River Falls Wildcats

Only in the age of COVID can a high school football team get a win and a loss on the same night.

That’s what happened to River Falls last week. The Wildcats received a win when La Crosse Logan had to forfeit last Friday night’s game due to COVID-related health and safety protocols. The game went into the books as a 2-0 River Falls victory and made them playoff eligible with a record of 4-0 in Mississippi Valley Conference play.

But rather than take the night off, the Cats traveled to Sun Prairie, who was also looking for a Friday night opponent after its game with Madison West was cancelled due to COVID. Sun Prairie entered the game ranked No. 3 in the state in Division 1, but that didn’t phase the Wildcats, who held the Cardinals to just seven points through three-and-a-half quarters before coming out on the short end of a 21-6 decision.

“I'm so proud of our guys,” River Falls coach Ryan Scherz said. “Just to go toe-to-toe with a team like that, who has so many Division 1 recruits. They had zero weaknesses and our guys didn't back down at all at any point.”

Sun Prairie entered the game with a record of 5-0 while averaging 51.6 points per game, including a 48-7 victory at Hudson in the season opener. But it was the Wildcats who struck first after senior defensive back Nate Weick picked off a pass on Sun Prairie’s first possession of the game and returned it deep inside Cardinal territory, setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vito Massa to Michael Schurman.

The River Falls defense came up big again later in the quarter when Wyatt Bell came up with the Cats’ second interception of the game, but Sun Prairie finally answered with a second quarter touchdown and extra point to take a 7-6 lead at the break.

The score remained that way until Sun Prairie converted a River Falls’ fumble at its own six yard-line into a touchdown with 8:49 remaining in the game. They added another touchdown on their next possession to make the final 21-6.

Massa completed just 5-of-22 of his pass attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions. But he still threw for more yards (66) than Sun Prairie quarterback Jerry Kaminski, the top-rated junior quarterback in the state. The Wildcats held Kaminski to 18 yards on 6-of-13 passing with the two interceptions.

But it was on the ground where Sun Prairie did most of its damage, rushing for 350 yards and three touchdowns. River Falls finished with 156 yards on the ground, led by Cole Evavold’s 113 yards on 28 carries.

Scherz said the Wildcats were happy, but exhausted, on the long bus ride home.

“I think the kids realized that they really believe now that they can compete with anybody,” Scherz said. “But we have to make sure that that isn’t the peak of our season. We can't go backwards. We’ve got to keep preparing because West Salem is an undefeated team. And we obviously want to win a conference championship.

So after a win and a loss last Friday, the Wildcats will take a 4-3 overall record and 4-0 MVC mark into this Friday night’s homecoming game against West Salem, who also comes in at 4-0 in conference play and is 5-0 overall.

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