In it till the end
Anytime you've got the ball in the final minute against the two-time defending conference champions with a chance to win, you're doing something right.
The Wildcat football team, despite allowing three long touchdown runs and turning over the ball four times, was in that position Friday night against Chippewa Falls at Ramer Field.
It wasn't until the fourth and final turnover, an interception by Cardinals' cornerback Jared Jacquish at his own 15 yard-line with 4.8 seconds remaining, that the Cards could breathe easy about their 27-21 win over the Wildcats.
"This team consistently gives great effort and battles all four quarters," Wildcat head coach John Bennett said. "But we are still making things hard on ourselves by turning the ball over on offense and giving up big plays on defense. It's those handful of plays that are determining the outcome of ballgames."
The handful of plays Friday night included a 59-yard touchdown run by the Big Rivers Conference's leading rusher Brad Huempfner on the second play of the game, a 64-yard touchdown run by Jacquish at the end of the first quarter, and a 47-yard scoring scamper by Huempfner early in the second half.
Huempfner added another touchdown from 10-yards out late in the third quarter, but when Wildcat wideout Rickey Troester caught his second touchdown pass with just over three minutes remaining, the Cardinal lead was cut to 27-21 and the Wildcats were still very much alive.
The Cats were forced to burn their remaining timeouts on the Cardinals' ensuing possession but eventually forced Chippewa to punt and took over at their own 30 yard line with 37.7 seconds remaining.
Quarterback Mark Bennett hit Jack Herum for a first down at the 47 and immediately spiked the ball to stop the clock with 21.7 seconds left. Bennett then found Herum on second down for a 16 yard gain to the Cardinal 36 and spiked the ball again with 10.7 seconds on the clock.
On second-and-ten, Lucas Weiss' pass intended for Troester along the sidelines at the 15 yard-line was picked off by Jacquish with 4.8 seconds remaining and the Cardinals escaped with head coach Chuck Raykovich's 200th career win.
River Falls outgained the two-time defending BRC champions 334 to 324, including 133 to 9 through the air. The Cats also finished with 16 first downs compared to 11 for the Cardinals.
After a missed extra point left the Cardinals with a 6-0 lead following Huempfner's 59-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, the Cats came right back and scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Kusilek to Troester. Kusilek added the extra point and the Cats led 7-6.
A Wildcat fumble late in the first quarter led to 64-yard touchdown run by Jacquish, and a successful two-point conversion put the Cards ahead, 14-7. The Wildcat defense stopped the Cardinals on 4th-and-3 at the Wildcat 10 with eight minutes remaining in the half, and the Cats put together a 12-play, 90-yard drive to tie the score, 14-14, on a 5-yard touchdown run by Zach Pavlichek and Kusilek's extra point.
The Cardinals scored two third-quarter touchdowns, the second one play after blocking a Wildcat punt, but the Wildcat defense turned up the heat and forced a fumble on the Cardinals' next possession. After fumbling the ball back to Chippewa Falls, Herum picked off a Jacquish pass at the Cardinal 36.
Oscar White ran for a 17-yard gain on second down to the Chippewa Falls 10, where Bennett found Troester on third down in the front corner of the end zone. Kusilek drilled his third extra point of the game and the Cardinal lead was cut to six, 27-21, where it stayed for the remaining 3:19 of the ballgame.
Kusilek completed 5-of-9 passes for 72 yards and Bennett was 4-of-8 for 61 yards with both throwing touchdown passes to Troester, who led all receivers with five catches for 77 yards. White carried the ball 16 times for 110 yards to lead the Wildcats on the ground.
Tony Mishek finished with 14 tackles, 12 solo, to lead the defense while Ben Wunrow totaled nine tackles. Grant Lillvis, James Kozak and Pavlichek all had tackles for loss while Talal Adam forced a pair of fumbles and Wunrow, Kelly Larson and Joe Gresbach each recovered a fumble.
Tailgate before battle
for Little Brown Jug
The River Falls High School Band Boosters will host a tailgate party at Ramer Field prior to Friday night's battle with Hudson for the Little Brown Jug. The party will run from 5:30-6:30 p.m. near the gazebo in the parking lot with food and beverages available for purchase.
The Marching Wildcats will perform their 2009 field show, "Bellus Noctis," at halftime.
Kickoff between River Falls and Hudson is 7 p.m.
Chippewa 14 0 13 0--27
River Falls 7 7 0 7--21
CF--Brad Huempfner 59-yard run (kick failed), 11:13.
RF--Rickey Troester 50-yard pass from Ryan Kusilek (Kusilek kick), 9:10.
CF--Jared Jacquish 64-yard run (Jacquish run), 0:37.
RF--Zach Pavlichek 5-yard run (Kusilek kick), 2:42.
CF--Brad Huempfner 47-yard run (Jenneman kick), 9:03
CF--Brad Huempfner 10-yard run (kick failed), 3:10.
RF--Rickey Troester 10-yard pass from Mark Bennett (Kusilek kick), 3:10.
1st downs 11 16
Rushing 37-315 45-201
Passing 1-3-1-9 9-19-2-133
Total Offense 324 334
Punts 2/58 3/108
Fumbles 2 2
Penalties 5-45 7-45
RUSHING: Oscar White 16-110; Ben Wunrow 8-33; Austin Johnson 5-19; Mark Bennett 8-19; Nick Zimmerman 2-15; Ryan Kusilek 3-2; Zach Pavlichek 2-2; Dylan Dock 1-1.
PASSING: Ryan Kusilek 5-9-0-72-1; Mark Bennett 4-8-0-61-1; Lucas Weiss 0-2-2-0-0.
RECEIVING: Rickey Troester 5-77; Jack Herum 2-33; Connor Schug 1-18; Ben Wunrow 1-5.
KICKOFF RETURNS: Austin Johnson 3-60; Henry Higgins 1-14.
TACKLES (SOLO-ASSIST): Tony Mishek 12-2; Ben Wunrow 4-5; Zach Pavlichek 6-0; Nick Zimmerman 5-1; James Kozak 5-1; Lee Getschel 2-4; Talal Adam 3-2; Mark Bennett 2-3; Grant Lillis 3-1; Tim Weller 2-2; Jack Herum 2-0; Oscar White 1-0; Calvin Wing 1-0; Dylan Dock 0-1.
TACKLE FOR LOSS: Grant Lillvis, James Kozak, Zach Pavlichek.
FORCED FUMBLE: Talal Adam (2).
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Ben Wunrow, Kelly Larson, Joe Gresbach.
INTERCEPTION: Jack Herum.
TIPPED PASS: Oscar White.