Litchfield scored the opening touchdown of the game and led 13-12 midway through the first half, but Annandale scored five consecutive touchdowns on the way to a 40-13 win Friday.

The Dragons fell to 0-2 on the season, as Annandale won the Battle for the Paddle game for the fourth consecutive year.

Ben Alsleben put Litchfield on the board first, on a 1-yard run with 4:50 to the play in the first quarter. The touchdown capped an impressive 15-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes.

But Annandale came right back, getting a 2-yard run from Brett Honsey less than three minutes later. The drive’s biggest play was the first, when junior Riley Niedzielski rambled 50 yards.

Niedzielski’s name would come up often throughout the game as he finished with 23 carries for 166 yards, leading a punishing running game that racked up 350 yards on 51 carries.

Litchfield stayed with the Cardinals throughout the first half, grabbing a 13-12 lead when quarterback Ben Alsleben hit Drew Kotzer for a 4-yard touchdown with 8:55 to go in the half. The score was set up by a 43-yard pass from Alsleben to Bennett Lecher.

Alsleben finished the game with 143 yards on 9-for-19 passing, with Kotzer catching three of passes for 30 yards. Lecher had three receptions for 51 yards and Tyson Michels two for 24.

But the Dragons’ offense, which gained more than 200 yards in the first half was shut down for most of the second half, gaining just 15 yards before both teams began making wholesale substitutions with less than five minutes to play in the game.

Litchfield will play its first road game of the season next Friday, against Glencoe-Silver Lake, which picked up its first win of the season Friday, beating Watertown-Mayer 41-7.

Brent Schacherer is publisher of the Hutchinson Leader and Litchfield Independent Review.

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