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New Richmond's bid for Homecoming football upset victory falls short

The New Richmond football team was able to lead undefeated Middle Border Conference leader Ellsworth 10-7 at halftime of the Tigers’ Homecoming game last Friday.

The defensive success the Tigers saw in the first half couldn’t be maintained in the second half. Ellsworth was able to overpower the Tigers in the second half, scoring three touchdowns as the Panthers finished with a 28-10 final.

The loss drops the Tigers to 1-4 in the Middle Border Conference and ends their hopes of qualifying for the WIAA state playoffs this season.

Both offenses were largely held in check in the first half of Friday’s game. Neither team had more than 70 yards of offense in the half.

Ellsworth’s only touchdown of the first half was a result of a breakdown by the Tiger special teams. Ellsworth’s Dennis Schutz broke two tackles and was allowed to get to the outside on a punt return. Schutz sailed down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown at the 9:16 mark of the second quarter.

The punting done by New Richmond’s Cameron Hausman was strong all night and it eventually led to the Tigers’ first points. A deep punt by Hausman pinned Ellsworth at its 14-yard line. Two plays into the possession the Panthers fumbled and New Richmond’s Ben Werner recovered at the Panther 17. The Tiger offense couldn’t move the ball, but Hausman made sure the Tigers got points out of the turnover, booting a 38-yard field goal.

The Tiger defense came up with another stop on Ellsworth’s next possession, with senior linebacker Allan Wollenberg making a big tackle for loss when Ellsworth tried to run a reverse on third down.

In the next possession the Tigers gave Ellsworth a new look, with halfback Connor O’Loughlin taking several of the direct snaps. O’Loughlin ran for 17 yards on one of those plays. Another key play was a 24-yard pass from quarterback Sevin Davis to tight end Keilan Mehls.

When the Tigers got near the goal line, the coaches had Davis go under center for one of the first times this season. The Tigers went to a power approach and it worked, with Werner churning his way into the end zone from 4 yards out with 22 seconds left in the half.

Tiger coach Keith Badger said he went to new looks on offense to get the ball into the hands of O’Loughlin, Davis, Wollenberg and Dom Ficociello in situations where they can make plays.

“I think we’ll continue to evolve and make changes,” Badger said. “It makes us more difficult to prepare for.”

Ellsworth started the second half with a much more energetic approach and the Tigers couldn’t match that intensity. Ellsworth gained 14 yards on the first play of the half. It appeared momentum had swung that quickly, because Ellsworth now had it all. The Panthers completed a fake punt for a first down, which led to a touchdown on a quarterback sneak at the 8:35 mark.

Ellsworth drove 61 yards for a touchdown in its next possession, which included another successful fourth down conversion.

The Panthers got the final touchdown of the game when Schutz dashed 51 yards up the middle with five minutes left on the clock.

The Tigers limited Ellsworth to 279 yards of offense in the game, a respectable effort against the conference leader. Where the Tigers couldn’t match Ellsworth was on offense. The Tigers managed 111 yards of offense in the game.

The defense continues to mature. Led by seniors Wollenberg and Mehls, the Tigers showed excellent pursuit on running plays. Younger players are beginning to emerge for the defense too. Werner and Brady Maus were two of the younger Tigers who performed well defensively on Friday.

The Tigers will play at home this Friday and the game presents an excellent opportunity. The opponent will be Amery, which is winless in MBC play. The Warriors may not have a win, but they can’t be taken for granted either. Amery has put up strong efforts against some of the MBC leaders, losing to Durand 33-30 and Prescott 27-26.

“We end the season with two very winnable games,” Badger said. “The kids understand the commitment they’ve made. They’re in it for the long haul.”

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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