By Nick Beversdorf
Bluejay football squeezed out a win against Rhinelander on Friday with a final score of 15-12. If it wasn’t for an illegal procedure penalty on Rhinelander and a quick-thinking Merrill defense, the game would have turned out very differently.
Things started off well for Merrill at 6:49 with Braeden Dorn punching in a two-yard run. Trey Seubert’s PAT was good to put Merrill on the board. At 3:49, however, Rhinelander’s Colton Krueger scored a touchdown off a 17-yard run. The PAT was no good, however, keeping Merrill in the lead.
The rest of the first and most of the second quarters saw no points until 2:31 left in the half when Zach Mootz scored the second touchdown of the game off a two-yard run. Initially going for another PAT, the snap was bad and it missed Ty Belfiori’s hands. Thinking quickly, Belfiori picked it up in the commotion and tossed it to Seubert who ran it in for an impromptu two-point conversion. The score was 15-6 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Rhinelander got their second touchdown at 4:51 in the fourth with Logan Freund’s five-yard run. Their two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at an ominous 15-12.
It was at the end of the fourth quarter that things got interesting. Rhinelander had a drive that resulted in an apparent touchdown at just under a minute left. However, that play got called back due to an illegal procedure. With 22 seconds left at fourth down, the Bluejay defense came through and sealed the deal on the 15-yard line. (Interestingly enough, the Packers found themselves in a very similar situation during the Jaguars game on Sunday, stopping a late fourth quarter drive with a fourth-down tackle on the Jag’s 14-yard line. Packers won 27-23.)
“We did some good things well and we didn’t do some things well,” comments head coach Nick Sturm. “We definitely executed well this game, we were tougher and a lot more aggressive, but we still need to improve. The game should not have been as close at it was. We had way too many personal fouls and a blocked punt in the beginning didn’t help anything either.”
Almost all of the offensive plays were achieved with rushing as the passing game was almost non-existent. There was a total of 264 rushing yards compared to 25 passing yards with a total of 18 first downs. The defense performed exceptionally well, especially at the end. They had 30 tackles, three TFLs, a sack and six passes batted down.
“We were able to match their toughness and show we were the tougher team. We will need to be even tougher and more aggressive for our game against Medford this week.” adds Sturm.
Merrill varsity football will face off against their conference rival, Medford, this Friday at 7 p.m. at Jay Stadium. Both teams currently stand at 2-0 in conference and 2-2 overall.
MRL: 7 8 0 0-15
RND: 6 0 0 6-12
Passing: Mootz (4/9, 24 yds).
Rushing: Dorn (16 ATT, 97 yds, 1TD); Mootz (15 ATT, 73 yds, 1TD); Laabs (11 ATT, 40 yds); Grefe (6 ATT, 31 yds); Hintze (6 ATT, 23 yds).
Receiving: Laabs (2 rec, 5 yds); Tabor (2 rec, 19 yds).
Punting: Nohr (3, 120 yds, 40 avg); Mootz (1, 35 yds, 35 avg).