Tigers one point from MBC championship
The battle for the Middle Border Conference football championship was as action packed as anyone could ever ask for.
If New Richmond won at Osceola on Friday, it would have left the two teams tied at the top of the MBC standings. And games don't get any closer than this. Osceola scored with 2:42 left, then completed a successful two-point conversion to defeat the Tigers 25-24.
With the loss, New Richmond finishes third in the MBC with a 5-2 record.
On Saturday, the WIAA Division 3 football seeding was completed. The Tigers received the fifth seed in the sectional bracket. The Tigers will face fourth seed West Salem at 7 p.m. on Friday at La Crosse Logan High School. West Salem's field has been undergoing renovations all season and La Crosse Logan has been West Salem's home field for the season.
The Tigers go into the playoffs a physically beat up team. Both New Richmond and Osceola suffered a number of injuries from the intense hitting that was happening in Friday's game. New Richmond coach Keith Badger said it was unlikely that Blake Kretovics would be available for this Friday's game because of an ankle injury suffered at Osceola. He was more hopeful that lineman Josh Boyd and running back Cooper Strand would be able to return for this Friday's game.
While Friday's game was incredibly intense, it was not a perfectly played game. There were a total of seven turnovers in the game. The Chieftains turned the ball over four times and the Tigers committed three turnovers, all on interceptions. All three interceptions came on deflected passes off the hands of Tiger receivers.
"Plays we should have hit, we didn't. We've got to take more pride in that role as a playmaker," Badger said of the inability of the receivers to bring in those passes.
Two of the four turnovers the Tigers forced came on interceptions by defensive back Talon Seckora. Badger said Seckora and Dylan Minke both excelled in the Tiger secondary. Minke forced a fumble on Osceola's first play from scrimmage, setting up a 23-yard field goal by Colton Pahnke. Osceola came back with a quick touchdown and field goal to lead 10-3.
The fireworks continued as the Tigers came back for two touchdowns before the first half was completed. Quarterback Mikah Kier broke away for a 38-yard touchdown that tied the score at 10-10. Osceola then failed to cover a bouncing kickoff, and Strand recovered the ball at the Osceola 30. The Tigers ran the clock down, and Kier scored on the final play of the first half on a quarterback sneak to give the Tigers a 17-10 lead.
A long kickoff return by Minke, to the Osceola 35, set up the Tigers for a quick score to start the second half. Kier found Drew Momchilovich racing down the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Tigers in front 24-10 with 25 seconds elapsed in the second half.
The injuries had a gradual but significant effect on the Tigers in the second half. With Kretovics and Strand injured, Noah Towberman was the only running back left healthy. Kretovics and Strand are also starting linebackers, so it caused significant shuffling to get the defensive lineups.
The Tigers played the game without head coach Keith Badger. Badger had to miss the game for what the school district is terming a "personnel matter." Defensive coordinator Cash Langeness and offensive coordinator Jason Eckert, a former Tiger head coach, handled the coaching for the game.
Osceola had success running the ball in the second half and that set up a touchdown run by quarterback Brett Carlson at the 7:30 mark of the third quarter. The Tigers attempted a 42-yard field goal by Pahnke early in the fourth quarter, but the kick landed short of the goalpost.
Osceola got the ball back with seven minutes left in the game and drove down for the winning score. To Osceola's credit, the coaches elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win. This became a chess match, with the Tiger coaches calling one timeout and Osceola calling two. The Chieftains ran halfback Jack Feldt off the left end for the winning two points.
The Tigers got the ball back, but Osceola intercepted another pass and ran out the clock.