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Football: A rough return to the Big Nine

Red Wing's Ben Miller runs away from two Northfield defenders during the first quarter of the Wingers' 41-0 loss to the Raiders on Friday night. Miller had two catches for 28 yards in the game.1 / 2
Red Wing's Tait Kelly is taken down after a 33-yard gain on a play that started at the Wingers' 1-yard line. Red Wing lost, 41-0, to Northfield in the teams' first game back in the Big Nine Conference.2 / 2

NORTHFIELD, Minn. – Everything was within reach until Joey Eckhoff raced 66 yards on a punt return to give Northfield a two-touchdown lead shortly before halftime.

After that score, the Raiders stomped on the gas pedal, leaving Red Wing behind in the first Big Nine Conference game either team has played in several decades.

The 41-0 final score didn’t seem likely through the first 12 minutes, or even the first 21 minutes. But after the break, Northfield scored three touchdowns in less than nine minutes to secure the victory.

“I think we’ve got a lot of guys going both ways and they kind of wore us down,” said Red Wing’s first-year head coach Rickey Foggie. “But we kept our defense on the field too long. We have to correct a lot of mistakes on offense. We turned the ball over too much. We had a lot of misreads by the quarterbacks, but we have to get better overall.”

Despite the flurry of points the Raiders dished out in the third quarter, there was fight left in the Wingers until the final whistle.

“For the most part, our kids kept their heads up, their attitudes were good, as I would expect. But we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Foggie continued.

Northfield seemed determined to give the game away early after fumbling on the 1-yard line, throwing an interception, and taking two 15-yard penalties in one play, negating a first down deep in Winger territory.

But the Raiders were able to take the lead with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half when Josh Chlan scored from 8 yards out. Eckhoff’s return came after Red Wing went three-and-out on the next series, which included a sack, one of eight times a Winger quarterback hit the ground.

“Our offensive line, we’re young. We’re starting three guys that have never played offensive line before in their whole (lives),” said Winger offensive and defensive lineman Nick Connelly. “We’ve got one [starter] hurt, one suspended from the team right now. It’s crazy. They know what to do, but they’re so inexperienced that when (Northfield) threw different packages at us, they were blitzing and stuff, they go right by us. Especially with the penalties, and them scoring so much, it just gets us down.”

Red Wing was called for seven penalties, six on the offensive side of the ball, including three false starts or motion calls on the final drive of the first half.

Tait Kelly, the Wingers’ starter at quarterback, finished 9-of-14 for 73 yards and two interceptions. Jakob Meyer carried the ball 18 times for 61 yards while Connelly led the defense with nine tackles and a forced fumble. Brendan Kelly had an interception for Red Wing.

Northfield’s Tommy McDonald led all rushers with 120 yards on nine carries to go with one touchdown, while Chlan and Eckhoff each had two touchdowns. The Raiders rushed for 255 yards, 136 more than the Wingers managed in total offense.

Red Wing (0-1) will now turn its attention to Winona (0-1), who pushed defending Class 5A state champion Owatonna to the limit on Thursday. The Wingers will open the home portion of the schedule at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5 at Red Wing High School.

“It’s all a mind game right now,” Connelly said. “We have the physical strength, we just have to keep it in the head.”

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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