Hudson football coach Adam Kowles admitted his team might have been caught up in the fanfare and hoopla surrounding the debut of Hudson's new Raider Stadium Friday night, Aug. 25.
"I'll be honest, I think the guys felt a lot of pressure on them to win since it was the opener at the new stadium," Kowles said. "I know I did. We played a little bit tight. I hope that going forward we can just get back to playing football, flying around, and having fun, because that's when we are at our best."
The Raiders were flying around and having plenty of fun during a third quarter that saw them score three unanswered touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead over Stevens Point. But four lost fumbles proved to be too much to overcome, and the Panthers stole the momentum back with 16 straight fourth quarter points to win the game, 23-21, on a 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining.
"That's a game we need to be able to hang on to and win," Kowles said. "The name of the game is turnovers. We put it on the ground four times to their one and you rarely, if ever, win games where your turnover margin is that lopsided."
All of the game's scoring came in the second half. Hudson's second fumble of the game early in the third quarter led to the first of three touchdown runs by Panther running back Colton Kizewski, from 30-yards out, to give Stevens Point a 7-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Raiders got the 3,000-plus fans on their feet with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Max Stubbendick to Ben Karls and Karls tacked on the extra point to tie the score, 7-7.
Riley Brown gave Hudson its first lead on its new field with a 13-yard touchdown run on their next possession, and Easton Belland picked up Stevens Point's only fumble of the game and sprinted 14 yards to the end zone and just like that the Raiders were up 21-7 after three.
Another Raider fumble resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Kizewski and the extra point made it a 21-14 game. Stevens Point decided to go for two after Kizewski's third touchdown of the game later in the quarter from 2-yards out but the pass failed and the Raiders were clinging to a 21-20 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
After a Raider three-and-out Stevens Point took over at the Hudson 47-yard line with 2:33 left and moved the ball down to the 13. An intentional grounding call against the Panthers resulted in a loss of down, setting up a 4th-and-20 at the 23-yard line, where lefty kicker Kolby Davis sent a wobbly kick just inside the lower right corner of the uprights with 10 seconds left to give Stevens Point the two-point win.
Kowles said the Raiders needed to do a better job of protecting the football.
"Our defense was on the field way too long and guys were exhausted after the game," he said. "Offensively we needed to sustain more drives and give our defense a break, but we weren't consistent enough. The effort was there, but we lacked some execution which is on the coaches to fix."
Kizewski was a big reason the Raiders were exhausted. The Panther senior ran for 211 yards on 24 carries, most coming in the second half, while catching two passes for 27 yards. Stevens Point ran 69 plays to Hudson's 52 but the Raiders outgained the Panthers, 335-331.
Keyser Helterbrand completed 6-of-8 passes for 109 yards and ran for a team-high 79 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter with a lower body injury. Karls was the Raiders' leading receiver with four catches for 96 yards.
Cole Godbout led the Raider defense with 12 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks.
Hudson, now 1-1 on the season, will open up Big Rivers Conference play this Friday, Sept. 1, against Eau Claire North at 7 p.m. at Raider Stadium. The Huskies (0-2) are coming off a 20-7 loss to La Crosse Logan last week.