Head East: Warhawks a win away from title game
The UW-Whitewater football team left on a jet plane Thursday for Delaware.
The Warhawks hope to return to Wisconsin with another NCAA Division III national championship berth.
The 13-0 Warhawks play Wesley (Del.) at the Wolverines’ Scott D. Miller Stadium field at Dover in a national semifinal game Saturday at 11 a.m. CST.
The defending national champions will face a team that is their mirror image statistically.
The Warhawks have averaged 41.92 points a game in their 13 victories. The Wolverines have averaged 41.83 in their 12 victories.
Whitewater has allowed an average of 11.33 points per game. Wesley has allowed an average of 11.46.
Warhawk coach Lance Leipold is prepared for the team’s biggest challenge of the season.
“They have an outstanding defense and a very explosive offense,” Leipold said Wednesday. “I’m very impressed with them as a unit. They have very fine athletes.”
If the Warhawks are to qualify for their sixth straight appearance in the national title game, they will have to win the battle of the lines.
The Warhawks’ offensive line of tight end John Novak (6-foot-4, 275 pounds), tackles Robby Ustruck (6-3, 287) and Grant Murray (6-1, 280), guards Matt Weber (6-3, 283) and Logan Allemand (6-3, 310) and center Mark Gawronski (6-0, 289) have not lost any battles thus far.
But the Wolverine defensive line of ends Chris Mayes (6-3, 253) and Jeffery Dorsey (6-2, 252), and tackles Paul Gilstrop (5-10, 272) and Eric Adams (6-3, 292) has shown the ability to plug running lanes, which the Warhawks rely on to fuel their rushing game that has averaged 276 yards a game.
Mayes has 17 sacks and 32 tackles for loss this season, a year after he earned the D3football.com South Region Defensive Player of the Year honor.
The Wolverines held Mary Hardin Baylor to 136 yards in a 19-9 quarterfinal victory last Saturday. That was 188 yards below the Crusaders’ 324-yard average.
Wesley’s starting offensive line of tight end Tambua Bradford (6-4, 228), tackles James Buettner (6-6, 282) and Ken McDonald (6-4, 250); guards Anthony West (6-2, 307) and Brian Cranmer (6-2, 273) and center Tim Putman (6-1, 266) will matchup against Warhawk defensive ends Jon Baldwin (6-3, 263) and Jake Keeser (6-0, 240) and tackles Wesley Hicks (6-3, 278) and Luke Hibner 6-1, 260).
“It starts there (in the trenches),” Leipold said. “The turnover battle and the line of scrimmage are important.”
The Warhawks are awaiting the status of regular-season starting quarterback Matt Blanchard. The junior sprained the thumb of his throwing hand preparing for the playoff opener, and Lee Brekke has directed the offense in the three postseason victories.
“Every day he is practicing,” Leipold said of Blanchard. “He is a game time decision.”