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Loss to Osceola extinguishes New Richmond football playoff hopes

Tiger fullback Tyler Hoppe follows a wave of blockers as he tries to get to turn upfield on a carry against Osceola on Friday.

Two straight wins had given the New Richmond football team reason to dream.

But those dreams of reaching the WIAA playoffs were rudely dashed in front of a large NRHS Homecoming crowd on Friday. Osceola delivered a 32-7 thumping to the Tigers, eliminating New Richmond from contention for the 2012 WIAA state playoffs. The Tigers had won their previous two games against Ellsworth and Amery and had hoped to finish the season with four straight wins. The four wins would have qualified them for the playoffs. The loss drops the Tigers to 2-4 in the Middle Border Conference standings.

The Tigers will complete their 2012 schedule this Friday, when they play at Baldwin-Woodville.

New Richmond's coaches went into Friday's Homecoming game expecting it to be a defensive battle. The Tigers were surprised by the strength of Osceola's line and the versatility of Osceola's Michael Skiba, who was used as a halfback and wide receiver, depending upon the Chieftains' needs.

"We didn't match up very well with their size. They just pounded the ball on us," said Tiger coach Jason Eckert.

Eckert said the Tiger defensive front had been able to neutralize the inside running attacks of Durand and Somerset earlier this season, but they couldn't stand up against the Chieftain front wall.

Skiba tore through the Tiger defense for 175 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also caught another pass for a touchdown.

Early turnovers put the Tigers into a difficult situation. New Richmond's first possession of the game ended in a fumble. The Tigers' third possession ended in an interception, which Osceola quickly converted into a score that gave the Chieftains a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Tigers then put together their best drive of the night, moving 73 yards in eight plays. A 17-yard pass from Kaleb Kier to Drew Durham got the ball near the end zone. Connor O'Loughlin finished the drive with a 4-yard scoring run that cut the margin to 13-7.

The momentum the Tigers built on that drive was squashed moments later. On Osceola's first play, Skiba broke through the Tiger defense for a 77-yard touchdown.

Osceola scored again with six seconds left in the first half on a 9-yard pass, making the difference 25-7.

The Tigers began the second half desperately looking for a spark and they thought they'd gotten one when Osceola fumbled the second half kickoff and the Tigers recovered. Osceola stopped the Tigers on downs and then used its ball-control offense to burn up the clock for much of the second half.

Osceola finished with 323 total yards of offense, compared to 145 for the Tigers.

"I thought we were mentally well prepared," Eckert said.

Eckert said the team's preparations will stay the same for Friday's game at Baldwin. The Blackhawks are coming off their first win of the season, romping past Amery 44-0 on Friday.

"We have the opportunity to end the year with a victory, to end on a positive," Eckert said.