Yet another close game for the Central football team slipped away in the second half, as the Raiders fell 27-7 at home to Belle Plaine on Friday, Oct. 19.
That loss concluded Central’s regular season, during which the Raiders went 1-6 overall and 1-5 in the Minnesota River Conference.
The Raiders earned the No. 7 seed in the section playoffs and traveled to No. 2 Watertown-Mayer in the first round on Tuesday night. Results of that game will be available next week.
Against Belle Plaine, the game stayed close at 14-7 Tigers until the fourth quarter, when a number of miscues by Central helped Belle Plaine stretch its lead to a 20-point margin.
The Tigers scored first on a one-yard run in the first quarter, but the Raiders answered on a 14-yard run by Casey Clemensen and an extra point kick by Tom Messner to tie the game at 7.
Belle Plaine scored once more to take the lead on a 49-yard passing play and extra point before halftime, and the game remained knotted at that score until the fourth quarter.
A pair of Central fumbles gave the Tigers short fields late in the game, and a one-yard touchdown run and four-yard touchdown run were the result.
“We gave up a couple of short fields and followed that up by giving up a big play. We couldn’t really sustain anything offensively the whole night. You put those things together…. It was a night of big plays for Belle Plaine and those big plays really hurt us,” said Raiders head coach Paul Henn. “It wasn’t our best effort of the year.”
The Raiders actually ran 21 more offensive plays than the Tigers, but the yardage gained was exactly even at 247 yards apiece.
Belle Plaine attempted 11 passes and gained 145 yards and one touchdown against one interception by Central’s Brice Panning, and added 102 rushing yards.
Central quarterback Isaac Hormann threw 12 times, completing six passes for 74 yards with an interception. The Raiders also picked up 173 yards on the ground, including 104 yards on 20 carries from running back Noah Peterson and 47 yards on 15 carries from Jeff Worm.
“Like every game we’ve played this year we did some things well. What has plagued us are all those little things that we haven’t done well all season,” said Henn. “In close ballgames like we’ve been in, you can’t beat yourself. We’ve made just enough mistakes at the wrong times to beat ourselves in a lot of ballgames this year. A lot of that is these younger kids and kids that haven’t played before growing up. It takes time. Once it starts to click, whether that’s some time in the playoffs here or next year, once it starts to click I think these guys are really going to be able to run with it.
“We’ve just got to be a little bit patient. This is definitely a year where we’ve had to do a little teaching and building, and we’re getting there. There’s just no real consistency yet.”
The loss to Belle Plaine earned the Raiders a rematch against Watertown-Mayer on Tuesday. While the seeding made the game look like a mismatch on paper, the Raiders gave the Royals a scare during the regular season when Watertown-Mayer escaped with a 19-14 win.
“We’re pretty excited to go out and get a second shot. We played them very well the first game. We put ourselves in good position to win that football game,” said Henn. “We know that this is a brand new part of the season. Everybody starts over. You can throw the records out from the first game, especially a game that was as close as ours. We know, and I’m sure Watertown knows, that if they don’t play well we’re going to go out and have a chance to win.”
If the Raiders manage to slip past the Royals, the next playoff game would take place this Saturday at either Patrick Henry in Minneapolis or Jordan.
“In our section, if we can manage an upset here in the first round, we’re going to have a pretty good chance to play for a little while. We just have to beat one of the better teams right out of the gate,” said Henn. “It’s a match up that we like. We’re just going to have to go out on the field and settle it out there.”