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Defending National Champs take out UW-La Crosse in playoff shootout

Defending National Champs take out UW-La Crosse in playoff shootout


The UW-La Crosse football team had one last shot with 32 seconds left, down six, to No 1. ranked North Central in Saturday’s Division III quarterfinal.

The Eagles needed an onside kick to keep their season alive.

But, with one hop, Cardinals receiver D’Angelo Hardy took the onside 55 yards for a touchdown, essentially sealing the 55-42 win at Veterans Memorial Field.

UW-L coach Matt Janus predicted a shootout and that’s exactly what went down.

North Central took the ball first and needed just 4 plays to hit paydirt — Hardy taking a 17 yard pass from Luke Lehnen to make the score 7-0.

The Eagles answered right back as senior quarterback Keyser Helterbrand busted a 27-yarder to tie the game.

The biggest shift in the game occurred next.

The Eagles defense forced a 3 and out. On UWL’s ensuing possession, running back Gabe Lynch looked like he was about to score, before the ball was stripped at the Cardinals 2 yard line and went through the end zone for a touchback.

Running back Joe Sacco scored on an 80-yard run the next play and UW-L played catch-up the rest of the afternoon.

The Cardinals would extend the lead to 28-7 before the Eagles would strike back with an 80-yard touchdown catch from Jack Studer with 3:57 left in the half.

North Central, however, added a touchdown pass from D’Angelo Hardy to Joey Lombardi to make the lead 35-14 at the break. 

UW-La Crosse outscored the Cardinals 28-20 in the second half, getting touchdown runs from Gabe Lynch and two more from Helterbrand. The Eagles also added another touchdown from Studer, cutting the deficit to one score twice.

Helterbrand broke Evan Lewandowski’s record for most passing yards in a season. He finished with 302 today along with 135 yards rushing.

Studer surpassed Nick Holcomb’s record for most receiving yards for a season. He finished with 204 yards on the afternoon.

Lynch rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. 

Until today, the closest margin of victory for North Central was 19 in a 54-35 win over Wheaton, a game they led 42-14 in the 3rd quarter.

UW-La Crosse advanced to the round of 8 for the first time since 1996, when the Eagles reached the semifinals. 

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