Vito Massa

River Falls quarterback Vito Massa threw five touchdown passes in the Wildcats' 43-14 victory over Sparta last Friday. File photo

You would think a team that went 7-0 in its conference and 7-3 overall, with its only three losses to two other conference champions and a playoff qualifier, would be a one or two seed in the playoffs.

But that’s not what happened to River Falls after it wrapped up the Mississippi Valley Conference title with a 43-14 victory at Sparta Friday night.

The Wildcats received the No. 4 seed in a regional that includes three of the top four ranked Division 2 teams in the state– top-ranked Badger Conference champion Waunakee, second-ranked Badger Conference runner-up DeForest, and fourth-ranked Big Rivers Conference co-champion Menomonie.

“They put us in an absolutely stacked regional,” Wildcat coach Ryan Scherz noted. “Waunakee is absolutely the one seed, and DeForest has one loss to Waunakee, and Menominee beat us so you can't you can't say that the seeds aren’t right. I’m just surprised that they put three conference champions and two undefeated conference champions together. But you have to beat everybody anyway. I just know that if we're in a different region maybe we get a two seed or a three seed, but in our region we're definitely a four seed.”

The Wildcats wrapped up the MVC championship behind a five-touchdown night from quarterback Vito Massa and a 169-yard effort on the ground by Cole Evavold last Friday in Sparta.

Massa threw touchdown passes of 45 and 44 yards to Michael Schurman and Evavold scored from three-yards out in the first quarter to stake the Wildcats to a 21-0 lead.

Massa threw three more touchdown passes in the second half, a one-yarder to Ethan Campbell, a 13-yard connection to Cody Olson and a 70-yard strike to Schurman, to finish 9-of-14 passing for 242 yards and five touchdowns. Evavold carried the ball 21 times for his 169 yards and a score while Campbell also had a two-point conversion run and Aleck Ross connected on all five of his extra point attempts.

Defensively Ryan Langer was in on 13 tackles and Tyler Haydon had seven while Eddie Loesch registered five tackles and a sack.

“The kids executed pretty well,” Scherz said. “It’s hard to motivate them to play a game like that where they know they're better, but they definitely did some things that we want them to do and came out healthy so that’s good.”

The conference title is the third straight for the Wildcats after winning the BRC in 2018 and 2019. No conference champions were crowned in 2020 due to the COVID-19 shortened season.

Now the Wildcats set their sights on the playoffs for the third straight year, beginning with fifth-seeded La Crosse Central, a team they defeated 42-12 during the regular season, this Friday night at home. And with Waunakee likely waiting for the winner, Scherz said Cats can’t afford to take La Crosse Central lightly.

“That's definitely going to be the message,” he said. “They're going to look at the last game and they're going to do some things differently I'm sure, so we have to try to anticipate what those things are and find a way to play even better than we did the first time.”

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