The Viroqua High School football team has found another gear over the past couple of weeks, including Friday night's dominating 38-0 road victory over Onalaska Luther, putting a literal damper (in more ways than one) on the Knights' homecoming celebration. The game, played in a driving rainstorm was interrupted by a 90-minute rain delay, due to lightning in the area, and did not conclude until 11 p.m.
With the convincing win over Luther and the previous week’s 42-6 shellacking of Black River Falls, the Blackhawks have out-scored the opposition by combined scores of 80-6 in their last two Coulee Conference contests. The two-game winning streak improves the Blackhawks' season record to 4-4 in all games and 2-2 in the Coulee and is the first four-win season for the Hawks since the 2015 campaign. Luther slipped to 0-4 in the Coulee and 2-6 overall.
To say the Blackhawks were dominating might not even do justice to what the defense accomplished, recording a virtual triple shutout. The Hawks not only kept the Knights off the scoreboard, but did not allow a first down and held Luther to just a single yard of total offense in the entire game. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, rolled up 360 yards of total offense, including 343 on the ground and 17 through the air.
Senior quarter back/running back Ryan Hannah continued to pile up impressive offensive statistics, rushing for 225 yards and four touchdowns on runs of 13, 43, 21 and 5 yards. The four trips to the end zone pushes Hannah’s team leading season touchdown total to 16, in addition to three passing scores. Younger brother Tyler Hannah, a VHS sophomore, recorded his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season, running for 107 yards and joined Ryan Hannah in the scoring column with a one-yard score. The dynamic brother duo each passed the 1,000-yard plateau for the season, Ryan Hannah with 1,039 and Tyler Hannah with 1,008.
The Hannah brothers may have garnered most of the offensive headlines in the lopsided win, but it could not have been done without an outstanding performance by the Viroqua offensive and defensive lines, which are virtually one and the same, with so many players playing on both sides of the ball.
The combination of Sam Saner left tackle, Sawyer Felton left guard, Braxton Cary center, Christian Schneider right guard and Trent Berg right tackle did the dirty work in the mud-soaked trenches. Ends Anthony Rappl (right), and Brendan Ellefson and Matt Kleiber (share left side duties) and Steve Diehl, fullback, help create the edge blocking for the outside running plays. Diehl and Berg are the only two seniors in the group.
The same contingent of players with the addition of the defensive secondary, including Sam Jett, Kasey Hammond, Andrew Wedwick, Ryan Hannah and Tyler Hannah at linebacker, and Keenan Hanson at defensive tackle, were the Blackhawk defenders which completely shut down the Luther offense.
The Blackhawks opened the scoring with an 11-play, 65-yard drive capped off by the 13-yard TD run by Ryann Hannah midway through the opening quarter. Diehl found the end zone for the two-point conversion and the Blackhawks took an 8-0 advantage. The Hawks faced a pair of fourth downs on the drive, the first was converted on a 25-yard burst by Tyler Hannah to the Luther 17 and the next on a fourth and six at the Knights' 13, resulting in Ryan Hannah’s score.
The lead grew to 16-0 with 4:56 left in the half when Tyler Hannah crashed in from one yard out and Diehl walked into the end zone untouched on the two-point conversion. The score was set up on a 17-yard pass completion from quarterback Casey Hammond to Rappl, who made a spectacular catch with a defender draped all over him and rain pouring down just short of the Luther goal line. During the Rappl catch the first lightning strike occurred, sending both teams and the fans off the field for the lengthy delay. The younger Hannah’s one-yard plunge came on the first play following the delay.
Viroqua made it 24-0 with 2:11 left in the third quarter on a 43-yard scamper by Hannah, who slashed his way through the Luther defense and raced down the left sidelines for the score. Wedwick crashed into the end zone for the successful two-point conversion.
Viroqua’s next score came after Saner recovered a Luther fumble at the Knights' 37-yard line, and it took the Blackhawks just six plays to score, with Ryan Hannah covering the final 22 yards, once again finding an opening created by the left side of the Blackhawks' offensive line. Diehl converted his third two-point try of the night and the lead grew to 32-0.
After the two teams exchanged fumbles, the Blackhawks took possession and marched 63 yards in nine plays, with Ryan Hannah cashing in for his fourth touchdown from 6 yards out. The point after conversion came up short and the Hawks had pushed the game to run-time with a commanding 38-0 lead with 7:06 left on the game clock.
For the second game in a row, head coach Bill Hannah elected to go with Hammond, a junior, at quarterback and utilize the double-wing offense, which has been the staple for the Hawks offense for years. Once again, for the second consecutive game, coach Hannah switched back to the shotgun, which was implemented as the Viroqua offense at the beginning of the 2017 season, with Ryan Hannah at the controls later in the game.
“We switched back to the shotgun at half to see how they (Luther) would react,” coach Hannah said after the game. “We felt we were having success with that formation and decided to stick with it.”
Tyler Hannah led the swarming and hard-hitting defensive effort with seven tackles, Diehl was next with five including three tackles for loss (TFL), Rappl added 4.5 tackles, a sack and two TFLs, Schneider chipped in with three tackles, a sack and a TFL and Ryan Hannah a TFL. The seven TFLs recorded versus Luther moves the Blackhawk season total to 55, meanwhile, the Blackhawks' sack total grew to 14 for the year, while by comparison, the Blackhawk offensive line has yet to allow a sack this season.
When asked what has been the key factor in the much-improved Blackhawk defense over the course of the season, VHS defensive coordinator Eric Anderson said, “We have stuck to fundamentals and have become better tacklers and played assignment strong football. These two things together have allowed us to be more aggressive defensively, play man coverage and effectively bring pressure blitzing.”
Tyler Hannah leads the team in tackles this year with 54 and 10 TFLs, Ryan Hannah is next with 41 (4.5 TFLs), followed by Diehl 40.5 (8 TFLs), Rappl 29 (7 TFLs), Berg 24 (4 TFLs), Saner 23.5 (7.5 TFLs), Schneider 21.5 (7.5 TFLs), Jett 17.5, Hammond 12.5, Wedwick 9.5, Hanson 7, Ellefson 7, Felton 6.5 (4 TFLs) and Cary 5.5. The Viroqua defense has also nabbed eight interceptions this season led by Ryan Hannah with 3 and the Blackhawks have not had a pass picked off by the opposition.
The Blackhawks wrap up regular season play with a trip to Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau to battle the Coulee Conference leading Red-Hawks (4-0 and 8-0), Friday, Oct. 13.