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New Richmond football looks for third straight win in Friday's Homecoming game

A two-game win streak has kept the hopes of a WIAA playoff berth alive for the New Richmond football team.

The Tigers need to win their final two regular season games to qualify for the 2012 playoffs. The first of those challenges arrives this Friday when the Tigers host Osceola in New Richmond's 2012 Homecoming game.

Osceola has already qualified for the WIAA playoffs following its 14-0 win over Ellsworth last Friday. Osceola has been the surprise of the conference this season. The Chieftains are 5-1 overall after going winless a year ago.

Fans might be as equally surprised in the recent upswing in the results from the New Richmond football team, but they shouldn't be. After a grueling schedule in the first half of the season, the Tigers have begun to roll. Last Friday the Tigers went to Amery and completely outshined the Warriors, 33-8.

New Richmond's defense has been stellar since the beginning of the season but it has taken some time for the offense to find its legs. Since the Tigers decided to go with senior Kaleb Kier at quarterback and move Drew Durham to the primary outside receiver position, the offense now has the weapons to create problems for most teams.

In Friday's win, the Tigers used superior quickness to attack the edges of the Amery defense. The Tigers drove the length of the field on their opening possession, with junior Dominic Ficociello capping the drive with a 21-yard touchdown on a sweep.

Tiger coach Jason Eckert determined Amery's interior line play was the Warriors' defensive strength, so he attacked the edges first. Once the Tigers began having success on the edges, it helped the Tigers to create more openings in the heart of the Amery defense.

Amery's offense was able to move the ball with some success in the first half against the Tigers. The Warriors drove inside the Tiger 20 on their first possession and inside the Tiger 10 on the next drive, but both times, the Tiger defense ended the drive without giving up a point.

The outcome of the game hinged on the final three minutes of the first half. After stopping the Warriors, the Tigers quickly drove the length of the field. The Tigers' second score came with 2:35 left in the half when Kier found Durham open behind the Amery secondary for a 38-yard touchdown pass that built the lead to 13-0. This was Durham's third straight game with a touchdown catch.

New Richmond's defense was able to come up with a quick stop and the emboldened Tigers decided to try scoring one more time before halftime. They did it in four plays.

The first play was a 35-yard pass connection from Kier to halfback Connor O'Loughlin. O'Loughlin then gained more yardage on a sweep. Durham followed with a 14-yard catch to the Amery 2-yard line. Ficociello finished the drive by scoring with 16 seconds left in the half.

The Tigers got the ball to start the second half. The coaches elected to use a double-tight end formation and the Tigers were able to break several big runs, scoring in less than a minute at the start of the third quarter. Fullback Taner Hoppe finished the drive with a 2-yard blast, extending the Tigers' lead to 26-0.

When the Tigers got the ball back, they moved the ball quickly for another score. This time it was Kier scoring on a 15-yard keeper midway through the third quarter. For most of the rest of the game, the coaches were able to give the Tiger reserves extensive playing time.

Eckert said one of the reasons for the success at Amery was the improvement of the offensive line. He said the Tigers were able to run to the right and left with equal success, saying that this was the best game of the season from guards Kaden Meeds and Chayse Ludowese.

After the defense carried the load for much of the season, Eckert said he felt Friday's game wasn't one of the defense's best showings. He said the secondary in particular had several miscommunications that led to Amery completions. The secondary also dropped three interceptions and the Tigers can't afford to let those turnover opportunities be wasted.

In looking ahead to Osceola, Eckert said the main challenge will be the Chieftains' size advantage in the front line. But he said the Tigers will have advantages too.

"I'd say they're a pretty even team with us," Eckert said. "We're going to have to step up our game and be disciplined. We'll have to prepare well so we can take advantage of any opportunities we get."

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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