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Honors pile up for Raider football

Raider head coach Adam Kowles addresses his team after its' 13-6 overtime win over River Falls Oct. 2. The Raiders went on to win their first-ever Big Rivers Conference championship and landed 16 players on 2009 All-Big Rivers Conference teams. In addition, three players earned all-region and all-state honors and Kowles was named the BRC Coach of the Year. Bob Burrows photo

Collectively, the Raider football team produced one of the best seasons in school history, winning its first-ever Big Rivers Conference championship and advancing to the second round of the WIAA State Playoffs.

Individually, the players are now being recognized with a host of post-season awards.

Sixteen Raiders have been named to 2009 All-Big Rivers Conference teams and three earned Wisconsin Football Coaches Association West Central All-Region and WFCA All-State honors while head coach Adam Kowles was named the BRC Coach of the Year.

"It was a great year for Hudson football, not only because of the overall outcome of the season, but because of the way the players came together as a team," Kowles said. "I truly think that you can do anything you want in life if you are willing to put in the work and you believe in yourself and those around you, and the players are proof that great things can happen."

Offensive lineman Sam Cunningham, running back Andy Edholm, defensive lineman Chas Larson and defensive back Michael Bennett were all named to the All-BRC First Team while Cunningham, Larson and Bennett also earned All-Region and All-State honors.

Earning spots on the All-BRC Second Team were offensive linemen Nathan Eby and Jared Berg, defensive linemen Ryan Weiler and Ethan Dinauer, linebacker Arthur Vinzant, kicker Jake Denison and return specialist Tyler Smrcina.

Quarterback Beau Hommes, defensive back Luke Hanson, and linebackers Jake Hayes, Sam Stephens and Kyle Swanger all earned Honorable Mention.

Much of the Raider success this season was the result of strong play from the offensive line and defense, and that was reflected in the postseason awards with three offensive linemen and five members of the defense earning all-conference honors.

Cunningham, Eby and Berg anchored an offensive line that paved the way for the Raiders to rush for a total of 2,453 yards this season, averaging five yards per attempt.

Making those numbers even more impressive is the fact five Raider runners rushed for at least 300 yards this season, led by Hommes' 609 yards on the ground. Edholm punished opposing defenses by carrying the ball a team-high 130 times for 574 yards while Davy Branson carried the ball 76 times for 382 yards, Travis Hilden had 312 yards in 62 carries and Travis Smith finished with 300 yards in 42 attempts.

Derek Krumrei led the Raider receivers with 11 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns while Hommes led the team in total touchdowns with 10.

"The O-line played well all year and the backs and receivers found a way to get the job done," Kowles said. "This offensive group laid the foundation as we expand and build upon the offense in the future."

Defensively, the Raiders held their BRC opponents to an average of less than 10 points per game.

Larson earned his all-conference, all-region and all-state honors by finishing the season with a team-high 102 tackles, including 78 solo stops, and eight sacks. Bennett led the BRC in interceptions with six and made 60 tackles, including 50 solo.

Vinzant finished with 69 tackles and Dinauer contributed 44 and four sacks while Weiler had 39 tackles and two sacks.

Swanger finished the year with 54 tackles, 48 solo, and recovered a fumble while Stephens had 48 tackles and recovered a team-high two fumbles. Hanson made 30 tackles and blocked a punt while Hayes contributed 22 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery

Kowles credited his coaching staff with helping the Raider defense shine this season.

"The guys that I have the opportunity to coach with here at Hudson are as good as it gets," he said. "Coach (Neil) Hatfield and the defensive staff deserve a lot of credit for getting our defense to fly around and make plays. They had a great plan each game and the players studied the game and executed well. The defense was a nightmare for opposing offenses all year long."

Denison connected on 23-of-25 extra point attempts and made 3-of-6 field goals, including a long of 31 yards, while Smrcina returned 11 punts for 110 yards and a touchdown and eight kickoffs for 199 yards.

"Special teams was sound all year and made some big plays in the return game," Kowles said.

Kowles said senior leadership played a key role in the Raiders' success this season.

"We'll miss those 34 guys, but I know they will all go on to do great things in life because of the type of people that they are. It is a pleasure to be able to work with the players at Hudson because they believe in and care about each other. They made a decision to be great and out in the work in order to achieve a championship season."

The coach said he's also thankful to the community for its support.

"I can't say enough how great it is to have the fan support that we do," he said. "The student body support was phenomenal, as well as the support from the entire community. This community deserves a winner and we are happy to bring a conference championship home to Hudson. I'm proud of all the players, coaches, and everyone else involved with the program. The returning players and coaches are already in the process of preparing for next season, and we are excited for the new challenges that lie ahead."

A number of players were also honored at the Raiders' annual banquet with team awards. Honors went to Tyler West for Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year, Luke Miller for Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, Larson-Defensive Lineman of the Year, Eby-Offensive Lineman of the Year, Vinzant-Defensive Player of the Year, Hommes-Offensive Player of the Year, Denison-Special Teams Player of the Year, Bennett-Most Valuable Player, and Hilden and Matt Scholz received the "One Play at a Time Award."

The Raiders finished the season with a record of 9-2, 6-1 in BRC play.

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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