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Conservative game plan proves costly for New Richmond football team

New Richmond senior lineman Pat Kletschka listens to a coach's instructions during a recent Tiger game.

A conservative offensive approach came back to cost the New Richmond football team in their Middle Border Conference finale last Friday.

The Tigers scored on their first possession, then never found the end zone again, losing to Baldwin-Woodville 14-7.

The loss leaves the Tigers tied with B-W and Ellsworth for third place in the MBC final standings.

The Tigers now move onto the WIAA playoffs, where they will be playing in Division 2. Because of the lawsuit filed by the Milwaukee Messmer-Shorewood cooperative team, the Tigers weren't expected to find out their tournament opponent until sometime on Tuesday. Tiger coach Jason Eckert said Big Rivers Conference co-champion Menomonie is one possibility as their opening playoff assignment. Other possibilities are the top two teams from the Mississippi Valley Conference, Tomah and Holmen.

The Tigers are coming off a loss that left players, coaches and fans frustrated. The defense put together an exceptional performance on Friday, limiting Baldwin-Woodville to 190 yards of total offense. After the first drive of the game, the Tiger offense did about as little.

The Tigers drove 62 yards on their opening drive, mixing carries between Dalton Sabby, Nate Jones and Taner Hoppe. Sabby scored the touchdown, sweeping around the left end and reaching the corner of the end zone on a 16-yard score with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

After that drive, the Tigers had 58 yards of offense for the rest of the game.

Eckert said he felt his hands were tied in calling plays. He said Sabby, who was making his second start at quarterback, doesn't have a full grasp of the passing game. Sabby and Ryan Keehr, who was brought in for several passing situations, were a combined 1-4 passing. Baldwin-Woodville's Andy Jacobson intercepted two of the Tigers' four passes.

Eckert credited B-W with doing a good job in shutting down the Tigers' running game, particularly between the tackles. He said he thought the Tigers should have had more success running to the outside, but the Tigers weren't maintaining their blocks long enough to keep holes open.

Eckert said he did second guess how he called the game. He told the team before the game that he was planning to use a conservative game plan, hoping the defense could get them the win.

Eckert said a big reason for the Tigers' issues on Friday was the team's numerous injuries. Losing quarterback Drew Durham for the season caused several changes in the backfield and Jones is still getting back to full strength after missing the previous game due to a concussion. Several others missed time due to injuries. One big loss was middle linebacker Boyd Stacken. When he left Friday's game with an injury, it forced the coaches to use three other players in that role, depending upon the situation.

Cornerback-receiver Tyler Cran is another of the Tigers missing time due to injury.

Eckert said the Tigers will plug away at their fundamentals this week as they try to get some of the dinged up players back in practice. He will try to get players practice reps at all their possible positions, so they're ready if they are called upon in the playoff game. The coaches will also be working on adding new options in the offense. They added a new offensive package for Friday's game and that produced most of their yardage in the first drive.