By Nick Beversdorf
They were never down by more than one touchdown, but River Falls managed to keep that seven-point lead long enough through the second half to secure a victory over Merrill with a final score of 14-21.
At about three minutes in, River Falls put themselves on the board with a Mason Graetz 14-yard touchdown reception from Logan Graetz. Luke Nelson’s PAT was good, putting them at seven. With only 36 seconds left in the quarter, Merrill tied up the game with a 36-yard touchdown run, courtesy of Nevada Laabs with a successful PAT by Trey Seubert.
Unfortunately, River Falls was able to squeak in another touchdown with just 17 seconds left with Bailey Ronnestrand’s 61-yard run. With the extra point, the score stood at 14-7 at the end of the quarter.
Merrill started off the second quarter on a strong note at 10:56 with Nevada Laabs again scoring, this time on a two-yard run into the end zone. Suebert’s PAT was good to tie the game back up. Less than a minute later, however, River Falls’ Matthew Wachtler scored off a 19-yard touchdown reception from Joey Davis (different QB) at 10:05. The PAT was good to bring the score to 21-14.
From that point on neither team was able to make any significant yardage, not even enough for a field goal. Merrill came close in the second quarter after recovering from two successive holding calls and gaining 30+ yards to get to the two-yard line, however a fumble resulted in River Falls gaining possession.
“This was a tough loss,” comments head coach Nick Sturm. “We could have won this game. We could have made better executions on offense and we missed a lot of tackles on defense. We were very close many times but couldn’t make those big plays.”
Total yardage was an improvement over last week’s game against Superior with Merrill nearly doubling its passing yards. Merrill had 12 first downs with 86 passing yards and 201 rushing yards for a total of 287 yards gained. Seubert was two for two on PATs and Ben Tabor had the sole return worth seven yards.
After a shaky first half, the defense was able to hold back River Falls to prevent gaining any more points. They totaled 52 tackles, four for forward losses, two passes batted down and caused one fumble and recovered two.
“We were missing four starters this game so we were playing with newer guys,” adds Sturm. “Which there is nothing wrong with as we progress through the season but it is something we need to learn now. We need to not let these mistakes cause us problems in the future.”
Merrill varsity football team will play Lakeland on Friday at 7 p.m. at Jay Stadium.
RFS: 14 7 0 0-21
MRL: 7 7 0 0-14
Passing: Mootz (4/15, 86 yds).
Rushing: Laabs (18 TCB, 140 yds, 2TD); Mootz (8 TCB, 39 yds); Dorn (6 TCB, 15 yds); Hintze (2 TCB, 6 yds); Leistikow (1 TCB, 1 yds).
Receiving: Laabs (2 rec, 40 yds); Nohr (1 rec, 37 yds); Olhoff (1 rec, 9 yds).
Punting: Nohr (6, 235 yds, 39 avg); Mootz (1, 44 yds, 44 avg).