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Hawks season ends with 33-7 loss to 2022 D4 State Champion Columbus

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Prairie du Chien linebacker Blake Thiry (9) gets ready to fight through a block by Columbus running back Colton Brunell (0). Derick Kelly/Courier Press)

Abe Amundson (6) prepares to fire a pass around Cardinal Connor Roche to PdC wide receiver Xander DeHart (12). (Derick Kelly/Courier Press)

Drake Ingham (11) tries to knock the ball free from Columbus wide receiver Brady Link as Dustin Nolan (45) provides backup. (Derick Kelly/Courier Press)

Mason Hird (10) shows his wrestling prowess as he stops Columbus’ Connor Roche with a sharp double-leg takedown as brother Drew (15) looks on. (Derick Kelly/Courier Press)

Columbus running back Colten Brunell heads for the outside past Daniel Kruk (63) and Jeremiah Avery (33) as Dustin Nolan (45) pursues the leader in career rushing yards in Wisconsin High School Football. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Defensive Back Drake Ingham looks like to make a play on the overthrown Columbus pass that was intended for wide receiver Ryely Nachreiner. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Deacon Chesebro( (13) and Jadyn Garbacz (56) rush towards the on-sides kick hoping to beat the Columbus players to the ball. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Abe Amundson (6) and Jeremiah Avery (33) line up behind offensive linemen Dylan Wright (57) and Dawson Eastman (76). (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Bryce Lenzendorf (44) and Nick McCullick (20) try to trap Columbus quarterback Peyton Powers. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Blake Thiry rushes past blocker Aiden Martin (68) for his 27th touchdown of the 2023 season. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Senior Max Schneider (64) walks off the field after making a key tackle on defense. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

Daniel Kruk brings down Colton Brunell by himself as teammates Max Schneider (64) and Jeremiah Avery (33) try to help. (Courier Press/Derick Kelly)

By Derick Kelly

 

The defending WIAA Division Four state champion Columbus Cardinals came into Prairie du Chien on Friday, Oct. 27 for their level two contest with the Blackhawks looking to demonstrate why they felt they deserved the second seed in the eight team grouping and the final score of 33-7 in favor of the Cardinals indicates that, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Columbus responded after a game opening Prairie du Chien drive went three-and-out by marching down the field and scoring on a seven yard touchdown pass from Peyton Powers to Brady Link to take a 7-0 lead.

After another Blackhawk three-and-out drive led to a Blake Thiry punt that placed the Cardinals on their own one yard line, Columbus managed to eat five minutes off the clock but only made it to their 28 yard line before they too were forced to punt. However the Hawks defense was able to get a hand on the Cardinal punt and the Hawks recovered on the Columbus nine yard line. 

Thiry rushed in from two yards out for his 27th touchdown of the season (and his 19th rushing touchdown), and the 40th touchdown of his career, making him the second player in program history to ever score 40 or more touchdowns in their career (Tyler O’Kane, 48 touchdowns from 2006 to 2008).

Columbus responded right away though thanks to a 38 yard touchdown pass from Powers to Conner Roche. The PAT attempt by the Cardinals was no good though and Columbus ended up taking a 13-7 into halftime.

The third quarter ended up being the turning point as the Hawks were unable to take advantage of the Prairie defense forcing the Cardinals to punt, turn the ball over on downs, and fumble the ball back to the Hawks on three consecutive drives.

Columbus running back Colton Brunell showed why he has rushed for over 7,000 yards in his career as he managed to break through with a 80 yard touchdown run with 3:51 left in the third quarter to extend the Cardinals lead to 19-7. The Prairie defense once again stepped up to stop the Cardinals PAT rushing attempt to keep it a two score game.

The score would remain 19-7 until the middle of the 4th quarter when Brunell broke off a 73 yard touchdown run with 8:57 left in the game. After the two teams went back-and-forth exchanging possessions, Brunell sealed the game for Columbus by plunging in from four yards out for his third touchdown of the game to make the score 33-7 with 3:33 remaining. 

The score would hold up as the Hawks end the season with a record of 8-3 while the Columbus Cardinals improved to 10-1 and advanced to a level three showdown at defending Division Five state champion La Crosse Aquinas on Friday, Nov. 3.

Finishing their football careers for the Blackhawks were seniors Jeremiah Avery, Mason Baumgartner, Keagan Dull, Dawson Eastman, Drew Hird, Drake Ingham, Daniel Kruk, Aiden Martin, Max Schneider, and Dylan Wright.

The Cardinals offense was led by Brunell, 384 yards rushing on 35 carries and 3 touchdowns, and quarterback Peyton Powers (6-for-16 for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns). The Blackhawks were paced by Thiry (11 carries for 23 yards and 1 touchdown, and 2 receptions for 38 yards), Drew Hird (1 attempt for 12 yards), and Nick McCullick (1 reception for 17 yards). Thiry also finished the season with 27 touchdowns scored, good for 3rd all-time in program history behind O’Kane (32) and Drew Bode (29). It is also the most in a season by a non-senior in program history.

Thiry is also the first non-senior in program history to score 20+ touchdowns in a season and the first player in program history to have 15+ career receiving (17) and 15+ rushing touchdowns (19) each. The only other player in program history to have so much as 10+ career receiving and rushing touchdowns each is Kyle McCoy (11 receiving touchdowns and 23 rushing touchdowns).

Despite having to replace a good amount of starters from last seasons state semifinalist team, the off-the-field issues that happened before and during the season, the unlucky timing of key injuries, and playing the sixth toughest schedule in the entire state, the Blackhawks still managed to earn eight wins this season, only two fewer than last year. The team even went undefeated on the road (4-0), something that has only been done seven other times by the program over the last 50 years (2019 (6-0), 1985 (6-0), 1984 (5-0), 1980 (3-0), 1978 (4-0), 1977 (5-0), 1976 (5-0)).

This was also just the fourth time in program history that Prairie Football won at least one playoff game in back-to-back seasons (1987-88, 2008-09, and 2019-20).

Since the start of the 2017 season, the Hawks have gone 56-22 with nine playoff wins, seven consecutive postseason appearances, two conference championships, and two state semifinal appearances.

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