RIVER FALLS-- River Falls quarterback Peter Noreen said no one player can replace all-conference running back Seth Kohel. But collectively they can fill the void.
Kohel was well on his way to defending his Big Rivers Conference rushing title before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Wildcat’s 21-7 loss at Menomonie Sept. 13. But it didn’t matter in their first game without the three-year starter this past Friday, Sept. 20, against Rice Lake.
Noreen threw touchdown passes of 54, 53 and 51 yards to three different receivers and Michael Krueger ran for 88 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats topped the Warriors 25-8 at David Smith Stadium.
“With losing Seth, everybody’s got to take some of that responsibility,” Noreen said. “That includes me and that includes the wide receivers. So we aired the ball out and I felt confident in my reads and just let it loose.”
Noreen found Payton Flood for a 54-yard second quarter touchdown, hit Joe Stoffel from 53-yards out early in the third quarter and connected with Jaden Schwantz for a 51-yard touchdown to make the final 25-8. He attempted just seven passes but completed five for a total of 165 yards.
Krueger made his first varsity start in place of Kohel and opened the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run 4 minutes 13 seconds into the game. He credited the offensive line with making his job easier.
“They opened it up and I just ran through it,” he said.
Rice Lake got a safety late in the first quarter to cut the Wildcat lead to 6-2 before Flood’s 54-yard catch-and-run and Stefan Klechefski’s extra point made it a 13-2 game at the break.
Rice Lake took advantage of a muffed Wildcat punt return to cut the margin to 13-8 early in the third quarter before Noreen spotting Stoffel all alone behind the Warrior defense.
“He was wide open,” Noreen said. “When you see a guy waving his hands in the air, you better throw it.”
Stoffel finished with two catches for 59 yards and Schwantz caught two balls for 52 yards while carrying the ball six times for 38 yards.
Reilly Huppert led the defense with nine total tackles and John Firth made eight while Noreen contributed six stops, all solo. Stoffel, Conn0r Cardell and Eddie Loesch all registered a sack.
Wildcat head coach David Crail said it wasn’t perfect, but the players did a good job of picking up the slack in Kohel’s absence.
“We’re happy to get a win, certainly,” he said. “But we’ve got some things that we have to work on and some things we have to clean up and be better at if we’re going to continue to compete at a high level.
“Our message to the guys is, you’re not going to replace Seth; it’s just not going to happen,” he added. “He’s one of the best running backs in the state. You’re not going to have another guy on your roster who’s going to step in and take care of that individually. But we need a lot of guys to step up just a little bit. And I think the guys did a really nice job tonight. Peter did a nice job of leading the offense and getting the ball to our playmakers. And we’re going to need to continue that and get better with those guys.”
Noreen said while the Wildcat’s miss Kohel on the field, he made his presence known on the sideline and in practice all week.
“The great part is that Seth is still part of this team and he still brings that energy every day,” he said. “So that helps us a ton. We don’t have to replace that energy, we just have to replace the player.”
Friday night’s win boosted the Wildcat’s record to 3-2 overall, 2-1 in BRC play, while Rice Lake dropped to 0-5 overall. River Falls will visit Eau Claire Memorial (4-1, 2-1) Friday night, Sept. 27.