PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Concordia University Wisconsin put up a valiant effort against a formidable opponent on Saturday afternoon at UW-Platteville during the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship. However, the Falcons season ended with a 54-20 loss to the Pioneers.
CUW (8-3) forced four turnovers – three fumbles and one interception – but converted those opportunities into just seven points. The defense didn't get a lot of pressure against UW-P's quarterbacks and found itself down 28-7 at halftime and 38-13 after three quarters of play.
Each time the Falcons took the ball away from the Pioneers they had decent field position, but managed only 142 total offensive yards on those four drives. The lone touchdown scored off a UW-P error was a LaCurt Evans (Bloomingdale, Ill.) touchdown run from three yards out in the second quarter – CUW's first score of the game.
The weather was cold on the field (17 degrees at kickoff) and the Falcons offense was challenged during the opening half and managed just 119 total offensive yards. CUW found its rhythm in the second half scoring on a pair of passing touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Austin Damaschke (Bristol, Wis.) finished 24-of-46 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with junior Garrett Wenzelburger (Hartland, Wis.) nine times for 124 yards and a score. Senior James Saunders (Riverview, Fla.) finished with seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown.
UW-P (11-0) finished with 679 total offensive yards, including 496 passing, and 32 first downs. It also ran for 183 yards and converted 7-of-12 third downs. John Kelly led the impressive passing attack with a 28-of-38 performance for 422 yards and three touchdowns.
Trevor Whitehead led the Pioneers with 10 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. Paul Reit had eight receptions for 118 yards and two scores. On the ground, Andy Puccini ran for 117 yards on 18 attempts (6.5 average) and two scores. Ryan Fish also had a rushing touchdown and 67 rushing yards.
UW-P's high-powered passing attack provided CUW's defense with numerous opportunities to create highlight plays. Freshman QuRon Hall (Jacksonville, Fla.) had two forced fumbles and Senior Ben Kempen (Malone, Wis.) also caused a fumble. Recovering loose balls were sophomore Luke Scheuerlein (Thiensville, Wis.), freshman Kevin Kern (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and sophomore Austin Kaatz (Pewaukee, Wis.)
Senior John Palese (West Bend, Wis.) finished with the Falcons only interception, a career-high three pass breakups and 10 total tackles, eight solo. Senior Joe Paul (West Bend, Wis.) ended his career with a stellar performance, recording 13 total tackles (10 solo), along with a 1/2 sack and a pass breakup. Sophomore Aaron Krapfl (Anamosa, Iowa) also had two pass breakups.
Paul also returned seven kickoffs for 128 yards, which was a career high.
Despite the loss, Damaschke set the CUW career record for passing yards (7,128), to go along with the CUW single season (398) and Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference career records for pass attempts (845).
The Falcons ended their season with numerous highlights that include an undefeated NACC record (6-0), a Cheese Bowl victory, a Lutheran Bowl victory and the first trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs in head coach Greg Etter's tenure.