Pioneers rally past Dubuque 38-24


Jeremy Williamson

Trevor Whitehead (81) celebrates his first touchdown of the game, a 49-yard catch and run, with teammates Ryley Bailey (3) and Bryan Whitehead (15).

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville football team overcame a sloppy first quarter to take control of the game in the second, powering through the University of Dubuque, 38-24.

The Pioneers started the game with high energy on the road, recovering a Spartan fumble on their first offensive possession. Junior quarterback Bryce Corrigan got the start this week, but threw an interception on the Pioneers’ first possession.

UD used the turnover to flip the momentum to their sideline, quickly moving down the field using an intermediate passing attack. Spartan quarterback Bryan Bradshaw finished the six-play, 73-yard drive with a seven-yard toss to junior tight end Tyler Dobratz. The score put the Pioneers down in a game for the first time this season.

After punting on their next drive, Pioneer head coach Mike Emendorfer switched quarterbacks, insert­ing senior John Kelly. Kelly got the offense moving against the stingy UD defense, engineering an eight-play, 87-yard drive, capped off by a two-yard run.

UW-Platteville sophomore safety Devon Vance picked off a Bradshaw pass, and two plays later, Kelly hit junior wide receiver Trevor Whitehead deep down the middle of the field. Whitehead took it to the end zone for a 49-yard score, giving the Pioneers a 14-7 lead.

After the defense forced a punt, Kelly capped off an 11-play drive by finding Whitehead again in the end zone, this time for 22 yards.

Whitehead finished the day with nine catches, 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Dubuque tacked on a field goal right before halftime to put the score at 21-10 at the break.

Kelly threw his second intercep­tion of the season trying to find Whitehead again in the end zone, but the Pioneer defense forced a three and out to quell the Spartans’ momentum.

Senior kicker Zach Litchfield, last week’s WIAC Special Teams Player of the Week, made a 22-yard field goal after UW-Platteville’s offense stalled in the red zone, upping their lead to 24-10. Dubuque answered by scoring a touchdown on a two-yard run, set up by a 48-yard pass play, halving the Pioneers’ lead.

UW-Platteville’s offense then moved down the field quickly, using the speed option play heavily. Kelly found his tallest target, senior receiver Paul Reit, who made an acrobatic catch near the sideline in the end zone for the touchdown to finish the drive. The third quarter ended with the Pioneers leading 31-17.

An interception and 16-yard return from junior linebacker Jacob Zilbar set up the Pioneer offense in Spartan territory. Senior running back Lee Vlasak finished the three-play drive by spinning out of a tackle on the way to a 22-yard touchdown run.

Vlasak put up his first 100-yard rushing performance of the year, picking up 101 yards on 15 carries.

The Spartans added a late touchdown, putting the final score at 38-24.

Kelly may have taken the lead in the competition for the starting quarterback position, racking up 294 yards on 24-35 passing, and adding 72 yards on 11 rushing attempts.

The Pioneers finish their non-conference schedule this Saturday, as the team will head to Portland, Ore. to face Lewis & Clark College.