There have been a lot of memorable football games in the 100-year rivalry between Hudson and River Falls. This one is near the top of the list.
In the 101st meeting between the two teams Friday night, Aug. 31, in Hudson, it took a blocked extra point by the Raiders with 11 seconds remaining to give them a 28-27 victory over the Wildcats, and possession of the Little Brown Jug for the 10th straight season.
Hudson took its first lead of the game, 28-21, on a 2-yard touchdown run by Cole Danielson with 2 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. The Wildcats responded with an 80-yard drive, converting two fourth downs along the way, to pull to within a point when Logan Graetz found Jared Creen in the back of the end zone with 11 seconds left.
A delay of game penalty on the Wildcats pushed the extra point back five yards, and the Raiders got just enough of the kick at the line to push it low and wide.
“That was as good as any,” Hudson coach Adam Kowles said. “It was a great football game and great crowd and fan support. I've been in this thing for 17 years or so and that was as good as any of them.”
Both teams entered the Big Rivers Conference opener 2-0 but it was the Wildcats who took control early, taking the opening kickoff and burning just 2:32 off the clock to go 70 yards, ending with a 5-yard touchdown run by Seth Kohel.
After the teams traded punts, Hudson tied the score on a 6-yard run by quarterback Keyser Helterbrand with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
River Falls answered with an 80-yard drive to take a 14-7 lead on Kohel's second 5-yard score of the game, but Hudson responded with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Helterbrand to Ben Karls to tie things up again.
The Wildcat offense went back to work and took a 21-14 lead when Graetz hit tight end Joe Stoffel for an 11-yard touchdown with 2:21 left in the half.
Helterbrand found Matt McDevitt behind the Wildcat defense from midfield on the ensuing possession but River Falls' defensive back Peter Noreen chased McDevitt down at the five yard line. The Cats forced a Helterbrand fumble on the next play at the one-half yard-line to preserve their 21-14 halftime lead.
After a scoreless third quarter that included fourth down stops by both defenses and a missed 42-yard field goal by the Wildcats, Hudson got a 14-yard touchdown pass from Helterbrand to Karls just over a minute into the fourth quarter to tie the score, 21-21.
Hudson's Jakes Assembo and River Falls' Creen intercepted passes on successive possessions and Wildcat defensive back Adam Feyereisen fell on a fumble at his own 9 yard-line to kill a Raider drive with 7:38 remaining.
After a River Falls punt gave Hudson the ball at its own 44, Helterbrand hit Charlie Pierce for one first down and McDevitt for another to take the ball down to the River Falls; 13. Helterbrand carried the ball to the three, before Danielson took a pitch and snuck inside the pylon to give the Raiders their first lead of the game with 2:46 remaining.
But River Falls wasn't done. Starting at their own 20 after a touchback, a pair of carries by Kohel resulted in a first down and Graetz hit Kohel with a swing pass on 4th-and-2 near midfield to keep the drive alive.
Facing 4th-and-8 at their own 48 with 55 seconds left, Graetz found Creen along the sideline and the senior wide receiver tip-toed all the way down to the Hudson 22 before being forced out of bounds.
Graetz and Nate Rixmann hooked up for an 8-yard gain to the 13, and after Graetz spiked the ball, Kohel ran for a first down to the 10.
Raider defensive end Cade McDonald sacked Graetz for a 10-yard loss on the very next play, leaving 18.1 seconds on the clock. Following a Wildcat time out, Graetz scrambled to his left before finding Creen in the back of the end zone to make it a one-point game, 28-27, with 11 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats appeared ready to send their offense back on the field for a potential game-winning two-point conversion but couldn't line up in time and were whistled for delay of game. The ensuing extra point kick to tie the game was tipped at the line, giving Hudson a one point win.
Kowles had nothing but good things to say about the Wildcats after the game.
“They're good,” he said. “That's a really, really good football team. We saw that on film but you just never know until you're on the field with them, and they are a very, very good football team; extremely well coached on both sides of the ball. We're just happy to get out of here with a 'W.'”
The Little Brown Jug, the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of the Hudson-River Falls football game each season, will remain in the Hudson trophy case for the 10th straight year. River Falls leads the Little Brown Jug series, 35-30, and the all-time series, 54-47.