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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

UWL Eagles Football gain All-Conference recognition, dominate Cougars in playoff victory

John Gaynor
Shane Lange returns an interception thrown by Marcus Reeb. (Photo taken by John Gaynor.)

The top-ranked University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Eagles Football Team advanced to the second round of the Division III National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) playoffs after defeating the University of Minnesota Morris Cougars by a score of 62-7.

Saturday’s game was a significant victory for the program, with the win being the program’s most recent home playoff game since 2006, and the first playoff win at home since 2004.

Eagles Head Coach Matt Janus was asked about what it means to win at home and continue to be able to play at home until the national championship, he said, “It’s not only playing in front of the home crowd and playing in front of the La Crosse community, it’s also for our guys.” Coach Janus defined how important routine is for the team as a whole, “On Mondays, we wake up and do scouting report, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we lift weights in the morning, and that’s just how the season goes. We get to stay in that kind of habit that we form within ourselves.”

Saturday’s game began with the Eagles winning the coin toss and electing to receive. Within minutes, Jack Janke returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The first quarter was full of more scoring action, including a 45-yard touchdown run by Dayo Oye and a trio of touchdown passes from Keyser Helterbrand to Charley Thompson, Jack Studer and Ryan Bartol.

The Eagles added to their 35-0 lead in the second quarter, with Helterbrand throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Dryden Schaefer, and Michael Stack made the point after touchdown (PAT) to put the Eagles up 42-0. Just five minutes and 16 seconds later, Stack converted a 14-yard kick to make the score 45-0.

The Eagles began the second half on defense, and after seven plays the score remained 45-0 and the Eagles took over on their own 32-yard line. The 11-play, 68-yard drive down the field lasted five minutes and 52 seconds. Highlights of the drive include a 22-yard rush by Thompson, as well as a 21-yard pass from Riley Warzynski to Ashton Gondeck. The drive ended with a one-yard touchdown pass to Cade Myszewski, and a PAT from Stack to make the score 52-0.

The Eagles took another turn and drove down the field, but came up short and punted for the first time in the contest with 3:01 left in the third quarter. The 4th quarter began with Minnesota-Morris’ only scoring drive of the afternoon, with a 45-yard pass from Marcus Reeb to Cole Mitchell. Alex Happ kicked the PAT and the score became 52-7.

The Eagles regained possession and for their final scoring drive of the afternoon, took five minutes and ten seconds, resulting in a 33-yard field goal from Stack to make the score 62-7.

Passing leaders for the contest were Hildebrand and Reeb, with 175 yards and 130 yards respectively. Hildebrand was benched at the end of the first half to prevent injury and was replaced by Warzynski, who threw for two touchdowns and 121 yards. Reeb also threw two interceptions to Junior Defensive Back Shane Lange and Sophomore Defensive Back Bryson Mazur. Oye led the Eagles in rushing yards, with 115 yards and one touchdown on the afternoon.

After his first-half performance, The Racquet Press met with Keyser Hildebrand about how his performance reflected upon winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Player of The Year Award, he responded by saying, “It’s awesome to get that recognition, I really don’t look into those awards too much. All I care about is winning each week and being a part of a winning football team.”

When asked about the team’s performance in the first half and Janke’s 90-yard kick return off the opening kick, Head Coach Matt Janus said, “You’re waiting for who’s gonna make that first big play, and we didn’t have to wait long… to convert on the offensive end and get an early jump in a big game certainly helped us.” 

Many of the Eagles players and coaching staff have recently been recognized for their success on the field, as six players received All-WIAC 1st team awards, three players received All-WIAC 2nd team awards, and four players received an honorable mention to the All-WIAC team for their success this year. After leading the Eagles to a 10-1 record and winning the WIAC, UWL Football Head Coach Janus won WIAC Coach of the Year. In addition, UWL Football Offensive Line Coach Andrew McGlenn won the WIAC Assistant Coach of the Year award. Senior Quarterback Helterbrand won WIAC Player of the Year, and Sophomore Kicker Stack won WIAC Special Teams Player of the Year.

Saturday’s win was the Eagles’ 1st ever matchup in program history against the Cougars and resulted in Head Coach Matt Janus’s 28th win with the program. The full box score from Saturday’s game can be found here. The Eagles look to extend their playoff run against Aurora University, at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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About the Contributor
John Gaynor
John Gaynor, Sports Reporter
Year at UWL: Freshman
PGPs: He/Him
Hometown: Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Major: Marketing
Minor: N/A
Other Campus Involvement: Running Club, Track & Field Team
Future Plans after Graduation: Work in the aviation industry
Favorite Activity in La Crosse: Walking near the river
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    Scott GaynorNov 20, 2023 at 8:29 pm

    Way to go John the article was very thorough and descriptive. I enjoyed reading it very much! Go Eagles