Hilltoppers headed back to state title game

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Glenwood City will be defending its state football championship.

A dominating offensive performance and stalwart, second-half defensive effort brought the Hilltoppers victory in the Division 7, Level 4 football playoff contest last Friday night. Glenwood City piled up 478 yards of offense en route to a 48-26 victory over a persistent Pittsville Panthers’ squad on Dorais Field at Chippewa Falls High School November 15 and earned the team its second consecutive trip to the Division 7 state title game.

“It is a lot tougher,” said Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong about getting back to the state title game for a second straight year.

“A year ago no one expected us to get there and this year there has been a lot of pressure on the kids, not negative pressure as the community has been fantastic supporting us all year long,” Strong added shortly after the Pittsville win. “Just the pressure that we have so many kids back, they expect us to be in the state championship game and the area schools expect us to be in the state championship game.”

“We have never talked about it,” Strong continued. “The first time I have ever mentioned it (this year) was in that huddle just now before we broke as a team. Now we are going to go get that state championship.”

Standing between the Hilltoppers and a second straight D7 state championship and the school’s fourth golden football is the Black Hawk Warriors. The two teams will squared off for the 2013 WIAA D7 State Championship at 10 a.m. Thursday, November 21 at Camp Randall Stadium on the UW-Madison campus. Black held the top spot in the final regular season poll while Glenwood City, who started the year as the number one seed, is ranked fourth.

“Black Hawk is going to be a great football team,” Strong stated. “But we have to see them on film and see what we are going to do against them.”

What Strong will see is a squad that touts a big and physical line, a pair of backs with divergent talents that have each gained over 1,000 yards, and a 6’ 4”, nearly 200-pound senior quarterback that has flung the pig skin for 1,384 yards and 14 touchdowns and has ran for another 800 yards and 11 scores.

The Black Hawk School District serves the communities of Gratiot, Martintown, Wiota, Woodford, and South Wayne in southeastern Lafayette County. The high school, with an enrollment of 116 students, is located in South Wayne just about 10 miles north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

But what Black Hawk may lack in size they make up for in tradition. The Warrior football program has made the WIAA playoffs 19 times since 1981 and finished as the Division 6 runners-up in 1998. This is the school’s fourth straight playoff appearance. A year ago, Black Hawk lost a 14-12 decision to Catholic Central in a Division 7, Level 1 contest.

But this season, the Warriors have dominated its conference and playoff opponents. Undefeated Black Hawk (13-0) hails from the Six Rivers Conference, home of Toppers’ 2012 state championship opponent Potosi. Black Hawk dealt Potosi a pair of decisive losses this fall including a 43-6 whipping in the regular season and 41-12 in Level 3 of the playoffs. The Warriors, who won all eight of its conference games by an average score of 42 to 12, have ravaged their playoff competition beating conference mate Belmont 48-0, DeSoto 42-0, and Lake Country Lutheran in the state semifinal (Level 4) 60-33.

The Hilltoppers, 12-1 this season, are no stranger to success on the gridiron themselves having made the playoffs 14 times since 1983 and currently enjoy a 32-10 mark in tournament play. Glenwood City is a perfect three-for-three in state championships including last year’s 46-21 Division 7 title win over Potosi. The Toppers also have won the Division 6 crown in 1985 and the 1997 Division 5 championship with an unblemished 14-0 record.

Glenwood City has also enjoyed an impressive 2013 playoff run itself. This Topper team opened the Division 7 tournament with a 50-8 win over Clayton, then bested Owen-Withee 42-21, handed previously unbeaten Pepin/Alma its first loss with a 30-8 level 3 victory, and capped its return to the state title game with a 48-26 win over Pittsville in last Friday’s Level 4 contest in Chippewa Falls.

But the journey has not been an easy one for the Hilltoppers, who have had to  played through several key injuries and with a big target on their back.

“Every week the teams would show up, ‘We want to beat Glenwood City’,” explained Coach Strong. “A year ago that was not the case, so I think it has been tougher this year to get to this point because of that but our kids have been so resilient and battled even when teams have been making plays on us.”

The Toppers will need to remain resilient Thursday when they go after a second straight title and look to score number four.

Tickets for Thursday’s state championship game at Camp Randall are currently on sale at the high school office until Noon today (Wednesday, November 20). Tickets are $8.00 for ages 7 to adult. Tickets for children under six is $1. The school is also offering bus transportation to and from the game for an additional cost of $7 per person. Buses will depart the high school at 4:45 a.m. on Thursday morning, November 21. School has also been cancelled for Thursday.

The public is invited to a pep fest and send off for the football team at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, November 20.

For those that are unable to make the journey to Madison, the games will be televised live on Fox Sports North but will not be made available for live streaming over the internet due to contractual obligations.

Coverage of the Hilltoppers level 4 win over Pittsville can be found on the sports pages inside this week’s issue.