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This year's Raider football captains, from left, Dan Kelly, Mike Hommes, Dan Loughney, Alex Burgess and Joe Kelly will lead Hudson when the team hits the field for its season opener this Friday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. at Newton Field against defending state champion Kenosha Bradford.

Raider football team ready for opener

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sports River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Raider football team will face a stiff challenge in its 2012 season opener this Friday against defending Division 1 state champion Kenosha Bradford. But that's not about to faze a roster led by 41 seniors.

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Hudson led Kenosha Bradford 13-6 at halftime in the second game of the 2011 season before the Red Devils scored 27 unanswered points on their way to an undefeated season.

The Raiders went on to finish 6-4 overall, 5-2 in the Big Rivers conference and qualify for the WIAA playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Head coach Adam Kowles believes the team's experience will lead to continued success this season.

"One of the strengths of the team is definitely the senior leadership," he said. "With 41 seniors, we not only have the numbers, but we have a tremendous group of young men who strive to be there best in everything that they do."

Led by senior captains Mike Hommes, Dan Loughney, Alex Burgess, Dan Kelly and Joe Kelly, the Raiders have plenty of returning firepower, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Loughney returns after earning All-Big Rivers Conference second team honors at running back while junior Alex Herink was an All-BRC second team pick at wide receiver in 2011.

"We are more experienced up front on offense than we have been in the past so we are going to lean on those guys a little more than we have," Kowles said. "We also have some experience returning in the backfield so we should be able to distribute the ball around."

Hudson returns fewer starters on defense, but Kowles said the team's quickness should be an asset.

"Defensively I think we can run to the football," he said. "We have many new players on the defensive side of the ball who don't have a ton of varsity experience, but I know they are eager to get out on the field and get after it.

"We are not real big, so we'll need to play fast on both sides of the ball," he added.

Kowles said one surprise so far in practice has been the team's improvement on special teams.

"With so many players in the program, guys are hungry for the opportunity to get out there and compete on every special team."

One area the coaching staff is stressing about as it prepares for Friday night's season opener is fundamentals.

"We need to continue to work on assignments," Kowles said. "Football is such a mental game that we need to be aligned correctly and know our assignments and the techniques to use once we get there. As a team, we will continue to work on fundamentals every day because we can always improve on them."

The loss of a second nonconference game this season has also been a challenge. Last year the WIAA started practice a week early as a way to eliminate playoff teams from having to play three games in 10 days at the end of the year. The early start was not endorsed by many coaches, so in order to start camp at its usual time this season, the WIAA shortened the regular season to eight games instead of the usual nine.

The change means the Raiders will jump right into Big Rivers Conference action in their second game of the season Friday, Aug. 31, at Rice Lake.

"It's tough losing a game this year and only playing eight," Kowles said. "It definitely makes the first game even that much more important since we usually have two games to fine tune things before the conference schedule. With game two being a conference game, the team needs to be sharp that much quicker."

Kickoff for Friday night's season opener against Kenosha Bradford is 7 p.m. at Newton Field.

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