MONROE — A season ago the final two unbeaten teams met up in the state championship — Bangor and Black Hawk.
The final score was a bit lopsided, 37-14. It left a bad taste in the mouth of the Warriors, who took home the silver ball.
“We didn’t forget that feeling,” Black Hawk senior Colby Argall said.
The two teams rolled through the regular season, with Black Hawk going 8-0 and Bangor finishing 8-1 — its lone loss to Potosi-Cassville, a team Black Hawk twice beat by one touchdown.
Now Bangor and Black Hawk will meet again, only this time it’s not for the gold ball, instead it is for the right to play for the gold ball. The two teams will square off Nov. 9 at Middleton High School, with the winner advancing to the state championship Nov. 15 against either Reedsville or unbeaten Edgar.
“But we can’t worry about that, we just have to worry about taking care of ourselves and our preparation and not worry about who we are playing,” Black Hawk head coach Cory Milz said.
Bangor, much like Black Hawk, likes to bang around with the ball in-between the tackles. The Cardinals have gained 3,825 rushing yards this year and have averaged 34.1 points per game. Bangor seldom passes, and has just 367 yards and four TDs through the air.
“It’s a different year, but what Bangor does is it presents some problems with their offense,” Milz said. “Bangor does what we do best on defense, which is stop the run.”
Milz said the advantage his team feels it has over last year might just be the film of the game. While team exchange footage to learn and scout one another, having video of your own team playing them adds to the comfort of making the right adjustments the second time around.
If you go ...
WIAA Division 7 Football Playoffs, Level 4: Black Hawk (11-0) vs. Bangor (11-1)
■ When: Friday, Nov. 9
■ Where: Brietenbach Stadium, Middleton High School
■ When: 7 p.m.
“We have the luxury of learning from last year’s film and understanding where the run-fits need to be,” Milz said, while clarifying that at the base level “they are not going to change what they do, and we won’t change what we do.”
Leading the way for the Cardinals is running back Carter Horstman, who has 1,673 rushing yards on 233 attempts (7.2 average) with 23 touchdowns. Four other Bangor players have over 200 rushing yards on the season, with quarterback Trevor Jones having the second most yards on the team (597).
Black Hawk has 3,353 yards on the ground this year with another 627 yards through the air. The Warriors are averaging 38 points per game while giving up just shy of 11. Bangor’s defense has been tremendous, holding opponents to under 7 points per game this season. In the first half alone, Bangor has outscored opponents 298-15.
“Any points in a game like this is huge,” Milz said.
Black Hawk’s offense keys through Argall, the school’s all-time leading rusher with over 1,773 yards rushing (9.1 ypc) with 25 TDs this year and 63 for his career. He’s also a threat returning the ball, with four career returns for a score, two catches for a score, eight interceptions and two pick-6 scores in his career.
“Colby’s dangerous in the open field. He’s a dynamic playmaker and we’re lucky to have him,” Milz said.
Senior fullback Mitchell Quinn has run for 469 yards, while quarterback Kyle Lovelace and H-back Rece Shelton give the Warriors various threats on the ground and through the air.
“I’m very excited. They obviously beat us in the state championship game last year so we’re going to come out firing and hoping to get a little redemption for it,” said Lovelace, a senior.
Lovelace waited in the wings as a backup QB throughout his high school career, but was able to take over the starting role this year. Milz has liked what he’s seen so far.
“It takes a little while to get the knack of (read-option) and not trying to do too much so you can stay within the offense and let the defense dictate what you’re going to do,” Milz said. “But he’s good runner, and he’s a physical kid which helps make him good runner in between the tackles. And that’s what you need when so many people are keying on Colby. You need a weapon like that. We want to run the football, run the clock and establish field position. We’re still old school here.”
Black Hawk has faced a tough road to get to the fourth round of the playoffs and handled it well. Single score wins over Potosi-Cassville and Pecatonica-Argyle presented the biggest challenged, but the conference had three teams playing in Level 3 of the playoffs — Black Hawk, Benton-Scales Mound and Highland.
“This year was an above average year for the conference just because so many teams had so many seniors,” Milz said. “We always say as coaches that when you put seniors on the field, they’re dangerous. There is just something about being a little bit more mature of a kid, a senior where you know it’s your last hoorah so you play faster, you play harder, you don’t quit — and that’s what I think you saw in our conference this year.”