This one felt different, there was a pervading sense of optimism despite last Friday’s 31-7 loss to a very good (undefeated No. 4 in Class 4A) Winona team. Down only 3-0 and more than staying with the Winhawks after the first period, a bad snap from center gave Winona the ball on the 10-yard line and an easy touchdown. The entire third quarter was played from the Winona 35-yard line on in (terrible field position), yet the Raider defense allowed only one touchdown. The defense also held the Winhawks to several third down and long yardage situations, only to give it up with quarterback scrambles for first downs. The point is that there was vast improvement in tackling and competitive fire.
Offensively, the Raiders had 10 first downs and had three great drives, one of which was derailed by a phantom holding call by the officials after a 45-yard pass completion from Gavin Rataj to Daniel Monaghan, and another ended up in a touchdown on a pass from Rataj to Porter Adams. All in all, a pretty good performance with flaws in the kicking game and run game, which are correctable.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: 147-258: Total offense — not enough for the good guys; 2: Penalties — a season-low; 69: Yards given up in the pass game, a season-low for the defense; 12-19-123-1: Passing stats for Rataj; 7-58: Pass receptions and yards for Monaghan; 3-33: Receptions for Caleb Voight; 11-1: Tackles and tackle for loss by Simon Dickerson; 7: Tackles for Blake Mellgren; 4-1: Tackles and tackle for loss by David Tonjum.
FOUR AMIGOS AND THREE YEOMEN: Four sophomores who stepped up to fill some gaps were Ryne Johnson, Mason Pagel, Nolan Stepka and Zach Edwards. Three upperclassmen also made their mark for the first time in seniors Carter Schmidt and Kai Anderson, and junior Bohdi Vandewalker.
IRON MEN: The injury-laden team sports only five seniors who have played every game without injury: Rataj, Monaghan, Eli Bowman, Kevin Grundhoffer and Sam Hegseth.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Players: Dickerson and Adams; Scout: Vandewalker; Special teams: Mellgren and Adam Viskocil; JV scout: Tate Sand; JV players: Charlie Monaghan, Nadir Baraki and Edwards.
SEC: Friday winners were: Rochester Mayo (4-2), New Prague (2-4), Owatonna (6-0), Winona (6-0), Mankato East (3-3) and Kasson Mantorville (3-3). Mankato West (4-2) lost to Owatonna 24-20 and Rochester Century (4-2) was upset by New Prague.
AUSTIN: Austin (2-4) is led by quarterback Eli Johnson, running back Andy Chesak and defensive players Oliver Anderson and Angwa Nywesh. The Packers lost to Byron last week and are in Section 1-5A along with Northfield, so Friday’s contest in Austin has many implications.
FRIDAY: 7 p.m. in Austin, the Raiders hope for the return of some of the walking wounded in time for a run in their last two games of the season. Come on, come all...