Whitewater takes control of WIAC from LaCrosse
UW-Whitewater’s recent dominance over UW-La Crosse on the football field represents the turn of power in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Warhawks will go for their seventh straight victory against the Eagles on Saturday in the regular-season finale at Perkins Stadium.
Whitewater has won six straight WIAC football titles, dominating the conference like no other football program since UW-La Crosse won six straight titles from 1949-1954.
The Warhawks wrapped up the undisputed WIAC title last week with a win at Oshkosh, and will attempt to go 7-0 in the conference for the fifth time in those six championship seasons.
Whitewater’s 40-1 record within the conference during those six seasons is a mark of dominance unrivaled in recent history. La Crosse comes the closest to that, going 41-3-1 from 1991 to 1996, winning five conference titles in those six seasons.
The Eagles also ran off three straight undisputed WIAC title seasons from 2002 through 2004, going 17-4 in conference games.
Saturday’s game matches the two most successful football programs in the conference—La Crosse with 33 conference titles and Whitewater with 30.
But the Warhawks, who have played in the past five NCAA Division III championship games, winning two national titles, clearly have the dominant program now.
La Crosse comes into Whitewater with a 3-3 conference record and is 3-6 overall. Since 2007, the Eagles are 16-22. In that same stretch, including playoff games, Whitewater is 51-3.
With the playoffs starting next week and the rivalry between the two schools, Whitewater coach Lance Leipold doesn’t expect a letdown.
“The big thing is to play well and stay healthy,” Leipold said. “You want to play games at home in the playoffs.”
A win would essentially clinch home-field advantage for Whitewater (9-0 overall, 6-0 in the WIAC) through the first four rounds of the playoffs. And although the Eagles have a losing overall record, Leipold can justify warning his team about a possible upset.
In the past two weeks, La Crosse defeated Stout, 29-28, on the road, and last week stomped visiting Eau Claire, 49-14.
“They are not playing like a 3-6 football team,” Leipold said. “Their talent level and ability does not equate to what their record is right now.”
The Eagles were motivated on several fronts against Eau Claire. It was Senior Day and also the final home game for coach Larry Terry. The 11th-year head coach informed the team the previous Sunday that he would be retiring after the season.
The news shook the Eagles, including freshman wide receiver Tony Bilderback, a Whitewater High graduate.
“That was definitely unexpected,” Bilderback told the La Crosse Tribune. “We all love coach Terry. He’s a great guy. He’s doing it for the team, and he’s doing it for the right reason. We’ve just got to hold on now and see what happens.”
The Warhawks will have inspiration of their own Saturday. It will be Senior Day, and the Warhawks will honor former head coach Forrest Perkins on his 90th birthday.
Perkins Stadium, of course, bears the legendary coach’s name.