River Falls celebrates

River Falls players and their classmates celebrate with the Little Brown Jug after the Wildcats defeated Hudson 27-14 in the annual battle for the traveling trophy Friday night in Hudson. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

After two years in the Hudson trophy case, the Little Brown Jug will spend at least the next year in River Falls after the Wildcats defeated the Raiders 27-14 in the 105th meeting between the two teams Friday night in Hudson.

Both teams entered the game 3-0 overall, with River Falls ranked No. 7 in the Week 3 Wisconsin Sports Network Division 2 coaches’ poll while Hudson was ranked No. 10 in Division 1.

Once the game started, the Wildcats unleashed a punishing ground attack that featured junior Jonah Severson carrying the ball 36 times for 212 yards and all four of his team’s touchdowns to lead from start to finish.

The Wildcats dominated time of possession– running 68 offensive plays to Hudson’s 42– while outgaining the Raiders 389-225. River Falls also had 20 first downs to Hudson’s 10 and were 3-for-3 on fourth down conversions.

Hudson coach Adam Kowles said River Falls won all the battles up front.

“Hats off to them, they played well,” he said. “They just kept getting first downs and first downs and we just couldn't couldn't get off the field. That's the name of the game. You win in the trenches.”

Two of the Wildcats’ fourth-down conversions came on the opening drive of the game when they marched 69 yards in 12 plays, culminating with a three-yard touchdown run on fourth down by Severson.

Severson scored his second touchdown on the Cats’ final possession of the first half, bulling up the middle from four yards out after quarterback Jacob Range hooked up with Jordan Karras for a 49-yard gain down to the Raider eight.

Hudson came out firing in the second half and marched 65-yards in five plays, ending with a three-yard touchdown run by Justin Robey to cut the Wildcat lead to 13-7. But River Falls responded with a 9-play, 80-yard drive, ending with Severson busting up the middle from 25-yards out to widen the gap to 19-7 four minutes later.

An interception by Ben Healy, his fifth of the season, gave the Raiders the ball at their own 33 yard-line early in the fourth quarter, and a long run by Robey followed by a long pass from Jake Busson to Nathan Michaels moved the ball down to the Wildcat 16. After another first down, linebacker Reese Thompson lined up at tight end and caught a two-yard rollout pass from Busson to make it a five-point game, 19-14, with 8:37 remaining.

But once again River Falls had an answer.

After Wyatt Bell returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, Severson took a handoff on 3rd-and-2 down to the Raider 30. Gavin Kohel gave Severson a breather and ran for 13 yards. before two straight carries by Severson resulted in his fourth touchdown of the game from four yards out.

The Cats pulled out some trickery on the two-point conversion when Range handed off to Severson, who pitched the ball back to Karras and Karras found tight end Cody Olson wide open in the back of the end zone to make it a 27-14 game with just over four minutes remaining.

Hudson failed on a 4th-and-18 pass attempt on its ensuing possession and the Wildcats took over on the Raider 28-yard line with 2:31 remaining before converting a 4th-and-5 with 1:34 left to seal the win.

“This feels great,” senior Wildcat captain Cade Myszewski said after posing for pictures with the Little Brown Jug. “We haven’t won it in awhile, but all our boys worked their butts off and we’re super excited to get it back.”

River Falls coach Ryan Scherz said the Wildcats pride themselves on getting off the ball and being physical, and they did that Friday night.

“We want to be the most physical team in Wisconsin,” he said. “We find guys that want to play football, that love football, and put them on the offensive line. And if you have good athletes that have been in the weight room, you’re gonna be okay.”

It’s just the second time in the last 14 years the Wildcats have earned possession of the Little Brown Jug, the traveling trophy the two teams have played for each season since 1953. River Falls leads the Little Brown Jug series 37-21 while leading the all-time series 56-49.

Scherz said it feels good to bring the jug back to River Falls.

“Games like this are huge for the kids and for the community,” he said. “It’s nice to get that payoff and have that support after these kids have worked so hard.”

River Falls is now 4-0 overall, 2-0 and tied for first place in the Big Rivers Conference with Menomonie. Next up for the Wildcats is a road game at Eau Claire Memorial this Friday night. The Old Abes are coming off a 14-10 loss at New Richmond that dropped them to 3-1 overall, 1-1 in the BRC.

Hudson, 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the BRC, will host Menomonie this Friday. The Mustangs are 2-2 overall this season and are coming off a 20-14 victory over Chippewa Falls.

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