Raiders stonewall Appleton North; move on to state semifinal
They don’t come any wilder than the ending of the Hudson football team’s state quarterfinal game against Appleton North last Saturday in Stevens Point.
After scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes remaining, Hudson had to stop Appleton North twice inside the one-yard line in the final 12 seconds to preserve a 20-14 victory and advance to the state semifinals for the second straight year.
“Unbelievable finish to the game,” Raider head coach Adam Kowles said. “I have never seen anything quite like it.”
After scoring on its first two possessions of the game, Hudson’s offense stalled and Appleton North crawled back into it with a pair of second half touchdowns. Hudson snapped the 14-14 tie with Wade Malecha’s second touchdown run of the game, from three yards out, with just over two minutes remaining. The extra point attempt was blocked, keeping Hudson’s lead at 20-14, and Appleton North returned the ensuing kickoff past midfield to the Raider 48 yard line.
The Lightning drove to the Raider 11 where Hudson defensive back Cal Johnson broke up a pass in the end zone with 24 seconds remaining. Defensive end Jared Johnson chased Appleton North quarterback Dan Rothbauer out of bounds at the seven to stop the clock with 18 seconds remaining.
Rothbauer found a receiver just short of the goal line on third down but Raider defensive back Miles Lewis made the tackle just outside the one, setting up a fourth and one with 12 seconds remaining.
Rothbauer tried a quarterback sneak out of the shotgun and the Raider defense, led by the front three of Lonnie Meinke, Eliot Motu and Jared Johnson, stopped him short of the end zone. But one second remained on the clock, and a measurement gave the Lightning a first down and one more try.
After trading timeouts North tried the same play again, but a swarm of Raiders pushed back and after the referees stripped the players away from the scrum they ruled Rothbauer had come up short, setting off a wild celebration on the Raider side of the field.
“I’m so proud of the effort of the guys,” Kowles said. “They always seem to get better when their back is against the wall, and it sure was at the end of the game.”
The Raiders appeared to be in control early, taking the opening kickoff and scoring from a yard out on a halfback pass from Hunter Frey to Alex Herink.
After forcing the Lightning to punt from deep in their own territory, Hudson put together a nine-play, 54-yard drive that was capped by a one-yard touchdown plunge by Malecha to take a 14-0 lead.
Appleton North cut the Raider lead in half with a touchdown in the third quarter and tied the score with just under six minutes remaining before the Raiders put together a 12-play drive to go ahead on Malecha’s second touchdown of the game with 2:04 remaining.
“Offensively, I think we forced a few things during the middle of the game instead of letting the offense come to us,” Kowles said. “But, just like the defense, when we really needed them to respond, they did to get the winning touchdown at the end of the game.”
The Raider defense, meanwhile, held Appleton North to just 96 rushing yards and 97 yards passing in the game. The Lightning managed only 60 total yards in the first half.
“Defensively, we had a great first half against their offense,” Kowles said. “They made some good adjustments in the second half and were able to move the ball in the second half, but we buckled down when we had to.”
Jared Johnson led the Raider defense with eight tackles and a sack while Motu, Cal Johnson and Jack Koski recorded seven tackles each. Motu and Meinke also recorded a sack apiece while Koski forced a fumble that was recovered by Lucas Traynor.
Malecha finished with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 carries while quarterback Landry Otten completed 9-of-17 passes for 124 yards and Frey was 2-for-2 for 35 yards and a touchdown. Jake Giordana led all receivers with seven catches for 118 yards.
“I can't say enough about how proud I am to be a part of this program,” Kowles said. “The determination that these guys have played with all season is amazing.”
The win sets up a rematch of the 2012 state semifinal game with the 10-1 Raiders facing 10-1 defending state champion Hartland Arrowhead this Friday night, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in Stevens Point.
Appleton North 0 0 7 7—14
Raiders 14 0 0 6—20
HUD—Alex Herink 1-yard pass from Hunter Frey (Kristian Bell kick)
HUD—Wade Malecha 1-yard run (Kristian Bell kick)
AN—Connor Rolain 18-yard pass from Dan Rothbauer (Alex Macke kick)
AN—Ethan Danz 7-yard run (Alex Macke kick)
HUD—Wade Malecha 3-yard run (kick failed)
1st Downs 16 16
Total Yds. 193 276
Pass Yds. 97 159
Rush Yds. 96 117
Turnovers 1 1
RUSHING (att-yds): Wade Malecha 25-100; Braden Marvin 4-15; Hunter Frey 5-5; Landry Otten 2-(-3).
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): Landry Otten 9-17-1-124; Hunter Frey 2-2-0-35.
RECEIVING (rec-yds): Jake Giordana 7-118; Alex Herink 3-23; Hunter Frey 1-18.
TACKLES: Jared Johnson 8, Cal Johnson 7, Jack Koski 7, Eliot Motu 7, Ross Wusterbarth 6, Miles Lewis 5, Lucas Traynor 5, Nick Bloomberg 5, Zach Kraft 5, Lonnie Meinke 4, Bryce DuCharme 2.
SACKS: Jared Johnson, Eliot Motu, Lonnie Meinke.
FORCED FUMBLE: Jack Koski.
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Lucas Traynor.