Warhawks put sights on Franklin College
The Warhawks won’t open that door until they need to.
Coach Lance Leipold refuses to discuss his defending national champions’ No. 2 seed in the West Region as he prepares the Warhawks for their first-round game at home Saturday against Franklin (Ind.) College.
Leipold and the Warhawks’ focus is on stopping the 9-1 Grizzlies.
“Our energy and focus have to be on Franklin,” Leipold said.
The Warhawks, ranked No. 1 all season in all the national polls, take a 10-0 record into the noon game at Perkins Stadium.
The Grizzlies (9-1) earned their playoff berth by winning the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title. The team’s only loss came on the opening weekend against Carthage, a school in Kenosha.
Kyle Ray, who led the NCAA Division III in quarterback efficiency, leads Franklin.
Ray has completed 74 percent of his passes (197 of 268) for 2,731 yards and 32 touchdowns. He has thrown only six interceptions while directing an offense that has averaged 48.8 points per game.
“Ray is very talented and very accurate,” Leipold said. “They want to spread you out.”
Ray completed 34 of 41 passes for 361 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-25 victory over Hanover College.
Leipold said the Franklin offense is comparable to UW-Platteville, with the quarterback operating out of the shotgun. The Grizzlies will use a two-back set, which the Pioneers don’t do.
The Grizzlies have scored more than 60 points twice and more than 50 twice.
“When you get to the playoffs, you’re going to play good football teams,” Leipold said. “They’re going to play with a lot of confidence. They’re ready to make a statement about their program on a national level.”
The Warhawks will counter with an offense that has averaged 42.8 points and a defense that has allowed an average of just 8.7 points.
Leipold is confident about his defense.
“We’ve played great team defense,” Leipold said. “This will be a test against their passing game.”
Leipold said the Warhawks “are hanging in there” on the injury front. Sophomore defensive back and punt and kickoff returner Shane Covington, who was injured two weeks ago, and Sam Overton, a junior defensive back who was injured in the Platteville game Sept. 30, both are making strides to get back on the field.
The Warhawks’ top three running backs, Levell Coppage (1,121 yards rushing), Antwan Anderson (762) and Booker Stanley (602) all will be available for Saturday’s game.
The winner of Saturday’s game plays DePauw (Ind.) University (9-1) or Trine (10-0) University (10-0) on Saturday, Nov. 27.