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Raiders defeat Menomonie for second straight Big Rivers title

Fans in the Hudson student section celebrate with the Raider football team after the team defeated Menomonie, 28-10, to win the Big Rivers Conference championship last Friday night at Newton Field. The game marked the Raiders’ sixth straight win over Menomonie and gave them their second outright BRC title. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Bob Burrows)1 / 3
Hudson wide receiver Alex Herink hauls in a pass for a first down near midfield in the second quarter of the Raiders’ 28-10 victory over Menomonie last Friday night at newton Field. 2 / 3
Hudson senior fullback Wade Malecha sprints past the Raider bench on his way to a 40-yard touchdown run to give the Raiders a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead over Menomonie last Friday night at Newton Field. Malecha, in his first game back since injuring his knee in the season opener, scored a pair of touchdowns in the Raiders’ 28-10 victory.3 / 3

Even Wade Malecha thought it was too good to be true.

“I wouldn’t have believed it if you had told me that my first carry of the year I would get hurt, then told me this would happen,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Malecha, a senior co-captain on the Raider football team, injured his knee in the team’s first game of the season Aug. 23 at Minnetonka. He returned to the field for the first time last Friday night against Menomonie with the Big Rivers Conference title on the line and scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to break open a close game and help the Raiders defeat the Mustangs, 28-10.

The win was the Raiders’ sixth straight over Menomonie and gave Hudson its second straight BRC title with a perfect conference mark of 7-0. Hudson, now 8-1 overall, earned the No. 1 seed in its grouping for the WIAA playoffs and will host No. 8 Eau Claire Memorial in a Level 1 game this Friday night, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. at Newton Field.

“That was a great way to finish the regular season, with the BRC title on the line and just an electric atmosphere,” Raider head coach Adam Kowles said about the Senior Night crowd. “Can't say enough how much we appreciate the fan support.”

Menomonie came into the game averaging over 30 points a game and had allowed just 18 points all season. The Raiders attacked the Mustangs from the start and scored on their opening drive when Landry Otten hit Jake Giordana across the middle for a five-yard touchdown to cap a 79-yard scoring drive.

Menomonie answered on the ensuing possession to tie the score, 7-7. And took a 10-7 lead on a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter following Otten’s second interception of the half.

“After the first drive, the offense seemed to be a little sluggish and we took a few chances early that hurt us,” Kowles said. “But we were going up against a tremendous defense.”

Late in the first half Raider defensive back Lucas Traynor intercepted a tipped pass in the back of the end zone to keep the Mustang lead at three, despite three Hudson turnovers.

Most of the third quarter was played in the Hudson end of the field but the Raider defense answered every time, beginning with the Mustangs’ first possession of the half when it stopped Menomonie on 4th-and-goal at the half-yard line. Following a Raider punt, the Mustangs gained good field position at the Hudson 30, but Raider linebacker Ross Wusterbarth broke up a Nate Stanley pass in the end zone on 4th-and-ten from the 19 to end another Mustang scoring threat.

Hudson capitalized when Otten found Giordana behind the Menomonie defense for a 53-yard touchdown and Kristian Bell kicked the extra point to give the Raiders a 14-10 lead with 12 seconds remaining in the quarter.

The Mustangs had a 1st-and-goal at the Raider six-yard line early in the fourth quarter and appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown but the play was called back by a holding penalty and Stanley’s 4th-and-goal pass from the seven fell incomplete.

“Our defense has been able to buckle down all season when we needed them most, and this game was no exception,” Kowles said. “To hold them once they got into the red zone time and time again was the key to the game. It seems like we were a bend but don't break type of defense and they really got the job done when it counted.”

After stopping Menomonie inside the red zone for the fourth straight time, Hudson’s offense took over and Otten hit Giordana for a first down on 3rd-and-30. Later in the drive Malecha took a handoff, bounced outside and raced 40-yards untouched for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 21-10 lead with 4:19 remaining.

“I took the ball to the left and had some room, then I saw the pylon and I just ran to it,” the fullback said about his first touchdown of the season.

After the Raiders held the Mustangs on downs, Malecha capped the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run with 1:31 remaining to make the final 28-10.

“It feels pretty good,” Malecha said about the win. “You’ve got to give credit to the whole team. The offensive line played great and Landry Otten did a great job making plays. And our defense really stepped up.”

Kowles said the Raider offense was able to wear down the Mustangs in the fourth quarter.

“The O line and the running backs just kept wearing on them more and more as the game went along, and the receivers and quarterback made some great plays,” he said.

Otten finished the game 10-of-19 for 202 yards and two touchdowns, both to Giordana, who caught a total of five passes for 106 yards. Alex Herink also caught five passes for 96 yards in the win.

Malecha carried the ball 14 times for an even 100 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back from injury.

Defensively, Wusterbarth and Jack Koski led the way with eight tackles each while Eliot Motu, Miles Lewis and Nick Bloomberg each made five. Traynor was responsible for the lone Mustang turnover with his second quarter interception while Wusterbarth, Motu and Zach Kraft each recorded a sack.

Kowles said it took a true team effort to win the BRC title.

“That was a team effort all the way,” he said. “This group doesn't care much about individual accolades. They are much more concerned about the team, and when you have that, you always have a chance to win. I am happy for the players because they earned this one.”

Menomonie 7 3 0 0—10

Raiders 7 0 7 14—28

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

HUD—Jake Giordana 5-yard pass from Landry Otten (Kristian Bell kick), 9:01.

MEN—Derek Kahl 3-yard run (Brett Lindberg kick), 5:18.

Second Quarter

MEN—Mitch Dulin 27-yard field goal, 6:15.

Third Quarter

HUD—Jake Giordana 53-yard pass from Landry Otten (Kristian Bell kick), 0:12.

Fourth Quarter

HUD—Wade Malecha 40-yard run (Kristian Bell kick), 4:19.

HUD—Wade Malecha 5-yard run (Kristian Bell kick), 2:58.

Team Stats

              MEN HUD

1st Downs 18 14

Total Yds. 314 358

Pass Yds. 169 202

Rush Yds. 145 156

Turnovers 1 3

Individual Statistics

RUSHING (att-yds): Wade Malecha 14-100; Braden Marvin 5-37; Hunter Frey 7-29; Landry Otten 5-(-10).

PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): Landry Otten 10-19-2-202.

RECEIVING (rec-yds): Jake Giordana 5-106; Alex Herink 5-96.

TACKLES: Ross Wusterbarth 8, Jack Koski 8, Miles Lewis 5, Nick Bloomberg 5, Eliot Motu 5, Cal Johnson 4, Lonnie Meinke 4, Lucas Traynor 4, Jared Johnson 4, Zach Kraft 3.

SACKS: Ross Wusterbarth, Eliot Motu, Zach Kraft.

INTERCEPTION: Lucas Traynor.

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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