Adversity brings out strong Tiger effort
Illness. Injuries. Accidents. Suspensions.
The New Richmond football team had a majority of new starters after the team was decimated by misfortune in the week leading up to last Friday's game at Ellsworth.
And while the Tigers came out on the losing end of a 10-7 score to a formidable Panther team, Tiger coach Jeff Albarado was calling this "our best team effort."
The misfortune really is a two-week pattern, when two seniors were suspended. Last week the Tigers saw starters out with illness and injuries. Then Friday, in the minutes before the team bus was to head for Ellsworth, two players ended up in the emergency room in separate accidents.
Junior Jeremy Weeks slipped in the locker room, suffering a cut on his forehead that needed stitches and knocked him out of the game. Senior Kenny Walters suffered an accident at home, falling into a glass coffee table. A large shard of glass went into his back. He was fortunate though. The glass hit a rib and deflected out his skin. While the injury could have been much worse, it likely still will keep him out for the rest of the season.
With the team so short-handed, the coaches and several veteran players huddled on the bus on how to fill all of the voids left in the lineup. Albarado counted 18 changes on offense, defenses and special teams that had to be made during the week.
"I've never known anything close to this," Albarado said. "The whole situation unified the team. We weren't able to parlay it into a win, but the only thing that didn't work out was the final score."
Albarado spoke glowingly of how players stepped into bigger roles on the team. At defensive end, Steve Volkert and Brian Rehurek are fourth and fifth on the depth chart and Volkert played with a heavily padded hand due to an injury. John Shilts and Chad Aldous moved up to starting cornerback jobs and Shilts also played wingback on offense. With Shilts and Aldous at the corners, the Tigers held Ellsworth's passing attack to 33 yards. Ellsworth entered the game with the third-ranked passing attack in the conference.
Mike Martinez got his first significant varsity time at halfback, covering 49 yards in five carries.
Tom Olek became the long snapper on special teams because of Volkert's hand injury. David Koch handled the punting, averaging 34 yards a kick and not letting Prescott return any of his punts.
Both teams were able to sustain drives until they reached the opponent's 20. The Tigers had four drives of more than 60 yards, but could only get the one score.
Their score came in the second quarter, following a long drive. Senior fullback Tommy Wells scored the touchdown on a 2-yard plunge with nine minutes left in the half.
Ellsworth answered with a sustained drive, tying the game just before halftime.
The winning points were scored by Ellsworth on a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Tigers had driven to the Ellsworth 7. The Tiger coaches called a bootleg play. New Richmond's pass was intercepted and returned to the Ellsworth 20, setting up the Panthers' field goal.
The Tigers made one more march down the field. They got the ball to the Ellsworth 10 with 1:12 left in the game. An Ellsworth defender then shot through a gap in the line to force a fumble and the Panthers recovered.
With a 1-3 record in the MBC, the Tigers now must win their final three conference games to get into the 2003 WIAA state football playoffs.
The first of those three games is this Thursday. The Tigers will be playing at home against Baldwin-Woodville, who is winless so far in the 2003 season.
Ellsworth 10, New Richmond 7
New Richmond 0 7 0 0 7
Ellsworth 0 7 0 3 10
NR -- Tom Wells, 2 yard run (Greg Olson kick)
Ells -- Duffa Gill, 15 yard run (Ben Gaard kick)
Ells -- Gaard, 29 yard field goal
First Downs 13 10
Rushing Yards 252 166
Passing Yards 33 63
Passes 5-11-1 int. 5-12-1 int.
Penalties 6-35 0-0
NR -- Garret Fletch 8-70; Danny Wells 13-70; Tommy Wells 15-60; Mike Martinez 5-49; John Shilts 1-3
NR -- Garret Fletch 5-11-1 int., 33 yards
NR -- Robert Rice 1-10; Jordan Frye 1-9; Mike Martinez 1-8; Tim Kretovics 1-4; Danny Wells 1-2