By Nick Beversdorf
Although an improvement over last year’s 50-20 loss, the Merrill Bluejays again lost to the Superior Spartans 38-14 in this year’s opening non-conference football game at Superior. An almost non-existent passing game forced the Bluejays to rely mainly on rushing to achieve any yards.
At almost three minutes in, Superior got their first six points with Corey Sanders scoring a touchdown on a 28-yard run. Sam Kline’s kick for the extra point was good for a total of seven. With only 4:47 left in the first quarter, Superior got another six points from Zach Tharges’s 85-yard touchdown reception from Gunner Johnson. Kline got another point to bring the score to 14-0 for the quarter.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Sr. Jake Collinsowrth scored Merrill’s first touchdown. Collinsworth from from the 31-yard line, off left tackle (Gruetzmacher) set up first score from two yards. Sr. Trey Seubert kicked for the extra point, good to bring Merrill up to seven.
With 1:52 left in the first half, Superior came back with an 11-yard run, courtesy of Gunner Gronski, good for their third touchdown. Kline got the extra point to keep Superior ahead with a score of 21-7.
In the third quarter with 7:42 left, Merrill pulled out another two-yard run, this time courtesy of Jr. Braedon Dorn. Another PAT from Seubert was good for the extra point.
With 3:05 left in the third, Superior broke up the routine with Kline’s 31-yard field goal. Superior then scored another touchdown with 1:02 left in the third from an 18-yard run from Gunner Johnson.
Superior would score their last touchdown with 9:44 left in the fourth with Gunner Gronski’s 14-yard run. Kline closed the scoring with the extra point.
Merrill had 15 first downs with 45 passing yards and 214 rushing yards for a total of 259 yards gained. Seubert was two for two on PATs but 0-1 on field goals. Ty Belfiori had four kickoff returns totaling 102 yards and Ben Tabor had one kickoff return good for 18 yards.
The defense had their work cut out for them. They totaled 35 tackles, five assists, two for losses, a sack, and a pass batted down.
The Bluejay offense was plagued by eight penalties throughout this evening’s contest, including an early ‘illegal motion’ penalty in the first quarter on 3rd and Goal, leading to a missed field goal. On the flip side, the powerhouse Merrill backfield proved ever-formidable as Seniors Jake Collinsworth and Juniors Nevada Laabs and Braeden Dorn enjoyed a solid night on the ground.
“Superior has been a good team for anumber of years and we knew that it was going to be a tough fight,” comments head coach Nick Sturm. “We have a new, younger team that, while it will be good down the road, will have these issues to work out.
“We did a lot of good things but at the same time we made a lot of mistakes. We had way too many penalties and a critical pick at the wrong time that cost us points. At that our defense didn’t tackle that well either.”
“Basically, it comes down to general focus. We will be facing another very good team on Friday and this is something we need to work on. We need to be focused and not let penalties and critical mistakes do us in.”
This Friday’s game will be against River Falls at the new field at Jay Stadium, 7:00 p.m.
SPR: 14 7 10 7-38
MRL: 0 7 7 0-14
Passing: Mootz (7/11, 45 yds, 1INT).
Rushing: Dorn (14 TCB, 58 yds, 1TD); Mootz (13 TCB, 56 yds); Collinsworth (8 TCB, 54 yds, 1TD); Laabs (8 TCB, 42 yds).
Receiving: Olhoff (3 rec, 26 yds); Hintze (2 rec, 10 yds); Laehn (1 rec, 4 yds); Tabor (1 rec, 5 yds).
Punting: Nohr (4, 148 yds, 37 avg).