By Nick Beversdorf
In a complete turn-around from the previous game against Medford, Merrill football defeated Antigo in a relatively high-scoring affair 40-20. Good ball execution, interceptions and many fumble recoveries contributed to Merrill consistently out-scoring Antigo throughout the whole game. This win puts Merrill at 3-1 in the GNC and 3-3 overall.
Things got off to a slow start for Merrill as Antigo’s Will Dixon scored a 62-yard touchdown run at 9:06 in the first quarter. Mitchell Wagner’s extra point was good to give Antigo the seven point lead.
Things got interesting towards the end of the first quarter when Merrill got their first touchdown, courtesy of Ben Tabor’s 32-yard reception from Zach Mootz. Trey Seubert’s PAT was no good, however, leaving Antigo with a one-point lead.
With Antigo in possession at 3:08 left, they fumbled the ball and Merrill’s Noah Bolling was able to recover it for a turnover. Merrill utilized the opportunity and with 1:23 left in the first quarter, scored another touchdown, courtesy of a Braedon Dorn two-yard run. Seubert’s PAT was again no good.
At 8:53 left in the second quarter, Antigo scored their second touchdown, courtesy of Adam Schmidt’s 12-yard run. Wagner’s PAT was again good for the extra point. Unfazed, Merrill scored their second touchdown at 4:05 left in the half, with Dorn punching in a four-yard run. A Nevada Laabs reception from Mootz was good for a two-point conversion, bringing the score to 20-14 at the half.
At 6:10 in the third quarter, Antigo again fumbled the ball and Jared Ollhoff recovered it for another turnover. Two minutes later at 4:07, Mootz punched in a five-yard run, good for another Merrill touchdown. A two-point conversion pass attempt was unsuccessful.
Scoring halted until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when at 2:52 Dorn punched in yet another 4-yard touchdown run. Seubert’s PAT was good for the extra point. Antigo scored their last touchdown of the game at 1:57 with a long 73-yard reception from Wade Farmer to Matt Winter. A two-point conversion attempt failed, however.
Then, as if to solidify the fact that Merrill was indeed going to win the game, at 1:07 Quinn Steckbauer made an epic interception and ran for a 20-yard touchdown return. Seubert’s PAT was good to bring Merrill up to 40.
“We were definitely much more focused this game,” comments head coach Nick Sturm. “Offensively we executed much better and we had much better ball security. Defensively, we executed very well too. They fumbled a lot, and we were able to take advantage of that along with making interceptions. Overall, it was a much better game [than last week].”
Things worked out well for both offense and defense. Merrill had a total of 192 rushing yards out of 49 attempts and 92 total passing yards out of five receptions resulting in 19 total first downs. Antigo had 222 rush yards and 93 pass yards resulting in 16 first downs. Trey Seubert was two for four on PATs.
The defense had 39 solo tackles and nine assists, along with two interceptions (one of which led directly to touchdown) and one pass batted down. They caused one fumble and recovered three, two of which also led to scoring drives.
“All during practice this past week we drilled in these kids to be more focused,” adds Sturm. “And I think it showed this game. We will need to continue that when we face Ashland on Saturday. They are a pretty solid team and they have gotten better every year, it will be a good test on homecoming.”
The homecoming game against Ashland will start 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, after the stadium dedication.
MRL: 12 8 6 14-40
ANT: 7 7 0 6-20
Rushing: Nate Grefe (21 ATT, 83 yds); Nevada Laabs (12 ATT, 69 yds); Braedon Dorn (6 ATT, 22 yds, 3 TD); Zach Mootz (6 ATT, 21 yds, 1 TD); Hunter Hintze (4 ATT, -3 yds).
Passing: Mootz (5/5, 96 yds, 1 TD).
Receiving: Ben Tabor (4 rec, 83 yds); Hintze (1 rec, 13 yds).
Interceptions: Quinn Steckbauer (1 int, 20 yds, 1TD); Jared Ollhoff (1 int, 4 yds).
Punting: Nohr (2, 75 yds, 37.5 avg).