La Follette overcomes early mistakes against Craig
MADISON—Madison La Follette never panicked.
With its offensive arsenal, why should it?
Janesville Craig jumped out to a nine-point lead before the Lancers even touched the ball on Friday night thanks to two of their whopping five turnovers. That didn't stop La Follette from clinching its spot in the WIAA Division 1 football playoffs, as it recovered and later scored 27 consecutive points in a 41-23 Big Eight victory over the Cougars.
“They're very multiple and can beat you a bunch of different ways,” Craig coach Ben McCormick said. “Big plays in the passing game hurt us, and we've got to correct those things.”
The Cougars had an opportunity to deliver a first-round knockout.
On their first play from scrimmage, quarterback Tom Gabower kept the ball on an option play to the right and flew 62 yards for a touchdown.
La Follette fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, but Craig only managed to put a field goal on the board.
Then the Lancers' next drive ended with an interception by Cougars defensive back Javen Murry. Craig failed to move the chains, however, and missed out on grabbing a big lead early.
“We need to take opportunities in the red zone when we get them,” McCormick said. “Give credit to La Follette, they came up with some big stops and some big plays.”
La Follette responded in a big way.
Receiver Hunter Mickelson got behind the Cougars' secondary and caught a 78-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Carlson with 7:18 left in the first quarter to put some wind back in the Lancers' sails.
They took the lead when Marcus Collins, who will play at Pitt next year, jumped up and over a Craig defender to catch a 31-yard scoring strike.
Mickelson had six catches for 184 yards. Carlson completed 9 of 14 passing attempts for 223 yards and those two touchdowns.
“One was an obvious blown coverage, and then, two, they threw it up a couple times, and they're pretty talented there,” McCormick said.
The teams traded touchdowns from there and La Follette led 20-16 at halftime.
It was all about Lancers running back Cahleel Copus and La Follette's opportunistic defense.
With the Cougars trailing 27-16 in the third quarter, the Lancers came up with an interception on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line to maintain their two-possession lead.
“We've got to protect the ball,” McCormick said. “We took ourselves out of points there. We kick the field goal and make it a one-possession game. But it got a little tougher there.
“It was kind of a sloppy game on both sides, but they did enough to win.”
Copus, who ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns, put the game away with a 5-yard pass to Collins on fourth-and-goal with 3:27 left in the game, making it 34-16.
La Follette improved to 5-1 in the Big Eight, clinching a playoff spot. Now Craig will need to win out over its final three games to do the same. It starts next week at home against Big Eight-contender Madison Memorial.
MADISON LA FOLLETTE 41, JANESVILLE CRAIG 23
Janesville Craig 9 7 0 7—23
Madison La Follette 14 6 7 14—41
Scoring summary: JC—Tom Gabower, 62 run (kick failed). C—Glowacki, 30 field goal. ML—Hunter Mickelson, 78 pass from Jordan Carlson (Hanna Hilgendorf kick). ML—Marcus Collins, 31 pass from Carlson (Hilgendorf kick). JC—D.J. Weberg, 2 run (Glowacki kick). ML—Cahleel Copus, 4 run (pass failed). ML—Andrew Sanders, 5 run (Hilgendorf kick). ML—Collins, 5 pass from Copus (Hilgendorf kick). ML—Copus, 1 run (Hilgendorf kick). C—Ryan Kind, 17 pass from Shayne Ellis (Glowacki kick).
Statistics: First downs—C 15, ML 18. Rushing—C 41-250, ML 34-233. Passing yards—C 70, ML 228. Passes—C 17-5-3, ML 15-10-1. Fumbles—C 2-1, ML 4-4. Penalties—C 6-68, ML 6-48.