BENTON – Despite a 23-21 loss to host Benton/Scales Mound last Friday night, and finishing 3-4 in the Six Rivers conference, the River Ridge varsity football team earned a spot in the WIAA Division 7 playoff field.
The Timberwolves, who will be making their first playoff appearance since 2010, were the final team selected by the WIAA to make the 224-team playoff field at the conclusion of the regular season.
According to wissports.net, 212 teams from throughout the state finished the regular season with a conference record of .500 or better, leaving 12 playoff spots open for teams that finished under .500 in conference play.
Following an extensive tiebreaker criteria, it came down to the three remaining schools in the Six Rivers conference (River Ridge, Benton/Scales Mound and Highland) for the final remaining playoff spot. And, when taking everyone’s “defeated opponent’s overall win-loss percentage,” into account, River Ridge won out.
“I had done the math and I knew that we were going to be close,” said River Ridge coach Wade Winkers of a playoff berth. “I was obviously pretty disappointed after the game with the result, but I told our players before we left the field that there was an outside shot and that I would let them know if we had any changes.”
Winkers found out later that evening and sent out a group message, letting his players know that they should soak their white jerseys in preparation for the playoffs.
“We’re excited about it as a staff,” Winkers said. “We lifted Monday morning and I think the kids were excited about it. It’s another game, and it’s another chance to play.”
As the seventh seed in their D7 regional bracket, the Timberwolves travel to Potosi this Friday night to take on the second-seeded Potosi/Cassville co-op (6-1, 7-2). The top seed in the bracket belongs to the league champions from Black Hawk (7-0, 9-0).
The Timberwolves could have avoided all the drama and sealed a playoff bid had they beaten Benton/Scales Mound Friday night, but instead wound up on the short end of a 23-21 final.
River Ridge held a 14-0 lead after the first quarter of play despite running just one offensive play in the opening 12 minutes.
Junior Colton Clark started the game by returning the opening kick 88 yards for a touchdown, and the extra-point kick by Kaine Bause gave the Timberwolves an early 7-0 lead.
After forcing Benton/Scales Mound to punt on their opening possession, River Ridge’s Ryan Redman hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass from Blake Crubel. The extra-point kick by Baus made it 14-0, and River Ridge never touched the ball again in the opening quarter.
“Their ground game really chewed up the clock,” said coach Winkers. “They weren’t getting big plays, just three or four yards. We’d get them in third-and-long and we just couldn’t get off the field.”
In the first quarter alone, Benton-Scales Mound accounted for 109 rushing yards, and were limited to 131 rushing yards in the final three quarters combined.
Benton/Scales Mound eventually capitalized on their second offensive possession of the game, using 20 plays, 18 rushing, to reach the end zone.
After taking a 16-14 lead into the locker room at halftime, and neither team scoring in the third quarter, Benton/Scales Mound got a gift from River Ridge midway through the fourth.
The River Ridge defense had just stopped their opponent on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, taking over possession deep into enemy territory.
On the very next offensive play, River Ridge fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Benton/Scales Mound, who turned it into six quick points.
Following a two-point conversion run, Benton/Scales Mound held a 23-14 lead with seven minutes to play in the contest.
The Timberwolves answered with a two-yard touchdown run by Tyler Millin and an extra-point kick by Baus, making the score 23-21 with 4:48 to play in the game.
The home team controlled the clock in the final minutes of the game, hanging on to win the game.
On the night, River Ridge ran for 155 yards on 30 rushing attempt, and was led by Millin’s 105 yards on 18 carries. On the year, the senior running back has rushed for 1,029 yards and 11 TDs on 147 carries.
Junior quarterback Blake Crubel completed 3-of-12 passing attempts for 92 yards, all of which went to senior Ryan Redman.
Defensively, Blake Crubel led the team with 15 total tackles, while Connor Mumm had 12 and Will Esser 11. Blake Crubel lead the team in tackles this season with 107.
Benton/Scales Mound 23,
River Ridge 21
(from Friday, Oct. 13)
River Ridge 14 0 0 7 - 21
Benton/SM 0 16 0 7 - 23
RR - Colton Clark, 88-yard kick return (Kaine Baus kick)
RR - Ryan Redman, 66-yard pass from Blake Crubel (Baus kick)
B/SM - Brooks Tiedeman, 8-yard pass from Wyatt Bastian (W. Lawrence run)
B/SM - Ethan Shetler, 27-yard pass from Bastian (Shetler run)
B/SM - N. Mowry, 2-yard run (kick good)
RR - Tyler Millin, 2-yard run (Baus kick)
First downs - RR 10, B/SM 17. Rushing - RR 30-155, B/SM 58-240. Passing yards - RR 92, B/SM 71. Passes - RR 3-12-1, B/SM 5-8-0. Fumbles-lost - RR 4-1, B/SM 0-0. Penalties-yards - RR 6-50, B/SM 7-55.
RR: Tyler Millin 18-105, Blake Crubel 6-26, Brett Moravits 4-16, Ryan Redman 2-8
B/SM: Nathan Mowry 30-106, Kaelan Shetler 7-54, Ethan Shetler 11-45.
RR: Blake Crubel 3-12-1, 92.
B/SM: Wyatt Bastian 5-8-0, 71.
RR: Ryan Redman 3-92.
B/SM: Brooks Tiedeman 2-38, Caleb O’Neill 1-22.