New Richmond football measures itself against Menomonie's success
Menomonie is the measuring stick by which all other western Wisconsin football teams are measured.
The newly-named Mustangs have won a WIAA playoff game for 22 straight seasons. So when New Richmond's boys went to UW-Stout on Friday to play the Mustangs, they weren't sure what the outcome would be. The Tigers surprised most fans, and possibly themselves too, by competing well with the Mustangs. The Tigers, who went into the game with a 4-5 record, lost to the Mustangs 31-6. Menomonie's record is 9-1 as the Mustangs head toward a showdown with Marshfield this Friday on the UW-Stout turf.
New Richmond coach Jason Eckert is a Menomonie graduate and he served as a player and assistant coach under long-time Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda. This was the first time that Eckert had been able to coach against his mentor.
"It was a wide range of emotions," Eckert said. "You like going against the best. I'd have liked to have played with a fully-loaded team."
The Tigers had four starters on the sideline due to injuries. They were especially hit hard among the linemen. They only had one reserve lineman available at the beginning of the week, so tight ends Zac Parfitt and Tyler Durand were converted to tackles for the game. When guard Kaden Meeds had to leave the game with an ankle injury in the second half, Parfitt went in at tackle and Jake LaMirande shifted over to guard.
Parfitt and LaMirande provided some of the biggest highlights of the night for the Tigers with their play on defense. Menomonie surprised everyone by going with a game plan that was heavy on passing. It worked well at times, but the Tigers also got after Menomonie quarterback Neico Stokke quite frequently. The Tigers sacked Stokke five times, with Parfitt and LaMirande generating most of the pressure from their defensive end positions. Parfitt sacked Stokke three times himself.
The Tigers might have surprised Menomonie with the number of passes they threw too. The Tigers' first play of the game was a completion from quarterback Dalton Sabby to Tyler Cran. The Tigers attempted 11 passes in the game, but only had two completions.
"Dalton threw the ball well, he didn't get the help he needed," Eckert said, referring to several dropped passes that hit Tiger receivers in the hands.
The Tigers drove into Menomonie territory on their first possession before being stopped. Ryan Keehr's punt was downed at the Mustang 5-yard line.
Menomonie then precisely moved the ball down the field, completing the 95-yard drive on an 8-yard run by fullback James Heimler.
Menomonie's next possession had a similar track, as the Mustangs quickly chewed up 60 yards to build a 13-0 lead with :53 left in the first quarter.
That's when Nate Jones began to emerge as a beacon for the Tiger offense. Jones got around the corner for a 24-yard run in the final seconds of the first quarter. He opened the second quarter with an 18-yard run. The Tigers got as close as the Mustang 20 before being stopped on downs.
Menomonie could always get yardage they needed with the running of Heimler and Drew Otto. The next Mustang drive was almost completely runs, with Otto scoring with 4:36 left in the half to build the lead to 21-0.
Menomonie's final threat of the first half was ended on an interception by Tiger linebacker Taner Hoppe.
Menomonie opened the second half with a 60-yard drive that built the lead to 28-0.
The Tigers then matched that score with a 70-yard drive of their own. A 22-yard sweep by Kaleb Kier got the drive rolling. Abe Anderson followed with a catch of 15 yards, then Hoppe bulled his way for a first down. On the next play Jones swept around left end, scoring from 21 yards out.
Jones started the next Tiger possession with a 38-yard run that got the attention of the Menomonie sideline. The Menomonie coaches immediately called a timeout and gave a loud reminder to the Mustangs that the game was not over. The Tigers couldn't score on that drive and Menomonie added a field goal with five minutes left in the game to complete the scoring.
Jones was the main offensive threat for the Tigers, finishing with 146 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Eckert said he was pleased with of the performance the Tigers under challenging circumstances.
"I felt we had them frustrated at times. They came in and thought they'd roll and we didn't let that happen," Eckert said.