New Richmond closed the gap against Menomonie in a 37-21 loss to the Mustangs in their second meeting of the season at home Friday night while Hudson saw why defending state champion Muskego is again the top-ranked Division 1 team in a 54-7 loss to the Warriors earlier Friday in Sauk Prairie.
New Richmond was preparing to play Ellsworth last week when the Panthers had to pull out due to coronavirus quarantine and isolation protocols Thursday afternoon. That left just over 24 hours for the Tigers to find a new opponent, and as it turned out Menomonie was also looking for a game and agreed to travel to New Richmond for the Tigers’ homecoming game.
“I give both our teams a lot of credit,” Tiger coach Reggie Larson said. “Obviously that’s really, really, hard. On Thursday we’re getting ready to play Ellsworth, and you know Menomonie, nobody wants to really play them to start with, and playing them with zero preparation makes it even more difficult. But I give us and coach (Joe) LaBuda a lot of credit for just giving our kids the opportunity to play in a crazy year. And I think that was the biggest takeaway from the night, regardless of what the score was.”
Menomonie beat the Tigers 42-0 in their first meeting of the season Oct. 2 in Menomonie, and it looked like the Mustangs would dominate again Friday night when they jumped out to an early 21-0 lead. But Zach Panek capped a Tiger drive with a six-yard touchdown run to cut the gap to 21-7 as the first quarter ended.
Menomonie led 34-7 when Andrew Trandahl broke free for a 24-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter. And Trandahl, who finished with 140 yards on 14 carries, scored from 28 yards out later in the fourth to make the final 37-21.
The Tigers put up 306 total yards against the Mustangs, 240 on the ground, while Menomonie totalled 380 yards of offense. Panek contributed 108 yards to the Tiger ground attack on 20 attempts while Brady Lease completed 7-of-15 passes, four to Kennan Stowers, for 66 yards.
Larson said he was happy with how the Tigers played, in spite of the final score.
“It was fun,” he said. “I thought our kids did a really nice job competing. I think we’ve gotten a lot better as the year’s gone on. I thought the first time we played them we looked a little hesitant and almost a little scared. But I thought we did a really, really nice job compared to the first time we played them.
“Obviously you want things to end differently,” he added. “But there were some things I was really proud of our kids about, with no preparation especially. Just the overall confidence and not backing down and matching up better with them physically.”
New Richmond, now 3-3, will host Ashland (4-3) in the first game of the WIAA’s two-week postseason tournament this Friday at 7 p.m., and Larson said the Tigers are just happy to still be playing.
“We’re just excited to be playing because you never know, this might be it,” he said. “You might get this game, you might get the next one. We’re just going to keep playing until they tell us we can’t play anymore.”
Raiders run into buzzsaw
Hudson has played a lot of defending state champions over the years, including Arrowhead and Kenosha Bradford, and split two games with Wisconsin Rapids the year they were state runner-up. But Raider coach Adam Kowles said they’ve never faced a team as good as Muskego.
“That's the best team in the state that I have seen,” he stated. “When you combine the talent they have with that precision and discipline, it's a tough combination to beat.”
The Raiders found that out the hard way as the defending Division 1 state champs scored 41 points in the second and third quarters on their way to a 54-7 victory.
“Their offense is so impressive because you never know who has the ball,” Kowles said. “When you think you have someone wrapped up another player has the ball around the end. The guys on both sides of the ball played hard but we just couldn't get anything going.”
Hudson faced a stiff headwind in the second and third quarters, which allowed Muskego to control field position and keep the Raiders pinned deep in their own territory.
“They kicked off into the end zone so we started every drive at the 20,” Kowles noted. “Then you punt into the wind and they have great field position and the cycle continues.”
Muskego took advantage by putting 27 points on the board in the second quarter to turn a 6-0 first quarter lead into a 33-0 lead at the break. By the end of the third quarter it was a 47-0 game and it was 54-0 one minute into the first quarter before the Raiders got a 66-yard touchdown pass from Owen Anderson to Troy Bounting with 7:25 remaining to make the final 54-7.
Kowles said the Raider offensive line played well but the offense just couldn’t keep anything going.
“We moved the ball on the first drive and were able to run up the middle right before the half, but it was just difficult to sustain it,” he said. “When you make a mistake on any play, it kills the drive. And their speed on the perimeter made it so difficult to throw or get the ball outside.”
Kowles said despite the lopsided loss, the Raiders learned a lot about themselves from scheduling a top-caliber team like Muskego.
“Maybe we shouldn't have taken on the challenge, but we always want to gauge where we are as a team and a program and playing teams like that help you get better,” he said. “Playing great teams helps you find out your weaknesses and find out what you need to improve to become an elite team.
“That's the kind of game that you just need to tip your hat to the winners, find some things to work on, and move forward,” he added. “Because we have a great opportunity this week to play a very good D.C. Everest team at home in the playoffs.”
The Raiders will host D.C. Everest in a Level 1 playoff game 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13.