Hawks make plays that needed to be made down the stretch
RIB LAKE-PRENTICE 24, LADYSMITH 22
A touchdown on the season’s first offensive drive was the first sign this football season could be different for the Rib Lake-Prentice Hawks and the fourth quarter certainly brought more positive signs in the team’s 24-22 win at Ladysmith Friday night.
Down 14-8 to start the fourth quarter, the Hawks seized the opportunity to earn their first win since late in the 2018 season by executing offensively on two consecutive scoring drives and a third drive that burned most of the game’s final five minutes. Defensively, between the team’s two touchdowns, the Hawks came up with a big defensive stand that, at the time, maintained a slim 16-14 lead.
“It was awesome just the way the guys came out and played and they never really let off the gas the entire game,” Hawks’ co-head coach Jonah Campbell said. “Not everything went our way, but the attitude and excitement was there and it was fun to be a part of, no matter what happened during the game.”
Finally unleashed after being sidelined for the season’s first three games due to COVID issues, the Hawks put up 286 total yards in their Lakeland Conference debut, including 250 rushing yards. Both figures easily surpassed anything the team compiled during its 0-9 season in 2019. Defensively, they gave up 344 yards, including 282 rushing yards, to the Lumberjacks, but the bottom line is they limited the damage to 22 points and got the stops they needed.
“The clutch plays that happened toward the end on offense and defense just showed the level of competitors we have on the field this year,” Campbell said.
The Hawks’ first drive of the season was impressive. After a 24-yard kickoff return by Ashton Keiser to start the game, the Hawks went 60 yards and took six minutes off the clock. Keiser had a big 16-yard run early in the drive. They converted on fourth and one at Ladysmith’s 28 on a 2-yard run by quarterback Michael Borchardt and they overcame a holding penalty with a 9-yard pass from Borchardt to Trey Klemann and a big 8-yard pickup from Keiser on third and seven.
The drive ended with a 1-yard touchdown run for senior Brock Thiede, who missed all of last season due to injury. Keiser ran in the two-point try for an 8-0 lead.
Ladysmith made some adjustments from there after getting a look at the Hawks’ new offense and kept them off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. In the meantime, a personal foul killed Ladysmith’s first drive that had reached the red zone. The Lumberjacks reached pay dirt on their second drive, capping a lengthy 68-yard drive that chewed 6:30 off the clock with a 1-yard scoring plunge from Elijah Pearson with 4:33 left in the half. The two-point pass failed, keeping the Hawks in the lead at 8-6. Keiser’s interception killed Ladysmith’s last drive of the half.
Pearson’s 4-yard touchdown run ended Ladysmith’s second drive of the second half and gave the Lumberjacks their lone lead of the night. Brady Ingersoll’s two-point run gave them their 14-8 lead. But instead of wilting, the Hawks took the momentum back on the ensuing drive, which started at their 40 with two minutes to go in the third quarter.
The big play of the drive came on third and 14 at their own 36 when Borchardt hit Michael Quednow for a 20-yard completion on a post pattern. Sam Gumz broke off a 32-yard run that put the ball at Ladysmith’s five. On third and goal, Keiser bulled into the end zone for the go-ahead 2-yard score. Keiser also ran in the twopoint try for a 16-14 lead with 10:02 left.
Ladysmith threatened to regain the lead by driving inside Rib Lake-Prentice’s 30-yard line, but the Hawks stuffed Ingersoll for a 2-yard loss and then dropped him for an 8-yard loss on fourth and eight to kill the drive with 5:25 left.
“Defensively, the takeaway by Ashton (in the first half) was huge and then the sack on their second-to-last drive sealed the deal for us,” Campbell said.
On first and 15, right after taking over, Gumz broke loose on the running play of the game, a 69-yard touchdown with 5:04 to go.
“We ran a fake dive to (Jordan) Yanko and we handed off-tackle to Sam,” Campbell explained. “Yanko ended up getting tackled. Sam kinda got bunched up behind our two linemen that were lead blocking for him. I think one guy kinda grabbed him. We watched it on film and we’re still not sure how he squeezed out. But he squeezed out that back side, cut across the middle and shook off a safety. From there, there was nobody who could catch him.”