Warhawks crush Central College

UW-W to host National Semifinals


Ky McCombe

Senior quarterback Max Meylor (7) jumps over the opposing team and across Perkins Stadium field to score Saturday afternoon Dec. 4, 2021.

Parker Olsen, Sports Editor

The No. 3 UW-Whitewater football team (13-0) prevailed in their battle with the No. 8 ranked Central College (IA) (12-1) winning by a score of 51-21 at Perkins Stadium Saturday, Dec. 3 in the National Quarterfinal. The matchup featured two of the 15 semifinalists for the Gagliardi Trophy awarded to most outstanding player in Division III: Whitewater quarterback Max Meylor (Sr.) and Central quarterback Blaine Hawkins (Sr.).

Coming into the game, the Warhawks had outscored their first two playoff opponents by a combined score of 114-7. Meanwhile, Central had to make it through the 14th and 6th ranked teams in the nation.

Adjust and advance

The contest started out shaky for the Warhawks as their opening drive was quickly stomped out and their punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown by Central’s Brody Klein, putting the Dutch ahead 7-0 before their offense even saw the field.

Despite being stopped cold in their first possession, the Warhawk offense came back firing and marched down the field, scoring on a pass from Meylor to Tyler Holte. Hawkins led Central’s first possession with his 62nd touchdown pass of the season, becoming the record holder for most touchdown passes in a single season.

“It’s pretty special to have,” said Hawkins. “It’s more exciting for me to share that with the rest of the guys on the team, receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive linemen especially who all contributed to that. I hope we can look back at this year and say ‘hey we were all involved in that and able to make that happen.’ So it’s pretty special to share that with the guys.” 

The Warhawks gave little time for their opponents to celebrate. Following a 60-yard kickoff return by Ryan Wisniewski, Meylor scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. However, the extra point failed to make it through the uprights and the Warhawks still trailed by a score of 13-14 as the first quarter came to a close.

“We are playing against an amazing quarterback, actually an amazing quarterback in my 30 years of coaching,” said Bullis. “It wasn’t just being able to throw Hawkins off his spot, we had to sack him. That’s a unique concept that this is a guy you have to sack or, if you don’t, you are on him as he is throwing the ball.”

After a defensive stop, Meylor found a wide open Holte again for a 36-yard touchdown, sending the Warhawks ahead 20-14. The lead would extend a few drives later with some trickery. A jet sweep into a reverse-turned-touchdown pass from wide receiver Wisniewski to quarterback Meylor put Whitewater ahead 27-14. Those points would prove to be enough to win the game. 

“It was good, teams have to respect the run and pass with me, with the o-line working like that they can’t just dial in on our running backs,” said Meylor. “We had that (trick) play dialed up this week and the time came for it and we executed.”

The Whitewater defense and offense both seemed to hit their stride, making plays on both sides of the ball. Central still had one more touchdown drive in them though, as the clock began winding low in the first half, Hawkins extended his single-season passing touchdown record to 63 as he hit Jeff Herbers (Jr.) for their second touchdown connection of the day, sending the teams to the locker room with a score of 27-21. 

“They were getting a lot of quick passes and quick slants on us in the first quarter, so we made the adjustment to switch coverages,” said sophomore defensive lineman Justin Allen, who was in on three of the six Warhawk sacks. “That allowed our DB’s and our safeties to get better coverage on them and gave us more time to be able to make plays. We only made one adjustment to our coverage around halftime and we were starting to get to their QB a lot which he’s not used to with him being stuck in the pocket more he started to get nervous.”

The second half was a different story than the first as the Warhawk defense did not allow any more scores. The team had only given up a single yard of offense until under four minutes remained in the game. The offense fired on all cylinders with Wisniewski passing 1,000 receiving yards for the season and Alex Peete running in three touchdowns. Peete has a division-leading 27 touchdowns on the season. Whitewater’s adjustments and physicality allowed the team to do just about whatever they wanted as they went on to win 51-21.

“I was very confident with our second half, that’s a big part of it, our players and coaches getting comfortable with what we’re calling,” said head coach Kevin Bullis. 

The Warhawks were accustomed to this unique style of quarterback as well as the incredibly up-tempo offense that they faced thanks to previous games during conference play. Bullis specifically mentioned UW-River Falls as an example.

“In the sense of the tempo part of what they do and the fast tempo process they have from play to play, yeah they are a lot like (River Falls),” said Bullis. “If you look at our River Falls game, how many points did we give up in the first half – 21. That’s one of the things for when you play that type of offense, with that type of talent, River Falls was a very talented offense and very senior led, wow sounds like I’m talking about Central doesn’t it, that’s them. I knew we were going to give up points to them early, we gave up 14 to them early which was an improvement from our River Falls game.” 

The Warhawks will be facing a familiar foe in the national semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 10, as they take on the No. 2 Mary Hardin Baylor Crusaders at Perkins Stadium at 2:30 p.m. This will mark the third season in a row the two teams will meet in the playoffs and the fifth time that the teams have met in the semifinals. Whitewater leads the all time series 6-1 with their lone loss coming in the 2018 semifinals in Belton, Texas.