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Raiders bring home the jug

Raider senior Derek Widmyer (58) tries to block a punt attempt by River Falls' Oscar White deep in River Falls' territory in the third quarter of the Raiders' 13-6 victory over the Wildcats Friday night at Ramer Field. Photo by Bob Burrows

There's never a lack of drama when Hudson and River Falls meet on the football field in the annual battle for the Little Brown Jug.

Friday night's game in River Falls was no exception, as the Raiders came back from a 6-0 halftime deficit to win on a 9-yard touchdown run by Beau Hommes on the first possession of overtime.

Defensive back Mike Bennett broke up a Wildcat pass on fourth down on the ensuing possession, and the celebration was on as the Raiders reclaimed possession of the Little Brown Jug for the first time in three years.

"It was definitely an exciting game," Raider head coach Adam Kowles said after his team improved to 5-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big Rivers Conference heading into Thursday night's showdown with undefeated Menomonie. "My hat is off to the River Falls' players and coaches. They had a great game plan and those players played really well. It's never easy when you play rivalry games, so I don't care that much if we win big, or we win in overtime. We'll take it."

The Raiders found themselves trailing 6-0 at halftime after River Falls' quarterback Mark Bennett's 19-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. But the Wildcats never got the extra point attempt off as the holder couldn't handle the snap in the wet conditions.

The muffed extra point proved to loom large in the second half as the Raiders moved inside the Wildcat 15 yard line four times but had to settle for just a pair of Jake Denison field goals.

The first came from 26 yards out after a Raider drive stalled on the Wildcat nine yard line, and the second was from 31 yards away to tie the score with just over four minutes remaining after Hudson got as far as the River Falls 12.

Denison had a chance to win the game in regulation, but his 38-yard field goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining sailed wide.

"Offensively, we are just not clicking," Kowles said. "We need to find a rhythm. You need to be able to move the chains, but we didn't have great execution for most of the game on offense. The play selection wasn't very good either though, and that's my fault."

While Hudson's offense struggled, the Raider defense stifled the Wildcats in the second half, letting the 'Cats across midfield just once. The Raiders held the Wildcats to just 60 total yards in the second half.

"Our defense was outstanding, especially in the second half," Kowles said. "I don't know how many plays they ran in the second half, but it could not have been many. When you limit the opponent's number of plays, you have a great chance of winning."

Hudson got the ball first in overtime, and starting on the 25-yard line, picked up a first down when Hommes found Derek Krumrei for an 11-yard gain to the 12. After Davy Branson ran for a three-yard gain, Hommes scored on a nine yard run to give the Raiders their first lead of the game and Denison added the extra point to make the score 13-6.

Mike Bennett broke up a 4th-and-12 pass intended for Wildcat receiver Rickey Troester on the 'Cats possession of OT to seal the Raiders first win over River Falls since 2006.

"Some players made some clutch plays in the second half and into overtime," Kowles said. "And they never stopped believing that we would get the job done. That's what's important."

River Falls had more first downs than Hudson (14-12) and more total yards (197-190), but Kowles said the Raiders won the battle for field position.

"For a few weeks now, our special teams have been great," he said. "Winning the battle of field position, especially in the second half, was a major factor in deciding this game."

The Raiders will host first-place Menomonie Thursday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at Newton Field.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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