MEDFORD — The Rice Lake football team did most of its damage in the first half.
But that was enough as the Warriors went on the road against top-seeded Medford and earned a 20-14 victory in a Division 2 postseason game on Friday night.
Rice Lake (3-5) jumped ahead 20-0 following a third quarter strike from quarterback Cole Fenske to receiver Alex Belongia for 42 yards and the touchdown to put the Warriors up three scores with one minute left third quarter. The Warriors gained a total of four more offensive yards for the rest of the game, but they did just enough to hold off the Raiders late comeback.
Belongia led the way on both sides of the ball as the junior hauled in five passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns on offense and collected two interceptions for the Rice Lake defense.
After an 0-5 start to the season, the Warriors have won three games in a row.
Rice Lake had been scheduled to advance in the two-level playoffs to play at New Richmond on Nov. 19, as the Tigers earned a forfeit victory over Ashland. Instead, New Richmond had its season ended as the school district decided this week to move to distance learning.
Rice Lake Athletic Director Tim Lipke said it unknown at this time if the Warriors will add one more game to their scheduled next Thursday.
Medford (6-2) got a 1-yard carry from Emett Grunwald, and a two-point conversion with 1:17 remaining in the game to pull within six, but Rice Lake's Keegan Gunderson recovered the onside kick attempt allowing the Warriors to take victory formation and run out the clock.
Rice Lake had 219 of its 284 yards come in the first half as the mix of Andrew Farm up the middle runs and pass plays to Belongia kept the Medford defense on its heels.
Medford was driving on its second possession of the contest as it moved down to the Rice Lake 32-yard line. On first down Medford quarterback Logan Baumgartner was looking for the big play, but he tossed the ball into double coverage and there was Belongia for the pick in the end zone.
Pinned at its own 22-yard line a few possessions later, Fenke dropped back on the play action and with Belongia in one-on-one coverage he threw it deep and Belongia ran underneath it and pulled away from the defense for the 78-yard score with about five minute left in the first quarter.
Two drives later, a Medford holding penalty and then sack by the Warriors pushed the Raiders deep into their own territory, and being forced to punt as the second quarter was getting underway.
Rice Lake got excellent field position, starting at the Medford 40. Right away Fenske had Belongia in a favorable one-on-one matchup and the two connected for 30 yards. A play later, Farm took the hand off up the middle for the 10-yard score. Fenske found Belongia on the two-point conversion as the Warriors pulled ahead 14-0 with about eight minutes to the break.
Just after Rice Lake had gone up by three scores in the second half, Medford was gaining momentum on its next drive. The Raiders had neared the red zone when they ran a trick play dropping the halfback to pass and he threw the ball deep into coverage and Belongia pulled down his second interception of the game at the Medford 4-yard line.
The Warriors didn't do much on the next possession, sending it back to Medford, which began at the Rice Lake 30 with 9:26 to play. In three plays the Raiders were on the board for the first time on the night as Aiden Gardner scampered nine yards for the touchdown with 8:50 remaining.
It was followed by a Rice Lake three-and-out, but a good punt by Fenske pushed Medford down to its own 18 to start a drive with fewer than seven minutes left. The Raiders converted two fourth downs, marching the ball on 17 plays down the field as Grunwald crossed the goal line with a little more than a minute left, but Gunderson jumped on the onside kick to seal the second win over Medford in two weeks. Rice Lake defeated the Raiders 27-6 on Oct. 30 in Rice Lake, as the Warriors have handed Medford each of its losses on the season.
Medford outpaced the Warriors 186-68 on offense in the second half, and 301-284 for the contest.
Fenske was 6-of-9 for 209 yards and two scores, while Farm led the Warriors with 17 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Medford got 105 yards on 17 attempts from Gardner, while Nate Retterath added nine for 62.