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Prep Football: Chi-Hi overcomes early 14-0 deficit to stun state-ranked Hudson in home opener
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Prep Football | Chi-Hi 17, Hudson 14

Prep Football: Chi-Hi overcomes early 14-0 deficit to stun state-ranked Hudson in home opener

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Hudson at Chi-Hi football 10-2-20

Chi-Hi's Isaac Frenette runs up the field against Hudson on Friday evening at Dorais Field.

The Chi-Hi football team just might have Hudson's number right now.

The Cardinals overcame an early 14-0 deficit to score the final 17 points in a 17-14 victory over the Raiders on Friday evening at Dorais Field.

Ben Steinmetz's two-yard touchdown run with six minutes and 20 seconds left helped put the Cardinals (1-1, 1-1) in front by three before a pair of fourth-down stops from the Cardinal defense allowed Chi-Hi to preserve the program's third win in a row against Hudson (1-1, 1-1).

"That's a coachism 'I felt the team grow' but I honestly did tonight," Chi-Hi coach Chuck Raykovich said of his team. "I thought the kids got big tonight. A lot bigger than they did last week. They're starting to believe in themselves. They saw when they do things as they're coached, good things happen."

Gavin Goodman's long punt return set up the Cardinals with great field position after the junior fielded the Hudson boot in Chi-Hi territory and started running to his left before reversing field, going to his right where he had blockers waiting to move the ball down to the Hudson 37-yard line.

Two Brayden Warwick runs placed the Cardinals at the Hudson 7-yard line and Steinmetz found the end zone two plays later to put his team in front 15-14. A two-point conversion run by Steinmetz was called back due to penalty but the second try would also be successful as Warwick scrambled his way into the end zone to push the Cardinals ahead by three.

The Chi-Hi defense allowed two touchdowns in the first 18 minutes of Friday's game, but nothing else after that and was especially stingy down the stretch as a quick three-and-out possession following the go-ahead score gave the ball back to the offense. The next possession for Chi-Hi went backwards and the Cardinals avoided a disaster on the punt when the long snap went over punter Jack Meyer's head. But the senior kicker was able to corral the loose ball and get a punt off that ultimately died near midfield for the Raiders, a better outcome than it could've been without Meyer's heads-up play to get the boot off.

Hudson picked up one quick first down before the defense put the clamps on the Raiders and turned the offense over on downs. The Raiders got one more chance starting at their own 30-yard line with 59.4 seconds left but the Cardinals made one final stand as an Elijah Hable sack on second down helped lead to a fourth and long situation for the Raiders. Quarterback Owen Anderson found receiver Sage Lewis along the sideline but Lewis went out of bounds short of the line to gain to clinch the victory for Chi-Hi as they ran out the final seconds.

Hudson raced out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter on the strength of Anderson's two-yard scoring run in the first and an eight-yard pass from Anderson to Troy Bounting at the midway point in the second.

The Cardinals were able to build momentum late in the second quarter after the defense forced a punt and the offense moved down the field to find the end zone. Warwick completed back-to-back passes to Isaac Frenette and Steinmetz for big yardage, moving the Cardinals inside the Hudson red zone. Soon after Warwick and Frenette connected again, this time on an eight-yard touchdown to close the gap to 14-6 with 50 seconds left until halftime.

Hudson moved the ball into field goal range, but an attempted kick in the final seconds went wide to keep the deficit at one score.

Chi-Hi's first points of the fourth quarter came on the drive before the Cardinals took the lead when Meyer split the uprights on a 43-yard field goal to make it 14-9 with 11:02 remaining.

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Overall the Chi-Hi defense allowed just four Hudson first downs in the second half.

"Obviously our defense played lights out," Raykovich said. "They really did. Offensively we are so close. It's unbelievable. One block here, one block there. We're going to be putting some points up on the board."

Chi-Hi's second possession of the second half moved the Cardinals into the Hudson red zone, but a mishandled exchange on a fourth and two inside the Raider 10 led to fumbling away a scoring opportunity and nearly a scoop-and-score Hudson touchdown the other way.

Hudson came into Friday's contest ranked fifth in the state in Division 1 in the latest WisSports.net coaches poll after defeating Menomonie 30-23 last week.

Chi-Hi was coming off a 23-8 loss at River Falls in a game that started slowly like Friday night's win. But this time, the Cardinals snatched back momentum and never gave it up and their hall of fame coach thinks gained plenty of confidence in the process.

"They just fly around," Raykovich said. "All these kids are incredible. We're so close to being a very good football team.

"On offense you can take away — I can take right off the top of my head six mistakes that could've been touchdowns — and we're on our way. The kids played well tonight. They played a lot better than they did last week."

Steinmetz led Chi-Hi with 79 yards on 19 carries and had 55 receiving yards on three catches while Warwick added 34 rushing yards. Hunter Danielson had 48 yards on nine carries for the Raiders.

Friday marked the third season in a row the Cardinals defeated the Raiders despite Hudson entering the yearly matchup with a better record. In 2018 and 2019, victories in the regular season finale catapulted the Cardinals into the playoffs.

This year the win provided the program with a much-needed shot in the arm.

"It goes back to that last playoff game last year (a 35-34 loss against top-seeded Pulaski)," Raykovich said. "That was a bitter taste in a lot of kids' mouth feeling that we should've had that game and not playing as well as they know they could last week  — although that's not taking anything away from River Falls. River Falls is a good football team.

"But coming out tonight and falling behind but then saying hey, boys we're not too bad. Let's get it done and it really...I really look forward to practice next week because I think it's going to be...we've had great weeks of practice so far but I think it's going to be very upbeat. I think it's going to be more fun than it normally is and I'm looking forward to it."

Chi-Hi hosts Rice Lake next Friday at Dorais Field.

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