Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

UW-W secures first playoff win

It didn’t take much time to show the two-time defending national champions were ready for their first-round matchup against Albion College.

The Warhawks blanked the Britons 59-0 in the first round of the NCAA Division-III playoffs Saturday. The ’Hawks will host Franklin College noon this Saturday.

Senior quarterback Matt Blanchard avoids an Albion defender in Saturday’s Division-III first-round playoff win against Albion College. The Warhawks defeated the Britons 59-0. Blanchard finished 12-18 for 168 yards and a touchdown. Blanchard and a few other starters were taken out after a half of play. The ’Hawks will host Franklin College at noon on Saturday. The ’Hawks defeated Franklin earlier this season 45-0. Photo by Crystal Meyer

The ’Hawks are familiar with the Grizzlies, defeating them earlier this season 45-0. They also faced them last year in the playoffs.

“Mike Leonard is an outstanding football coach,” head coach Lance Leipold said about the Grizzlies head coach. “I’m not fired up about playing teams twice in a year. It’s the second time in 12 games that were going to have to do it but there is some familiarity from this season and last year, so that helps with preparation but at the same time they are not the [same] football team [from] the second week of September.”

The ’Hawks started out strong defensively against the Britons, forcing three turnovers in the first six minutes of play, all resulting in short field position and a trio of two-yard touchdown runs by senior running back Levell Coppage.

“That’s one of our goals every weekend to try and get our offense short field position so they don’t have to work so hard to get in the end zone, but we know they’ll get there anyway,” junior defensive back Noah Timm said.

On the third play of the game, Timm intercepted a pass and brought back to the 11-yard line to setup a Coppage touchdown. On the Britons following possession, senior linebacker Greg Arnold  intercepted a pass and returned it to the 13-yard line. On the pursuing kickoff, the ’Hawks forced a fumble and recovered it at the 15-yard line.

“I was pleased with our defensive efforts,” Leipold said. “Especially early in the game. I think the momentum was a huge factor in this ball game, being able to jump out to such an early lead and the way the field position was. It was tough for them to get on track.”

On his second touchdown run, Coppage broke the NCAA Division-III record of rushing attempts at 1,191. Coppage now has 1,205.

Not only did he break that record, but with that score he reached 100 career rushing touchdowns, making him the second player in Division-III history to accomplish that. Mount Union’s Nate Kmic was the other.

Coppage finished with 80 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns.

“It’s fortunate enough to have a great line that blocks for me in the short field to give me those easy three touchdowns,” Coppage said. “That is probably the easiest I’ve worked for touchdowns all season. I’ll take it though.”

After scoring 21 points in the first seven minutes, the ’Hawks continued their defensive effort into the second quarter.

Leading 24-0, junior Jaren Borland blocked a punt with 12 minutes left in the second quarter and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown, giving them a 31-0 lead. Later in the third quarter, Borland also returned a fumble for 54 yards and another score.

“On the punt I just came free up off the edge and I blocked it, saw the ball, picked it up and found myself in the endzone,” Borland said. “For the fumble recovery, it was a great blitz call, a great play by Ryan Cortez to make the sack and cause the [fumble].”

Leading 38-0 at halftime, Leipold decided to give the starters some rest and give some reps to the backups, including junior quarterback Lee Brekke, who led the ’Hawks to a national championship win last season. Two freshmen running backs, Byron Stanford and Colton Sweitzer, were also put in.

“It was good to get Lee Brekke some reps and two young running backs in Byron Stanford and Colt Sweitzer to show what they can do,” Leipold said. “All that is a good benefit as we move forward.”

Stanford finished with a game -high 114 yards rushing on only nine carries, including a 57-yard touchdown run. Sweitzer finished with 60 yards on seven carries.

Blanchard, who missed the entire playoffs a season ago due to a thumb injury, got to start his first playoff game. Blanchard played well, going 12-18 for 168 yards with one touchdown.

“He was very efficient,” Leipold said. “Some of that short field modified the game plan early as far as calls there, but Matt played extremely well. He’s doing what he needs to be doing for us.”

Moving onto Franklin next week, Coppage admits its hard to beat a team twice in one season, but is confident in his coaches game plans.

“They’re a great team but we just have to leave it up to our coaches and the way we come into practice this week,” Coppage said. “They always come up with a great game plan.”

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Founded 1901
UW-W secures first playoff win