NEW RICHMOND, Wis. -- The first football game at New Richmond’s new Tiger Stadium may not have included all the pomp and circumstance normally associated with christening a new stadium, but that’s about all that was missing.
New Richmond’s season opener against Rice Lake had a little bit of everything, from long touchdowns to a blocked punt, a fumble recovery and an interception. In the end the Tigers stuffed a potential game-winning two-point try by Rice Lake with 1 minute remaining to preserve a 28-27 victory over the Warriors.
“We told our kids that this was going to be a great atmosphere,” New Richmond coach Reggie Larson said. “We have new jerseys, we have a new field, we have a lot of guys playing in new positions. And then on top of it, it was a heck of a game. Just a lot of back and forth.”
The game also marked the Tigers’ Big Rivers Conference debut, and while the school postponed the grand opening ceremony for the stadium due to limitations on attendance, the football team can relish in being 1-0 and tied for first place in the BRC for the time being.
“It’s good for the kids, and I think it’s good for the community too,” Larson said. “When they first went into the Big Rivers 20-some years ago it did not go well. So we talked to our kids; hey it’s more of a mentality. We want to win game one. We didn’t set a goal to win every game. We didn’t set a goal to win a state title. We said let’s go win our first Big Rivers game. Not show that we’re going to come in here and win the league year in and year out, but show that we belong. And I think that was a pretty good statement game for us tonight.”
The Tigers made a statement in the first quarter by scoring touchdowns the first two times they touched the ball. Sophomore Andrew Trandahl took the ball 71-yards on New Richmond’s first play from scrimmage, and after the Warriors picked up a first down on a fake punt, they hit a 31-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-23 to take a 7-6 lead. Tiger senior Zach Panek answered with a 64 yard touchdown run on first down and Kennan Stowers converted the two-point conversion to give New Richmond a 14-7 lead.
But after scoring two touchdowns on two plays in the first quarter, Larson knew it wouldn’t be that easy. And he was proved right when Rice Lake struck with 1:35 remaining in the half to take a 21-14 lead.
“We said all along this was going to be a fight,” he said. “And if you look at the fake punt, that was something that really kind of turned it for them. That fake punt was a really great call on their side. We weren’t prepared for it. But Coach (Dan) Hill does a really great job. He’s a heckuva coach and hats off to him.”
New Richmond was stopped on 4th-and-goal at the two midway through the third quarter, but the Tiger defense forced the Warriors to punt from their own end zone and Chris Rachner smothered the kick before Mason Erickson fell on the ball at the 1-yard line. Zach Panek dove over on the next play and the extra point was no good, leaving the Warriors with a 21-20 lead.
But the momentum was on the Tigers’ side and when Rice Lake muffed a snap on first down at their own 34, Dominic LaDuke recovered the fumble, leading to a 7-yard touchdown run by Trandahl and a two-point conversion by Stowers to give the Tigers a 28-21 lead after three.
LaDuke came up with another big defensive play when he hit the arm of Warriors quarterback Cole Fenske as Fenske tried to deliver a pass on 4th-and-goal with five minutes remaining. But Rice Lake forced the Tigers to punt and scored with 1 minute on the clock to cut the Tiger lead to 28-27.
The Warriors went for the two points and the win, but Tiger lineman Connor Felton put the first hit on Rice Lake ball carrier Jayden Perkins before getting help from his teammates to preserve the one-point win.
Rice Lake had one last chance but its onside kick attempt was recovered by Stowers.
Larson said it wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but the Tigers will take it.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the abbreviated schedule and the pandemic,” he said. “We knew it was going to be sloppy. We didn’t think it was going to be that sloppy. Obviously some of that was just flat out bad football, but it’s a learning experience. I was happy with the way our kids fought. It’s always good to come out 1-0 and tied for first place. That’s always a good thing. And I’m just really happy with the way our kids competed. It was a fun game to be a part of.”
The Tigers will visit Menomonie Friday, Oct. 2.
Raiders outlast Mustangs in opener
Hudson head coach Adam Kowles said it some ways it was a strange night, and in other ways it was very normal. One thing for sure is that Friday night’s season opener between the Raiders and Menomonie lived up to the expectations.
Hudson got a 68-yard touchdown pass from Owen Anderson to Troy Bounting with three minutes, 30 seconds remaining to pull out a 30-23 victory over the Mustangs in a game that Kowles was just happy to see played.
“I think once the players got going it just seemed like a normal game,” Kowles said. “These guys have been through so much that I'm so happy for them to be able to get out there and compete. I hope people were able to watch the game streaming online because it was a great football game.”
The game was competitive and entertaining from the start, with Hudson opening the scoring on a 22-yard touchdown run by Anderson.
The Raiders got a 24-yard field goal by Alex Muenich to take a 9-7 lead at the half but needed a 7-yard TD pass from Anderson to Carter Herink and a Muenich extra point to take a 16-15 lead midway through the third quarter.
Menomonie once again answered and led 23-15 at the end of three before Anderson found Herink again for a 15-yard touchdown before hitting Bounting in full stride from 68-yards out to give Hudson the win.
Kowles said the Raider secondary did a great job limiting the Mustang passing game, especially in the second half, while the defensive line was able to get enough pressure on the quarterback to make a difference.
Kowles also liked the way the Raider offensive line played, and noted Anderson, who completed 7-of-15 passes for 123 yards and three scores, did a good job of finding his receivers when it counted most.
“The quarterback and receivers had some great connections, especially on third and fourth downs for some huge scores,” he said. “We were clutch when it mattered. Hats off to both teams for playing their hearts out with everything going on. It's been more difficult for everyone but it was great to almost have a normal Friday night.”
The Raiders will travel to Chippewa Falls this Friday night.
Krueger sparks Wildcats
Michael Krueger ran for two touchdowns and returned his own blocked punt for another to lead the Wildcat football team to a 23-8 victory over Chippewa Falls in their season opener Friday night at UW-River Falls’ Ramer Field.
Krueger blocked a punt deep in Cardinal territory and scooped it up and scored late in the first quarter to give the Cats a 6-0 lead, then scored on a 31-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter to make it a 13-0 game following Cole Evavold’s extra point. An Evavold field goal two minutes before halftime extended River Falls’ lead to 16-0 at the break.
Krueger, who finished with 122 yards on 20 carries, scored his third touchdown of the game on a five-yard run midway through the third quarter before Chippewa scored a late TD to make the final 23-8.
Wildcat coach David Crail said the mostly empty bleachers at Ramer Field provided a different atmosphere than the Cats are used to, but the players made the best of it.
“I felt like the kids did a really nice job of bringing their own energy,” he said. “That’s something we’ve talked about the last few weeks, that you’ve got to be able to feed off one another because the atmosphere is just going to be different.”
Quarterback Ronald Sackett completed 9-of-13 passes for 84 yards in his varsity debut with five of his competitions going to Storm Jepsen for 50 yards.
The Wildcats finished with 290 yards of total offense while limiting Chippewa Falls to 123. Crail said one thing he was concerned about was how the Cats would respond to the Cardinals’ physical style of play.
“We hadn’t really had that physical of a practice over the course of the three weeks so my big thing coming in was, how were they going to react to going full speed and a physicality that Chippewa always brings,” Crail said. “But I thought we responded well to that.”
River Falls will visit Rice Lake this Friday, Oct. 2.