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Raiders spoil Cats' jug party

Wildcat quarterback Mark Bennett (12) celebrates with teammates Henry Higgins (39) and Austin Johnson after scoring on a 19-yard touchdown run to give the Cats a 6-0 second quarter lead against Hudson Friday night at David Smith Stadium at Ramer Field. Hudson hit a pair of second half field goals, then scored the only touchdown of overtime, to defeat River Falls 13-6 in the annual battle for the Little Brown jug. Bob Burrows photo

There is never a lack of drama when the River Falls and Hudson football teams meet in the annual battle for the Little Brown Jug. And Friday night was no different.

Hudson erased a 6-0 Wildcat lead to force overtime, then scored the only touchdown of the extra session to defeat River Falls, 13-6, and earn possession of the Little Brown Jug for the first time in three years.

The Wildcats, now 2-4 overall, 0-4 in the Big Rivers Conference, will travel to Carson Park in Eau Claire to take on Eau Claire North (1-5, 1-3) Thursday at 7 p.m.

Friday night's game against the Raiders was played in a steady drizzle that took a toll on the Cats' special teams. After Mark Bennett's 19-yard second quarter touchdown run gave the Cats a 6-0 lead, a muffed snap led to a missed extra point that would come back to haunt River Falls in the second half.

Hudson drove four times inside the Wildcat 15-yard line in the second half and the Wildcat defense turned them away twice on fourth down. The other two times the Raiders were forced to settle for Jake Denison field goals -- the first from 26-yards out after the Cats stopped the Raiders at the nine yard-line, and the second from 31 yards away after holding the Raiders at the 12.

While the Wildcat defense held Hudson to six points in the second half, the Raider defense allowed River Falls across midfield just once. Hudson had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Denison's 38-yard field goal attempt with 10 seconds left sailed wide.

Hudson won the coin toss and possession to start the overtime and took its first lead of the game when quarterback Beau Hommes scored on a nine-yard run. Denison added the extra point for a 13-6 Hudson lead.

River Falls had a opportunity to tie, but quarterback Ryan Kusilek's fourth-down pass intended for Rickey Troester was broken up by Raider defensive back Mike Bennett and Hudson had its first win over River Falls since 2006.

"I was very proud of how our kids played," Wildcat head coach John Bennett said after the latest battle between the two rivals. "They played with heart and toughness throughout the game. We lost some key players and a number of players really stepped up to replace them."

One of those players was linebacker Landon Kaiser, who replaced starter Ben Wunrow early in the game after Wunrow left with a hand injury. Kaiser finished with six solo tackles in the game.

Zach Pavlichek led all Wildcat defenders with 12 tackles, including 10 solo and three for loss of yardage. Dylan Dock added seven stops, including five solo, while James Kozak made six tackles and Talal Adam five.

The Cats struggled at times on offense, however, and the sloppy conditions played a role in hurting the Cats on special teams.

"We struggled to establish good field position, and our punt team had a bad night," Bennett said. "The defense played inspired football with a number of big goal-line stands. Our offense moved the ball pretty well at times."

Kusilek completed 5-of-10 passes for 42 yards and no interceptions while Oscar White carried the ball 14 times for 52 yards. As a team, the Wildcats had more first downs than Hudson (12-11) and more total yards (232-203), most of those coming in the first half.

Bennett said he's confident the Cats can bounce back Thursday in Eau Claire.

"I know what kind of young men we have," he said. "They are resilient and will come back fighting this week against North."

See Oct. 8's print edition of the River Falls Journal for stats and more photos.