It’s just kind of a mental thing, to get your mind in the game, be tough,” said junior LB Kaleb Kaminski.

Turning down Spieker’s Volume

Going into the game, the Warhawks’ top task was always going to be to stop Cole Spieker, UW-La Crosse’s best offensive weapon, according to Bullis. “He is their primary target, we knew that coming into the game.” said the head coach, who is 5-0 in his career against La Crosse.

“He’s just a heck of a wide receiver. He’s the type of guy you can know they’re gonna throw the ball to, and it’s still gonna come down to your guy beating his guy.”

In big situations, La Crosse looks for Spieker to make noise, and his statline was very loud. His 10 receptions for 141 yards were more than 50 percent of UW-L’s passing yards, and he caught both of their touchdowns.

As the game was winding down, La Crosse was driving down the field, and it looked like Spieker would have an opportunity for his third TD of the day. However, Whitewater’s defense forced an interception, and iced the game.

Look for the Warhawks at home next week against UW-River Falls, at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 Considering other results around the conference, the Warhawks could secure another conference championship. Following that game, the Warhawks travel to UW-Oshkosh for the conference finale, to face the second place team in the WIAC.