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Opinion

Division III football proves to be exciting

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November 1, 2007

I’m having a flashback right now to a couple weeks ago. One of my good friends from high school that I have been begging to come over from Eau Claire to have a good time in River Falls was on the phone with me and I was trying to convince her to come down for the Nov. 30 hockey game against Eau Claire. Her response was this:

“Well, I don’t really care that much about Div. III sports, but I’ll think about it.” Asked why she didn’t care that much she replied, “They’re just not exciting. There isn’t an atmosphere around it.”

Apparently, my good friend should have attended to the Falcon Football game against Platteville last Saturday. If you didn’t go and you weren’t in Madison giving your liver an exercise in tolerance, shame on you. The game was probably the most exciting game I’ve seen in years. Then again, I am a Viking and Gopher fan so I haven’t seen an exciting game in a couple of years.

The game started with a bang for the Falcons when they marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead with a five yard touchdown pass from Storm Harmon to Ryan Hansen, the WIAC’s answer to Antonio Gates. (Yes, I said that.) However, the wheels came flying off for the Falcons as Storm Harmon would throw two interceptions to Pioneer cornerback Quincy Hudson.

One of those interceptions would be returned for a touchdown. The Pioneers, lead by an awesome performance by runningback Mike Genslinger, would jump out to a 29-14 lead and Storm Harmon would be benched early in the second quarter. Ryan Luessenheide came in for Harmon and didn’t have too much success. Harmon then would return late in the second quarter, but the Falcons still looked dead in the water.

Suddenly, in the third quarter, the Falcons defense showed up and started stopping the Pioneers offense which had manhandled them in the second half with the exception of Hudson’s pick six. Nathan Anderson would eventually plow his way in from the one yard line, and the Falcons would get a two-point conversion on a catch by Michael Zweifel, who should be the WIAC Freshman of the Year.

The fourth quarter was the best part of this game. Both teams held each other to an offensive standstill until the end of the fourth. After converting a fourth down, the Falcons marched all the way down to the one when Harmon, who remember had been benched in the second quarter, dove in for a touchdown. The Falcons seemingly had the game tied as the extra point was on the way … and was wide right, 29-28. The reaction with myself in the broadcast booth wanted to sound something like, “#@$%!!!” because it was the fourth missed extra point this season, but instead it was just dead silence and then, “It’s only an 18 yard field goal! It’s not that hard!” Of course, once the adrenaline wore off, I reminded myself of my kicking abilities and knew that it wouldn’t have cleared the 10-yard mark at best.

The Falcons would attempt an onside kick, and Platteville would get it back. The positive thing for the Falcons at this point was that Genslinger, who had 171 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries, injured his shoulder and was out for the game. The Falcons allowed a first down however, and it looked like the game was over. Then came the biggest decision of the game. A ploy used in Super Bowl XXXII, Former Packers coach Mike Holmgren allowed the Denver Broncos to score late in the game so the John Deere Cult could get the football back.

It didn’t work in that game, of course, but O’Grady called the same play and let Platteville score. 36-28 Pioneers. Fans were dejected, they left Ramer Field with their heads hung.

The Falcons got the ball back and thanks to a kickoff return by linebacker (Yes, I said linebacker, don’t see that in the NFL huh?) Bruce Baillargeon that brought the Falcons to the 45-yard line, they started marching down the field in a drive that saw Zweifel drop a pass (the coaches reaction could be heard on our broadcast as someone screamed “Oh my God, he dropped it!”), the Falcons convert two fourth downs and drive all the way inside the five after using their last timeout right away in the drive. The Falcons would get to the two on a too many men penalty on Platteville and Storm Harmon, yes, who had been benched in the second, threw a fade to Zweifel in the end zone and then got the two point conversion to Ryan Hansen to tie the game and put it into overtime.

Platteville had all their momentum zapped in the fourth quarter drive and went three and out before having a field goal swatted back in their face. Oh yeah, then Platteville picked it up and ran it into the end zone!

Officials converged and reversed the original touchdown call after it was ruled a Falcon never touched the ball (No instant replay in Div. III by the way). The Falcons then would surge into the end zone again on an Anderson touchdown run and the Falcons won the game 42-36.

This game showed that Div. III sports are not boring at all. Like I said at the beginning of this column, this game was more exciting than any Viking or Gopher game I’ve seen in the past two years.

Also, there were things you don’t see in the higher levels of football, such as linebackers and defensive lineman returning kicks and a 17 catch game without a touchdown celebration or a third person reference. It was a pretty refreshing experience. So, if you’re just like my friend, maybe you should give this whole Div. III sports thing a try, huh?

Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.