HUDSON -- The Hudson Raider football team found out that experience counts in its season-opening 21-14 loss at Onalaska Friday night, Aug. 23.
The Raiders and Hilltoppers traded a pair of touchdowns each through the first three-and-a-half quarters, but Onalaska had the last word, scoring with 4 minutes, 27 seconds remaining then sealing the deal with an interception on the next drive to earn a 21-14 victory.
Hudson coach Adam Kowles said the Raiders couldn’t capitalize on enough opportunities while Onalaska took advantage of its chances when it counted most.
“We have very few returning starters and I think Onalaska has something like 17 returning starters from last year's team who went to Level 2 in the playoffs,” Kowles noted. “I don't care who you are, that makes a big difference early on in the season. We definitely made some mistakes on both sides of the ball and more playing time will limit those mistakes. But we have a lot of guys with very little or no varsity playing experience and I think that showed a bit.”
Onalaska led 7-0 and 14-7 in the first half before the Raiders tied the score on a 2-yard touchdown run by Hunter Danielson midway through the fourth quarter. But the Hilltoppers needed just three plays, all on the ground, to move 39 yards, ending with a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Austin Larson with 4 minutes, 27 seconds remaining to take the lead for good.
Hudson had one last chance but Onalaska picked off an Owen Anderson pass in the end zone to kill the drive.
Kowles said the Raider defense played well for most of the game with the exception of a couple of big plays by the Hilltoppers, including runs of 14 and 24 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown.
“On offense we needed to capitalize on early chances with great field position and getting it in the red zone,” Kowles said. “You can't take those opportunities for granted because you don't know when you will get down there again; you need to come away with points.”
Matteo Bonnin scored Hudson’s first touchdown on a 66-yard run in the second quarter after Onalaska had taken a 7-0 lead. Bonnin finished with 69 yards on six carries and had four catches for 44 yards while Anderson completed 10 of 21 passes for 77 yards and two interceptions.
The Raiders finished with 258 total yards in the game, 181 on the ground, with Danielson and Sage Lewis running for 42 yards each. Ethan Amelsberg was in on 11 tackles on defense while Cade McDonald had a sack and two tackles for loss.
Things won’t get any easier for Hudson its’ its home opener this week when it hosts Illinois powerhouse Montini Catholic for a Saturday matinee. Montini Catholic has played for the Illinois state title eight times in the last 10 years, including a Class 5A runner-up finish a year ago. Kowles said the Raiders have some things to clean up heading into the matchup.
“There are some things to build on and some things to correct,” he said. “I didn't think we played with much enthusiasm in the first half (Friday), but I think we had better intensity in the second half. We need to find a way to get off the bus and be ready to go from the opening kickoff. We play a really good team from Illinois this week, but I'm confident we'll see improvement from how we played last week."
Hudson and Montini Catholic will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at Raider Stadium.