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New Richmond football team seeks offensive solutions

Senior fullback Taner Hoppe (26) follows the lead blocking of tackle Jake LaMirande (74) during a recent Tiger game.

Defensively, the New Richmond football team did everything required to win a game last Friday.

But with the Tiger offense struggling badly, an energetic effort from the defense was wasted in a 10-0 loss at Prescott on Friday.

The loss drops the Tigers to 0-3 for the season and 0-2 in the Middle Border Conference. The assignment gets much more severe this Friday, when the Tigers host defending MBC champion Somerset. Somerset has scored 100 points in its three games this season, while the Tigers have scored 14. Those points came in the second half of the season-opening loss at River Falls. The Tigers haven't scored in their two MBC games.

Tiger coach Jason Eckert said there are several reasons why the offense has been sputtering so badly. He said the lack of consistency, in the physical and mental execution of plays, has been the Tigers' biggest downfall.

Eckert said the two players who have been producing consistently on offense are seniors Kaleb Kier and Jake LaMirande. Kier has been splitting time between halfback and quarterback. Kier was at quarterback for much of the Tigers' opening drive on Friday, when they marched the ball inside the Prescott 20 yard line. Then a holding call and a mistake on a pitchout led to the Tigers fumbling the ball away.

Missed blocking assignments were a key ingredient in the Tigers' problems. The Tigers had two punts blocked in Friday's game because Prescott had linemen break through the Tiger blocking.

The inadequacy of the Tiger offense left the Tigers with poor field position for much of the night. That's what makes the performance of the defense even more impressive. The Tigers gave Prescott the ball with excellent field position numerous times in the game. The defense was able to come up with stop after stop. Prescott was able to drive 60 yards after a Tiger turnover in the second quarter.

Those were the only points until the final minutes of the game, when Prescott tacked on a field goal.

"Our defense played great," Eckert said. "Our guys up front did a nice job and our linebackers really flowed to the ball."

Eckert said Abe Anderson, Dom Ficociello and LaMirande were the leaders of the Tiger defense on Friday. The Tiger secondary also played well, limiting Prescott to 41 yards passing.

The Tigers limited Prescott to 199 yards of total offense in the game, which is a pretty impressive total. But the Tiger offense could only produce 188 yards.

Most of that yardage was supplied by Kier, who rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries. Eckert said Kier and Drew Durham will continue to split time at quarterback, saying that the other halfbacks will need to run hard with the ball to maintain the efficiency of the running game when Kier is at quarterback.

The Tigers had some success passing the ball on Friday. Most of the success came on quick strike patterns like slants and bubble screens. The passing game and the running game where limited by Prescott all-state defensive end Nick Jacobsen, who the Tigers could not contain all night.

"It's pretty hard when you can only run left (away from Jacobsen)," Eckert said. "We couldn't drop back to throw."

In looking ahead to Friday's clash with Somerset, Eckert said he wants to see his team compete hard on every play, regardless of the score. He said if the offense can limit its mistakes, it will give the defense a chance to be productive.

"Our defense is capable of slowing them down. I don't know if we'll stop them, they're pretty damn good," Eckert said. "That's all dependent on the offense not going three-and-out every time."

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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