Prairie wins 7-6

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Prairie du Chien's Traeton Saint follows his block and gets to the outside versus La Crosse Aquinas Saturday afternoon. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

Mason Kramer hauls in a pass and races down the sideline.

Tyler Hannah (44) and other defenders drag the Aquinas ballcarrier out of bounds.

Traeton Saint looks for running room.

Traeton Saint gets to the outside for a good gain.

Jon Titlbach (86) and several other Blackhawks stop the La Crosse runner.

Mason Kramer returns a punt for good yardage.

Quarterback Dylan Coleman attempts to elude an Aquinas defender.

Traeton Saint sacks the Aquinas quarterback following a bad snap.

Tyler Hannah looks for an opening.

By Zach Mara

The Prairie du Chien Blackhawks opened up the 2019 season versus the Aquinas Blugolds on Saturday at UW-La Crosse. The game featured strong defensive efforts by both sides, with the teams combining for only 4 appearances in the redzone. Ultimately, after the stagnant offenses opened up late in the 4th quarter, the game was decided by the leg of first-year kicker Derek Grondin, whose successful PAT kick lifted the Hawks (1-0) to a 7-6 victory over the Blugolds (0-1). The Blugolds didn't wait long to get the excitement of the season underway, as they perfectly executed a fake punt on 4th-and-16 from their own 34 to keep the opening drive rolling. A strong defensive push from the Hawks sent Aquinas backwards from there, forcing a punt 5 plays later. The Hawks turned to seniors Tyler Hannah and Traeton Saint to methodically march the ball down the field, getting all the way down to the Aquinas 10-yard-line before a Blugold defender jumped in front of a pass from senior QB Dylan Coleman to take over possession at the 7. The teams then exchanged 3-and-outs as the 1st quarter came to a close.The Hawks' defense picked up right where it left off in the second quarter, forcing the Blugolds to punt for the 3rd time in 3 possessions. PdC then threatened again, advancing to the Aquinas 18-yard-line after a pass from Coleman to senior WR Mason Kramer and a big gain from Hannah. The drive was cut short as Aquinas LB Evan Kujak stripped the ball away from Coleman to take over at the 22-yard-line. The teams exchanged punts again to set up Aquinas at their own 35. After a 6-play drive, the Blugolds were forced to punt to Mason Kramer, whose long return was negated by a penalty to send the game to halftime tied 0-0. The third quarter showed no early signs of offensive life, as the Blackhawks were held to a pair of three-and-outs and the Blugolds punted once as well. However, after a great punt return started the Blugolds in PdC territory, the Hawks' defense appeared to be on its heels, getting pushed down to the 22-yard-line. On 4th-and-2, brothers Traeton (Sr.) and Bradyn (Jr.) Saint combined to stuff the Aquinas RB short of the line and the Hawks took over as the 3rd quarter wound to a close. After 3 more punts, the offenses finally found a way to burst through after another long return from Aquinas' Quinn Miskowski set up the Blugolds at the PdC 20-yard-line. Five plays later, RB Matthew Reuteman punched in the score from 3 yards out. After a penalty pushed the PAT attempt back to the 8-yard-line, Aquinas' two-point conversion attempt was no good, but the Blugolds had grabbed a 6-0 lead with 2:51 remaining in the game. The ensuing kickoff was fallen on by Bradyn Saint to set up the Hawks at their own 34-yard-line with 2:48 to go. On the first play of the drive, Coleman ran a QB keeper for 11 yards before being taken down by his facemask. The penalty pushed the ball up the the Blugolds 40-yard-line. After short gains by Saint and Coleman, the Hawks stalled and faced a 3rd-and-10 from the 25-yard-line. With time running down, Coleman dropped back and hit senior Ben Riter in stride across the middle for a 10-yard gain and a first down. On the very next play, Kramer barrelled into the endzone for a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown to tie the game at 6. Junior Derek Grondin nailed the extra point to put the Hawks up 7-6 with 36 seconds to go in the game. The Blugolds found themselves in position for a Hail Mary with under 10 seconds to go but Dylan Coleman jumped to bring down the pass himself at the 2-yard-line. Two kneeldowns later, and the Blackhawks had secured themselves the win in Week 1.Traeton Saint led all rushers with 46 yards on 13 carries. Dylan Coleman went 6-14 in the air for 70 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception, and Mason Kramer led the receivers with 3 receptions for 46 yards. The defense was led by Tyler Hannah, who pitched in on 12 tackles, and Traeton Saint, who recorded 11 tackles and 1 sack.The Blackhawks travel to Waterloo, Wis., on Friday night to face the Pirates (0-1) in a non-conference matchup. Game time is 7 p.m.

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