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Defense lets down New Richmond football team in 2012 season finale

The offense of the New Richmond football team has increased its productivity over the second half of the 2012 season.

But as the offense has been on the incline, the Tiger defense has gone the opposite direction. That was the Tigers' downfall in their season finale last Friday, a 29-27 loss at Baldwin-Woodville. Both teams end with 2-5 records in the Middle Border Conference and did not qualify for the WIAA state playoffs.

The Tiger defense was shockingly porous against B-W. The Blackhawks finished Friday's game with 340 yards rushing. Blackhawk running back Derek Weyer set a school record by gaining 319 of those yards. The Blackhawks added another 103 yards through the air.

Even with B-W churning up yardage, New Richmond led 14-7 at halftime. The Tigers scored on their opening play from scrimmage in the game, with senior fullback Taner Hoppe breaking free on a counter play for a 61-yard touchdown.

B-W tied the score at 7-7 with 26 seconds left in the first quarter. The Tigers regained the lead midway through the second quarter when halfback Dominic Ficociello scored on a 10-yard run.

In the third quarter the Tigers couldn't stop B-W. The Tigers switched out of their base defense to a 5-3 front, but it didn't make any difference. The Tiger coaches got so desperate in the fourth quarter that they went to a goal line defense to try stopping B-W's isolation and counter plays.

"We're just frustrated with where our defense has gone the last three weeks," said Tiger coach Jason Eckert. "Osceola ran all over us, then so did Baldwin. It was frustrating to not have an answer for it."

Eckert said one of the reasons for the defensive collapse the past two weeks was the Tigers were playing without middle linebacker Abe Anderson, who was injured early in the loss to Osceola.

The Tigers finally got a stop on a B-W possession in the final minutes of Friday's game by pulling the ball away from a Blackhawk ball carrier for a fumble inside the Tiger 20-yard line. The Tigers did try to drive for the go-ahead score, but the drive died at the B-W 40.

The Tiger offense tried to keep pace with the Blackhawks in the second half. The Tigers got a touchdown from Ficociello midway through the third quarter to lead 21-15. B-W matched that score late in the third quarter on a 20-yard run by Weyer.

Quarterback Kaleb Kier scored the Tigers' final touchdown eight seconds into the fourth quarter on a 23-yard run. B-W scored the game's final touchdown with 8:08 left on a 13-yard run by quarterback Brody Peterson.

While B-W had eye-popping offensive numbers, the Tigers also put up respectable offensive totals. The Tigers rushed for 266 yards. Hoppe finished with 106 yards, Kier with 87 yards and Connor O'Loughlin with 53 yards.

The Tigers graduate 10 seniors from this season's roster. Eckert said one of the main objectives for the off-season will be adding more players to the team's roster. The coaches plan to meet with all the players next week to set a course for next season. Then the search begins.

"We will try to identify kids who should be out, to find ways to increase our numbers. We want kids who are willing to do the right thing, to meet our expectations," Eckert said.