Playoffs are the payoff if Tigers beat AmeryThe New Richmond varsity football team plays its most meaningful game since 2002 when the Tigers play at Amery on Thursday.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The New Richmond varsity football team plays its most meaningful game since 2002 when the Tigers play at Amery on Thursday.
If the Tigers win at Amery, they will qualify for the WIAA State Football Playoffs for the first time since that year.
The Tigers moved into position to get in the playoffs by winning at Ellsworth last Friday by a 34-20 score.
The win at Ellsworth is the third of the season for the Tigers, raising the team’s Middle Border Conference record to 3-3. The Tigers are 3-5 overall.
If the Tigers win at Amery on Thursday, they will likely be placed in Division 3 in the WIAA playoffs. Some of the possible opponents for the Tigers include Hayward and Ashland.
The Tigers continue to show progress on both sides of the ball. Against Ellsworth the Tigers used their depth in the offensive backfield to gain 277 yards on the ground. Six Tigers carried the ball at least six times. Halfbacks Tony Stockey and Cody Taubman led the Tigers by rushing for 63 yards each and Shaun Peper gained 62 yards.
Tiger coach Jason Eckert said the depth at halfback gives the coaches flexibility in play calling.
“Every two plays we shifted guys out and we had guys in for certain sets,” Eckert said.
The Tigers had consistent offensive success throughout the night. The Tigers scored on their second possession of the night. The touchdown was set up by a healthy punt return by senior Corey Berger. Shortly after, senior quarterback John Peper scored on a sneak, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Ellsworth came right back to tie the score on the first of three Josh Miska touchdown passes. Ellsworth threw the ball 39 times in Friday’s game, compared to 21 running plays by the Panthers. Eckert said he thought Ellsworth was the toughest personnel matchup in the conference for the Tigers because Ellsworth usually has four or five receivers running patterns on every play.
For this game the Tigers adjusted their defense, playing with five or six defensive backs per play. Nick Hesselink was moved to linebacker for the game. Eckert said the secondary play was led by Nick Johnson, who put big hits on several Ellsworth receivers during the game.
The Tigers came back with two more scores in the second quarter. The first score came on a 12-yard run by Stockey. The next score came after the Tigers executed the two-minute offense to perfection. Peper completed five passes in the drive, then scored on a 15-yard run with 42 seconds left in the half. His touchdown put the Tigers in front 21-7.
Throughout the game the Tigers were able to drive the ball methodically against the Ellsworth defense. Another of those drives came early in the third quarter. The Tigers didn’t have many big plays on Friday, but their running plays consistently gained good yardage. This drive was capped off on a 17-yard run by Jeremy Slicer.
The final Tiger touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter when Shaun Peper scored from 36 yards out on a counter play.
The score remained 34-14 until the final minute of the game. The Tiger reserves fumbled the ball back to Ellsworth. Then Miska threw his third touchdown of the game, with 50 seconds left, against the JV defense.
The Tigers immediately turned their focus to Amery. This will be the final game of the season for Amery, which saw its playoff hopes dissolve in a 56-19 loss at Somerset on Friday. Eckert said Amery is a dangerous team, because the Warriors have good athletes and it will be the final game for their seniors.
Eckert said Thursday’s game will show how well the Tigers handle pressure, though he liked the way the team prepared for Friday’s game at Ellsworth.
“Going to Ellsworth was probably as focused as I’ve seen our guys,” Eckert said. “We’ve got enough senior leadership that we should be okay.”