RICE LAKE — It doesn't take much time or many plays for a game to quickly change.
Rice Lake football was poised to even the score against Menomonie late in the second quarter of a Big Rivers Conference contest. Instead the Mustangs (4-1) forced a stop at their own 2-yard line before marching 98 yards for a score with time running out in the half as Menomonie went on to win 28-13 on Friday at Pug Lund Field in Rice Lake.
"That touchdown there has a big psychological effect, as well as the scoreboard," Rice Lake coach Dan Hill said. "That was a huge play and we were caught sleeping on a long touchdown so a couple of plays can make a huge difference and we just couldn’t execute to come back."
Rice Lake quarterback Cole Fenske had found his favorite target Alex Belongia for 39 yards down to the Menomonie 3. A two-yard carry by Andrew Farm put the Warriors (0-5) a yard from narrowing the margin but Jayden Perkins had carries of zero and negative-one yards to set up a fourth down. Fenske rolled to his right looking for receiver Tristan Scheuer but the pass fell to the ground, giving the ball to Menomonie with 3:46 to halftime.
The Mustangs worked their way down the field on nine plays for 98 yards as Will Ockler punched in a 1-yard run with 20 seconds left before the break to go up 21-7. Menomonie had gotten a 25-yard pass completion from quarterback Ryan Kahl to Noah Feddersen and a 37-yard carry from DeVauntaye Parker on the drive. Parker ran for 134 yards in the first half on his way to a game-high 164 yards rushing.
"I give our kids a lot of credit. They faced a lot of adversity this week," Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda said. "They’re a good football team and that was the turning point of the game. If they put it in and we go into half 14-14, it’s a whole different ball game. Not only to get the stop but in two minutes to drive it 98 yards, that was huge."
Rice Lake got the kickoff to begin the second half but a pitch on an option play resulted in a nine-yard loss and the Warriors had to punt it back to Menomonie after three plays. Menomonie's Parker Schultz fielded the punt at midfield before maneuvering his way down to the Rice Lake 16. Two plays later the Mustangs added another score as Kahl carried the ball for 16 yards to put Menomonie up 28-7 about 3 minutes into the second half.
The Warriors added a late touchdown as Fenske broke free for 37 yards down to the Menomonie 2-yard line before Farm finished the drive with the score with 30 seconds to play in the game.
"It was a good effort, we just got to get better," Hill said.
The Mustangs found the scoreboard first with about three minutes left in the first quarter. Receiver Brock Thornton broke past the last line of defense, settling under a pass from Kahl for a 23-yard touchdown.
Rice Lake responded shortly into the second quarter when Fenske located Belongia downfield and the Warrior receiver trotted his way into the end zone from 69 yards out. Menomonie pulled back ahead on its next drive on a Parker touchdown.
In addition to Parker's 164 yards rushing, Ockler added 57 on seven carries. Kahl was 6-of-13 for 101 yards and score. The Rice Lake defense caused three turnovers — two fumbles and one interception.
Fenske completed 6 of 13 passes for 157 yards. Belongia pulled in four of those for 146. Farm led the Warriors with 49 yards on the ground on 10 carries. Fenkse added 33 on 11 attempts.
Menomonie will play its postponed game against River Falls next week. The Mustangs were originally scheduled to play Notre Dame, but the Tritons moved football to the alternative spring.
The loss concludes the Big Rivers Conference slate of games for Rice Lake. Next Friday the Warriors will host Medford, a game that was added to the schedule this past week. The Raiders moved to 5-0 after a victory over Ashland on Friday night.