New Richmond football gets fresh start, beat Baldwin-Woodville 22-18
The fresh start the New Richmond football team was looking for was produced with a fierce finish on Friday.
The Tigers rallied from a 12-0 halftime deficit to shock Baldwin-Woodville 22-18. This was the Middle Border Conference opener for both teams and it was the first win for the Tigers under new varsity coach Keith Badger.
In the second half, the Tigers had to fight back to take the lead twice. Senior Connor O'Loughlin led the comebacks, producing several big plays that carried the Tigers.
The Tigers had no offensive success in the first half, but that changed quickly after a blunt speech from the team's coaches at halftime.
"We put the responsibility on them to make the correct play," Badger said. "They have to be the hardest working group of kids. In the second half was the first time we actually did it."
After giving up a 31-yard pass on the first play of the second half the Tiger defense began to take charge. The Tigers stopped a B-W drive and the Tigers turned around and marched downfield 74 yards for their first score. O'Loughlin produced a big play by covering 35 yards on a screen pass and tight end Keilan Mehls caught two passes to keep the drive moving. O'Loughlin scored the touchdown on a 4-yard sweep around right end.
In the opening moments of the fourth quarter the Tigers started another drive and they held the ball six minutes as they marched for the score. O'Loughln scored again, cutting to the B-W sideline, then showing exceptional balance to stay inbounds as he completed the 10-yard scoring run. O'Loughlin also scored the two-point conversion on a pitch from quarterback Sevin Davis to give the Tigers a 15-12 lead.
There was only one defensive miscue by the Tigers in the fourth quarter but it was costly. On third-and-short, B-W faked a dive into the line. The Tigers bit on the fake and B-W quarterback Logan Weyer found Braeden Moening over the middle for a 63-yard score with 3:13 left on the clock.
O'Loughlin's heroics quickly turned the game back in the Tigers' favor. O'Loughlin returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the B-W 23, pulling the momentum back to the Tigers' sideline. Two plays later, O'Loughlin burst up the middle on a perfectly blocked trap play, racing to the end zone from 18 yards out. Cam Hausman's extra point kick set the Tiger lead at 22-18.
B-W wasn't about to play dead. The Blackhawks drove to midfield before fumbling. Mehls dove on the fumble and the Tigers were able to run out the clock from there.
O'Loughlin had a huge game, accounting for 289 yards in total. He rushed 21 times for 130 yards and he caught four passes for 54 yards. His three kickoff returns were good for 105 yards.
"The whole second half he turned nothing into something," Badger said of O'Loughlin's spirited running. "He refuses to give up."
You might expect Badger to be thrilled to get his first win as a varsity coach, but he called the victory "bittersweet." He said the poor execution by the team left him wanting to see what the squad can do for a whole game with the effort level displayed in the second half. But he also saw the bright side of the victory.
"The kids came together and refused to accept (losing)," he said. "They don't accept it anymore. That might be their biggest accomplishment."
Badger credited the team's turnaround to the captains, O'Loughlin, Mehls, Allan Wollenberg and Austin Hovel. Another player praised was lineman Ethan Lamirande, who has been the answer the Tigers were looking for at right tackle.
"Ethan was outstanding," Badger said. "He's technically the best lineman we have. He has a football IQ. He's able to make the needed adjustments."
Conditioning was a factor that clearly worked in the Tigers' favor. B-W had numerous players taken off the field with cramps. The Tigers appeared to be as fresh at the end of the game as they were at the start. Badger said he was disappointed that B-W was given so many breaks because it slowed down the Tigers' no-huddle offense.
The Tigers are hoping they can raise their conference record to 2-0 this Friday when they play at Durand. The Tigers might be hitting Durand at a good time. The Panthers are coming off a 29-8 loss to Ellsworth and they have been dealt injuries to several key players already this season.