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Preds Topple Rage To Reach Elite Bowl

Posted 7/31/2012

By Nick Gourdoux

Leader Telegram Staff


The Chippewa ­Valley ­Predators rode Deshay ­Hudson and a dominant running game past the Lake Superior Rage and into the Elite Bowl on Saturday at ­Carson Park.

The first-year ­Predator ran for 140 yards on 20 ­carries with a pair of touchdowns to lead the fifth-seeded ­Predators to a 35-7 victory over the second-seeded Rage in the Northern Elite Football League semifinals. They'll take on the top seed, the St. Paul Pioneers, at 6 p.m. ­Saturday in the Elite Bowl at Sea Foam Stadium at Concordia University in St. Paul.
"We were able to go in between the tackles," Hudson said. "They couldn't stop us after we found something that we could penetrate and get through. It just took off from there."
Hudson found the end zone for the first time late in the first quarter, scoring on an 18-yard run in which he ran through numerous Rage tackle attempts. The score gave the Predators a 14-0 lead entering the second quarter.
The Predators amassed 245 yards on the ground on 44 carries, and it was clear from the start that the running game was the focus for the Predators.
"Our offense did a wonderful job of ground and pound and clock management," coach Martin Adams said. "Our offensive coordinator did a wonderful job of that, and that was the goal coming in."
In the first quarter alone, the Predators ran 16 plays — doubling the Rage's total of eight. The success in the run game continued throughout the game, as the Predators dominated time of possession. The final play total was 57 offensive snaps for Chippewa Valley, compared to just 38 for Lake Superior.
The Rage made a game of it in the second quarter when they cut their deficit to seven following Chris Henagin's 2-yard run. But the Predators quickly rebounded. Hudson found the end zone again on the ensuing Predators possession, this time from 6 yards out.
The passing game got off to a rocky start with quarterback LA Anderson throwing an interception on his third pass attempt of the game deep in Rage territory. Anderson rebounded nicely, completing seven of his final 10 pass attempts for 146 yards and a touchdown.
"He did a wonderful job of being patient and helping with the clock management," Adams said. "He did a wonderful job changing the plays. Our whole offense did an outstanding job today."
Reggie Houston played a big role in the success of the passing game too. The receiver hauled in four passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. He hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and a 54-yard bomb in the fourth that set up the final score of the game.
While the offensive unit certainly shined, it would be a mistake to overlook the job the Predators defense did against one of the top offenses in the league.
Adams described ­former Predator and current Rage quarterback Keldric Stokes as "the Peyton Manning of our league" and emphasized the importance of stopping him.
"If you don't cross your Ts and dot your Is with him and this offense, you're going to have problems," Adams said.
That is precisely what the Predators did. Stokes completed just two of his 12 pass attempts for 36 yards. Defensive back Montae Bailey made a good read on a deep ball late in the third quarter to make an interception. The turnover set up Anderson's deep touchdown pass to Houston on the next drive.
Henagin did come close to crossing the century mark on the ground, but no other Rage runner topped 10 yards on the ground. The Rage also lost a pair of fumbles on running plays.
The win for the Predators advanced them to the Elite Bowl for the second consecutive season, and eliminated the previously unbeaten Rage.
"We knew what we had as a team coming in," Hudson said. "We came out and played a good team and played together as a team."
Despite being the higher seed, the Rage were forced to travel to Eau Claire as a part of their penalties following the melee in the July 7 game against the Eau Claire Crush.
This year's Elite Bowl will be a rematch of last year's game. The Predators travel to St. Paul to take on the Pioneers — Hudson's old team.
"It feels sweet, man, I'm going back home," he said. "I'm a Predator, and I'm going to eat. I came to the better establishment — nothing against my old team — but my friends are on this team and I like the coaching staff."
Saturday's Elite Bowl will be the third appearance in the championship game for Adams.
"We're going to prepare, and we're going to celebrate tonight," Adams said, "but we have one more mission and we know what we have to do."

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