Football: Warhawks snap two-game slump

 

By Andrew Bayliss

The Warhawks football class of 2013 did not come into the season expecting the Senior Day game against UW-Eau Claire to be played coming off back-to-back losses.

With three national championships and undefeated seasons in their first three years, many of the seniors had not lost in a Warhawks uniform until this season.

On Saturday, the seniors got a win, 19-10. Head coach Lance Leipold said his team had prepared hard all week to get back on track. He commended his seniors for continuing to work hard and focus during practice, despite the disappointing season that has left the ’Hawks with only pride to play for.

“That was a crucial time, a crossroads for the season,” Leipold said. “We challenged [the seniors] inwardly, asking if they’re still ready to put the work in that it takes to go out and get a couple wins to make this a respectable season.”

At 6-3, with one game remaining, the ’Hawks have no chance of winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference or qualifying for the postseason playoffs.

“At the end of the day, it’s gonna say a lot about this team and propel us in the offseason to put the effort in here in the last couple games,” Leipold said.

Senior running back Desmin Ward and the Warhawks defense led the way on Saturday.

Ward rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown in the win. He currently has 920 yards on the season and wants to reach the 1,000-yard mark to cap off his career.

“I can admit that I want to get [1,000 yards],” Ward said. “I’m a competitor. There’s been a long string of Whitewater guys that have gotten there, and I don’t want to be that guy that doesn’t.”

Defensively, the ’Hawks were fundamentally sound, consistently making tackles. They held WIAC leading rusher Joel Sweeney to just 67 yards on 22 carries.

The Blugolds made a field goal on a short drive in the first quarter, after ’Hawks sophomore Matt Behrendt threw an interception at midfield. Then, they scored a touchdown on a 78-yard drive in the second quarter.

After halftime, the ’Hawks stifled the Blugolds, holding them scoreless.

Junior linebacker Ryan Cortez led the Warhawks with 9.5 tackles.

Cortez also had a key pass deflection in the second half on UW-Eau Claire’s third-and-goal. After the deflection, the Blugolds missed a field goal and never regained any momentum.

“We prepared hard this week,” Cortez said. “We knew they were a good team, and we wanted to stop Sweeney. In the second half, we flew to the ball and tackled well.”

The Warhawks finish their season on the road next Saturday, when they travel to play UW- La Crosse. Leipold said the team wants to use their final game as a springboard into next season.

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