Sitting at 0-3 and facing a team that has reached the WIAA state championships each of the past two seasons puts the New Richmond football team in a difficult position for this Friday’s game against St. Croix Central.
The Tigers are coming off a 9-7 loss at Baldwin-Woodville where they didn’t look sharp on either side of the ball.
So what can be done to get the Tigers ready for the defending Division 4 state runner-up? First-year coach Reggie Larson put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff.
“There’s something we’re not teaching the correct way,” Larson said, saying the offense isn’t producing up to expectations. “I don’t think it’s an effort thing. We still can right the ship.”
The Tiger defense didn’t play badly at Baldwin, holding the Blackhawks to 186 yards on 62 plays. Limiting your opponent to three yards per play is something most defenses would be quite proud in. But the defense did have a few flaws. B-W was 10-20 passing, including connecting on several key third down conversions.
“We did a great job stopping the run,” Larson said, as the Blackhawks gained 72 yards on 37 carries. “The entire front seven of the defense played well.”
Penalties in pass coverage continue to hurt the Tigers, too. When Baldwin-Woodville drove for the deciding field goal late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were called for two pass interference penalties that kept the drive alive.
While B-W was finding ways to make third-down conversions, the Tigers weren’t. Tiger quarterbacks completed 8 of 13 attempts in the game, but only totalled 51 yards. The longest Tiger completion of the game covered 11 yards. After the passing game showed more ability to get down field against River Falls and Rice Lake, this was a step backward.
The one staple in the offense was the running of junior Cooper Strand. He finished the game with 106 yards on 19 carries. On the Tigers’ touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Strand carried the ball on three straight plays to set up the score. His final carry in the drive covered 16 yards. It set up the two-yard blast by Christian Germain which gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead with 6:06 left in the game.
B-W muffed the ensuing kickoff, getting the ball at the Blackhawk 18. The Hawks were able to move up the field quickly, aided by the two late pass interference calls. B-W senior kicker Robert Crowley booted the deciding 37-yard field goal with 1:48 remaining.
The Tigers could do little in their final possession, with two incompletions, a short completion and a quarterback sack on fourth down.
The way the Tigers lost added to the sting. The Tigers know they’ll be the underdogs on their home field this Friday.
“I think (Central) will be pretty confident and they should be,” Larson said. “Our backs are against the wall.”