New Richmond football team ends season with dramatic victory
The validation for a season’s worth of hard work came in the final two weeks of the season for the New Richmond football team.
The Tigers put together their first winning streak of the season in winning their final two games, to finish the season with a 3-6 record. The Tigers went into the off-season on a memorable note, coming from behind to win at Osceola on Friday, 17-14.
The winning points were produced by sophomore kicker Cameron Hausman. He drove a 19-yard field goal through the uprights with 19 seconds left in the game.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better finish,” said first-year Tiger coach Keith Badger. “Especially to beat a quality team like Osceola, they’ve got some big boys.”
The winning field goal was the product of big defensive and offensive efforts by the Tigers late in the game. Osceola was trying to drive into scoring position when the Tigers came up with a fourth-down stop with one minute left in regulation. Tiger quarterback Sevin Davis then hit his biggest pass of the season, a bomb to Austin Juhl that covered 47 yards, putting the ball at the Osceola 10-yard line.
From there, the Tiger coaches banked on Hausman, who’s become a highly reliable kicker this season.
“We have a lot of confidence in Cameron. We had no doubt he’d nail that one,” Badger said.
Osceola got the ball back in the final 19 seconds. Osceola tried two pass plays. The second was intercepted by Tiger safety Zach Dietzler, the third Tiger interception of the game.
This game was emblematic of the progress the Tigers have made this season in many ways. The Tiger defense is one of the physically smallest in the conference. In the first half, Osceola simply tried to overpower the Tigers and it got some results, with the Chieftains leading 14-7 at halftime.
In the second half, the Tigers switched to a six-man front and it neutralized the Chieftains’ running game.
The Tiger defense has been making more big plays in recent games. Junior defensive back Derek Dowd seemed to be in the middle of all of them on Friday. Dowd snuffed out an Osceola scoring threat in the first quarter with an interception in the end zone. He also recovered a muffed punt in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers excellent field position.
Dowd’s contributions weren’t limited to defense. He scored the tying touchdown midway through the third quarter on a 14-yard pass from Davis.
That touchdown pass was part of Davis’ best game of the season as the Tiger quarterback. With Osceola’s size advantage, the Tigers recognized quickly they’d need the passing game to be productive. Davis was on target all night, completing 14-17 passes for 181 yards. His passing yardage total this season will go down as one of the best totals in Tiger team history.
The Tigers scored first in the game. In their second possession they marched 80 yards, with Ben Werner scoring 57 seconds into the second quarter.
Osceola came back and scored on its next possession to cut the Tiger lead to 7-6. The Chieftains then successfully executed an onside kick, setting up their second touchdown just before halftime.
Osceola’s onside kick wasn’t the only special teams trickery that was successful on Friday. In the Tigers’ second drive of the third quarter, the Tigers ran a fake punt. Dom Ficociello picked up the first down on the fake. That kept the drive alive that resulted in Dowd’s touchdown catch.
The wins over Amery and Osceola are causing optimism to soar within the Tiger program. Forty-five minutes after Friday’s game was completed, the Tigers were still on Osceola’s new turf field, soaking in the final moments of a season they hope is the start of good things for the program.
“Nobody wanted to leave. That’s what you want, for them to not want the season to end,” Badger said.
Badger was hired in July, leaving him little time to prepare for the season. He’s diving right into plans for next season. The top priority is a higher commitment to the Tiger Strength program.
“Strength and speed is a priority. The weight room is not optional if you want to compete,” he said.
Badger said this year’s seniors provided leadership that was needed to get the program moving in the right direction. He said the seniors didn’t get to see the success on the field they’d hoped, but it’s his hope that the seniors will be able to look back one day and know they started the program back in the right direction.
“Pride has been reestablished. We’re building the foundation of something that has the potential to be great,” Badger said.