Will McDonald

Hudson’s Will McDonald (17) holds up the football as Sam Dickman (6) indicates touchdown after McDonald recovered an apparent fumble in the end zone late in the third quarter against New Richmond Friday night, Oct. 14, in Hudson. The play was ruled a safety, cutting the Tigers lead over the Raiders to 20-16, and Hudson went on to outscore New Richmond 14-0 the rest of the way for a 30-20 victory. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

New Richmond got a few good punches in against Hudson early in Friday night’s regular season finale in Hudson, but the Raiders eventually delivered the knockout blow.

Hudson battled back from a 20-7 deficit midway through the third quarter to score 23 unanswered points for a 30-20 victory over New Richmond that gave the Raiders a share of their first Big Rivers Conference title since 2013.

“I’m really happy for these guys,they earned it,” Hudson coach Adam Kowles said. “It's been a long time. We've been close. We've been down to the last game before and didn't get it done. So I'm so proud of these guys for hanging on.”

New Richmond had Hudson on its heels early by scoring on its first two drives of the game. Tiger quarterback Seamus Scanlan found Drew Effertz for a 25-yard touchdown for the first score, then hooked up with Catcher Langeness for a 46-yard touchdown on the next possession.

At this point, the Tigers had a 13-0 lead while the Raiders had just three offensive plays.

The Raiders drove 75 yards late in the first quarter, only to fumble the ball away at the Tiger 4-yard line, and saw their next drive end with an incomplete pass in the end zone on 4th-and-2 at the Tiger four.

“We had chances early you know but we were humbled going in,” Kowles noted. “You get those chances and you don't take advantage of them, it's tough. And we just said, enough, we gotta go, we gotta go.”

The Raiders regained some momentum after forcing and recovering a fumble at the Tiger 27. Quarterback Jake Busson made it count when he hit Riley Anderson for a 13-yard touchdown to make it a 13-7 game at halftime.

But the Tigers started the second half the same way they started the game, marching 74 yards after a Hudson three-and-out to open a 20-7 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Andrew Trandahl.

But it was all Hudson after that. Busson capped a 77-yard scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lessard, and after the Tigers muffed the ensuing kick at their own four, Reese Thompson wrapped up Scanlan in the end zone for a safety to trim New Richmond’s lead to 20-16.

The Tigers punted from their own 20, and Hudson’s Ross Yaeger returned the kick all the way back to the Tiger 5-yard line, then ran around the left side for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Raiders their first lead of the game, 23-20, with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter.

Hudson linebacker Owen Gooder jumped a Tiger out route to set Hudson up at the New Richmond 24-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, and Busson threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game– a 17-yard strike to Lessard– to make the final 30-20.

Kowles said he liked the way the Raiders responded after getting punched in the mouth early.

“The D kept holding them out. We kind of got the offense going with a good mix. Guys made some good reads and the O-line played well, because that's a tough defense. They're coming in all directions and they don't line up in a traditional front.”

New Richmond coach Reggie Larson said he liked the way the Tigers started, but too many mistakes cost them in the second half.

“We had as good of a start as we could have asked for,” he said. “But you can't make that many mistakes and beat good football teams. We can't turn the ball over, we can't take safeties, we start with our start with field position on the five yard line after muffing a kickoff. It just kind of takes the air out of us.”

Hudson finished the regular season 8-1 overall, 6-1 and tied for first place with River Falls in the BRC. The Wildcats defeated Eau Claire North 31-19 Friday night to win their fourth straight conference title, three in the Big Rivers and one in the Mississippi Valley Conference in 2021.

The WIAA playoff brackets will be released later Saturday morning.

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