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Hawks find a tough opponent as a last-minute replacement


With Flambeau having to back out of Friday’s scheduled Lakeland Conference football finale, the Rib Lake-Prentice Hawks were forced to scramble to find a new opponent for their lone home appearance of 2020. They found a very good one in the Spring Valley Cardinals.

The undefeated champions of the Dunn-St. Croix Conference set the tone quickly, scoring three touchdowns in just over eight minutes and the Hawks couldn’t recover in a 54-0 loss at Prentice.

After three close defeats in conference play, this one, unfortunately for the home team, was much different.

“That’s a very good program over there and I think they were excited just to get a game in and made the trip,” Hawks’ co-head coach Jonah Campbell said. “It was nice to get a home game for our guys. We definitely played hard in the second half, the third quarter. The JVs started coming in in the fourth quarter. It was just that type of start where you didn’t really know what to expect and they came out a little bit better than maybe we expected. I don’t know if we were caught off-guard. I don’t know what term to use there. It was just a tough game. Good opponent.”

The game became official mid-week, giving the Hawks about one day to scout and prepare.

The Cardinals’ Justin Reilly got the rout started quickly, returning Ty Annala’s opening kickoff 74 yards for a touchdown. After Spring Valley’s defense forced a three-and-out, Reilly capped a short three-play, 68-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown run that made it 13-0 just 2:52 in.

The Hawks got one first down before having to punt again, but a bad snap instead wound up losing 17 yards and the Cardinals went 46 yards in six plays, overcoming a holding penalty in the red zone, and scored on Nathan Fesenmeier’s 15-yard run. The two-point conversion by quarterback Connor Ducklow made it 21-0.

“That kickoff return, going three and out and then they take it down for a touchdown. It just kind of gives you an ‘oh snap’ type of feeling,” Campbell said. “You kind of panic a little quicker than you should. There’s just that mindset like, ‘we’re already down, we better start putting up points,’ whether you’re a player or a coach.”

Points unfortunately didn’t come as Spring Valley held Rib Lake-Prentice to 35 rushing yards for the game and 49 total yards.

“We have two linemen down,” Campbell said. “Their defensive line was very fast and they stayed low so they were able to shoot gaps, make it hard on the offensive line to block for in between the tackle plays. We felt like we were able to get outside, but their linebackers also did a very nice job of getting off of second-level blocks and floating to the ball.”

Ducklow ran twice for 24 yards and then threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Brayden Wolf to cap a 65-yard scoring drive that made it 28-0 early in the second quarter. The Cardinals blocked a Rib Lake-Prentice punt and turned that into a 30-yard scoring drive. Ducklow got the 1-yard touchdown. A short punt later led to a 49-yard drive that ended with Ducklow’s 25-yard touchdown run that gave Spring Valley a 41-0 halftime lead.

Junior Damien Peterson led the Hawks in rushing with 20 yards on five carries. Ashton Keiser had 15 yards and Jordan Yanko had 13 yards. Some younger players got opportunities to carry the ball late, which was one of the bright spots in the loss. The other was that the Hawks did get a chance to celebrate Senior Night, which wasn’t certain to happen earlier in the week.

“It’s still a cool experience to play under the Friday night lights as a younger guy,” Campbell said. “It gives you a taste of what’s to come in the future. On a year like this year, getting as many reps as you can get is nice, even though the circumstances weren’t great. It was nice to honor our seniors even though the game was how it was. Just to get a home game in, it didn’t really matter the opponent.”

Gumz had two solo tackles and four assists for the Hawks. Yanko and Trey Klemann both had two solo tackles and three assists. Yanko had a tackle for loss.

Rib Lake-Prentice opted out of the WIAA’s regional playoff tournament and, instead, scheduled a season-ending game with Athens that will be played Friday on the Blue Jays’ home field at 7 p.m.

The schools had talked about playing this past Friday, but the Blue Jays had already scheduled a game with Westby. Campbell said the Hawks are excited about playing a familiar opponent close to home and hope they can create another competitive game.