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New Richmond football season, win streak come to an end

New Richmond senior receiver Cole Effertz (10) is brought down after one of his seven receptions against Sparta on Friday. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Junior receiver Joey Kidder (9) caught seven passes, covering 113 yards, for the Tigers in Friday's loss to Sparta. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Several New Richmond players, including Connor Felton (52), Christian Germain (25), Payton Pohl (21) and Jacob Parent (7) try to corral a Sparta fumble during Friday's game. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Sparta's big plays and physical play up front proved too much for the New Richmond Tigers last Friday. Sparta knocked the Tigers out of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs, 33-14.

The loss ended New Richmond's six-game winning streak. It also finishes New Richmond's season with a 6-5 record.

The first two possessions of the night for the Tigers sealed their fate. The Tigers opened the game by driving to the Sparta 1-yard line, but the Tigers couldn't get the ball across the goal line. The Tigers couldn't move the ball on the ground all night, being limited to 26 yards rushing.

"They flat out punched us in the face. They outmuscled us," said Tiger coach Reggie Larson. "We couldn't run the ball. They'd blitz their backers and we didn't have an answer for that."

Match that defense with a lethal offense and it's amazing to see that Sparta was a seventh seed in the bracket. The Spartans have now upset the second and third seeds.

The Spartans' first four touchdowns all covered at least 47 yards, showing their dynamic big-play ability. The Tigers couldn't suppress that ability. Sparta running back Bryce Edwards blazed his way to 291 yards rushing, including touchdowns of 83 and 65 yards. The Spartans also had a 72-yard touchdown run from Luke Wendorf and a 47-yard touchdown pass.

The Tigers did have their chances to remain in contention. They cut the lead to 14-6 late in the second quarter on a 25-yard pass from Tim Salmon to Nolan Eckert. That came moments after the Tigers recovered a fumbled punt by Sparta.

Though the Tigers were in prevent coverage, they gave up a 47-yard touchdown in the final 10 seconds of the first half, allowing Sparta to up its lead to 20-6.

New Richmond scored the opening touchdown of the second half on a short run by Christian Germain, cutting the margin to 20-14. Again, Sparta struck right back, with Edwards scoring on a 65-yard run.

Salmon's play was one of the bright spots for the Tigers. While under constant duress from the Sparta pass rush, he completed 23 of 38 passes for 278 yards. Cole Effertz and Joey Kidder both finishes with seven catches.

Larson didn't have an off-season to prep the Tigers before this season, so he's eager to hold player meetings and get started on the plans for 2019. The Tigers graduate nearly all of their starting linemen on both sides of the ball.

"It's an open competition. If you think you can be one of them, show us," Larson said.

The expectations for the off-season will be pretty clear, according to Larson.

"Lift your butt off and hold people accountable," Larson said, saying the Tigers need to upgrade in their efforts in the weight room to build on this season's progress.

Larson said that progress needs to be acknowledged after the season's 0-4 start.

"We've got to give a ton of credit to the kids. We appreciate the character they showed," Larson said.

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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