By Nick Beversdorf
Merrill hit the gridiron on Friday night for the the season’s conference opener, defeating Lakeland Union with a final score of 37-14. Although Lakeland got the upper hand in the first quarter, a couple of well-timed interceptions and good scoring drives helped Merrill gain the advantage for the rest of the game.
Lakeland got their first touchdown on the last play of the first quarter with a 10-yard reception from Tyler Carroll to Ray Rentmeester. Jake McClintock’s PAT was good. With 8:35 left in the second quarter, Lakeland got another touchdown off an impressive 70-yard reception from Carroll to Jesse Armstrong. Another PAT from McClintock was good to bring the score to 14-nill.
Undeterred, Merrill got their first touchdown of the night with 6:55 left in the second quarter from Ben Tabor’s 46-yarder from Zach Mootz. Trey Seubert’s PAT was good. With 18 seconds left in the half, Seubert nailed a 22-yard field goal to bring the score to 10-14 at the half.
The second half was dominated by Merrill both offensively and defensively. With 5:35 left in the third, Nate Grefe pushed his way through for a four-yard touchdown run. Seubert’s PAT dinged off the left post, no point.
With the 3:51 left, Jake Collinsworth pushed his way through the Lakeland defensive line for a 45-yard touchdown run. Seubert’s PAT was good. Unfortunately, a similar play at the end of the third quarter resulted in Collinsworth receiving a leg injury that put him out for the rest of the game. The Bluejay grid men, after a fiery pep talk from Gruetzmacher, went back on the field and made sure that Lakeland would not capitalize off it.
With 4:34 left in the fourth, Zach Mootz punched in a one-yard touchdown run. Seubert’s PAT was again good. Merrill got their last touchdown of the night with 1:14 left on Hunter Hintze’s 22-yard touchdown run. Seubert rounded off the scoring with another successful PAT.
Merrill’s offense had a terrific night, especially on rushing. They had 19 first downs with 72 passing yards and 394 rushing yards for a total of 466 yards gained. Seubert was four for five on PATs and was one for one on field goals with his 22 yarder.
After a shaky first quarter, Merrill’s defense was able to hold back Lakeland after their second touchdown. They had 39 total tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, four passes batted down, caused and recovered one fumble. Isaac Meyer and Quinn Steckbauer both had interceptions with no yards gained.
Merrill varsity football will play at Rhinelander on Friday at 7 p.m.
MRL: 0 10 13 14-37
LKD: 7 7 0 0-14
Passing: Mootz (6/9, 72 yds, 1INT, 1TD).
Rushing: Mootz (14 TCB, 92 yds, 1TD); Collinsworth (11 TCB, 108 yds, 1TD); Grefe (16 TCB, 131 yds, 1TD); Hintze (1 TCB, 22 yds, 1TD); Laabs (12 TCB, 41 yds).
Receiving: Laabs (2 rec, 16 yds); Tabor (1 rec, 46 yds, 1TD); Ollhoff (2 rec, 9 yds); Hintze (1 rec, 1yd).
Punting: Nohr (2, 78 yds, 39 avg).