The Hastings Raiders lost a low-scoring game to the Hill-Murray Pioneers 7-6 on Friday, Sept. 8, in Maplewood. Despite losing where it matters, on the scoreboard, the Raiders dominated in just about every statistical category.

Too many mistakes

Both teams had their only scores come in the first quarter. Hastings struck first on a four-yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver T.J. Pottinger, but they failed to convert the extra point and led 6-0. Just over a minute later, Hill-Murray scored on a 70-yard touchdown run by Liam Lannon and converted the extra point to lead 7-6, which would be the final.

Head coach Dana Strain said that the Raiders just made too many mistakes at critical moments throughout the game that resulted in them not being able to get in the end zone.

"We of course, on our end, see where we made mistakes," he said. "We made too many mistakes at critical times, across the board, it wasn't just in the redzone. Offensively, 100 percent, our issue was mistakes and finishing in the red zone, and too many mistakes, including on the one big, long run, and on special teams we were not good."

Besides that missed extra point, Hastings also missed two field goals.

"You're talking about three times, sending out the kicking unit and we were 0-3," Strain continued. "The field goals weren't significantly longer than the extra point, so it was just an execution deal there."

Need more explosiveness

The Raiders outgained the Pioneers 278 yards to 125 and racked up 21 first downs to Hill-Murray's seven. However, they are lacking the "chunk" plays, runs or passes of 15, 20, 30 yards or longer, that shorten drives significantly.

"Offensively, we need to find a way to create "chunk" plays," Strain said. "A week ago, when we beat Henry Sibley, we had like a 70-yard run and it became a significant part of the game. We play Hill-Murray and they get one of those long runs and it literally ends up being the difference in the game. We just were never able to find our chunk run. We did have one that I think was a long of 24 yards, which is good, but we had multiple times where we got into the second and third level of their defense with our runs and we were just never able to make that 15-yard run turn into 35 yards. We had a couple where it was by an ankle and you could see on film where it could have gone quite a ways further, and those are so big. The bottom line is, we had issues in the redzone, but part of that is the fact that we had to have these long-play drives and you make mistakes over time when you do those. That's why defensively you try not to give up the big play because offenses will trip themselves up if they have to run too many plays."

Senior quarterback Trey Rogers completed three passes for 27 yards on six attempts. Pottinger was Hastings' leading rusher, gaining 97 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. Junior running back Corbin Leflay rushed 16 times for 78 yards, while senior Joel Stricker (44 yards) and junior Travis Frias (38 yards) each ran the ball eight times. Pottinger had all three of the team's receptions for 27 yards.

Strain praised Hastings' defensive effort against Hill-Murray, outside of that long run. The Raider defense limited Hill-Murray to 85 yards rushing on 28 carries (70 of which came on the touchdown run) and 40 yards passing on five completions.

"I thought defensively we did so many good things, we need to continue to depend upon our defense to play very good football," he said.

Looking ahead to rival Park

Next week they travel to their Highway 61 rival Park of Cottage Grove on Friday, Sept. 15.

"We're going to face an offense in Park that is more explosive than our previous two opponents, but that doesn't change the fact that defensively we feel like we are playing pretty well right now, that needs to continue," Strain finished. "We have been able to run the football at a very high level in both games so far, though we had trouble finishing in the second game. We need to continue that, we need to control the line of scrimmage on offense, which will move us along the field and give us the opportunity to finish in the redzone better and score points, but it will also help to keep Park's high octane offense off the field."

Hastings is now 1-1 on the season and are 1-0 in the Suburban Maroon subdistrict.