By Nick Beversdorf
You couldn’t have asked for much else on Saturday, as the Merrill Bluejays handily defeated the Ashland Oredockers with a final score of 49-13. However, the game itself was only one of the many great things that happened at this homecoming.
After the parade made its way to Jay Stadium Saturday morning, people gathered around the entrance where the still-covered logo sat. After a few short speeches, the MHS Cheer Team uncovered the magnificent logo, paint still very fresh on the cement. With the original creator of the logo, Margaret Ann English, in attendance with family, Superintendent John Sample with representatives from the Bierman Foundation, River Valley State Bank and Church Mutual cut the ribbon to officially dedicate and open the facility.
The events of the day moved on to honoring the Homecoming princesses and the Homecoming Queen Allie Turenne, followed by the recognition of the Silver M’s and the players who lettered in 1991 and 1966. Lastly, Honorary Captain Al Krombholz made his way onto the field to toss the coin. After the Bluejay team broke through the banner, the game was ready to start.
Ashland won the toss and elected to receive, and at 8:29 in the first quarter, they scored the first touchdown of the game with a Wyatt O’bey 40-yard reception from Jordan Brennan. Ethan Graff’s PAT was good for the extra point.
Not letting that touchdown affect them, Merrill responded with Nate Grefe punching in a two-yard touchdown run at 3:45. Trey Seubert’s PAT was good for the extra point.
With 9:33 left in the second quarter, Braedon Dorn punched in a four-yard touchdown run. Seubert’s PAT was again good. At 3:20 left, Nevada Laabs punched in a four-yard touchdown run. Seubert drilled yet another PAT, good for the extra point.
Ashland, at just 57 seconds left in the half, would get their last touchdown of the game with a Jake Moe 24-yard reception from O’bey. The PAT went far right, however, leaving the score 21-13 at the half.
Halftime saw performances from both the MHS Cheer Team and the Marching Jays and Color Guard. Once the halftime performances were over, Michael Vega-Schindler, a six-year-old student at Washington Elementary, was granted a Make-A-Wish Foundation wish, receiving a cool race-style wheelchair and going down the new Jay Stadium track.
The game soon resumed and Merrill got another touchdown at 7:15 in the third, courtesy of a Dorn five-yard run, with Seubert getting the extra point. At 0:48 left in the third, Zach Mootz scored a touchdown from a five-yard yard run. Seubert’s PAT was again good.
Laabs got his second touchdown of the game at 5:39 in the fourth with a 17-yard touchdown and at 0:29 left in the game, Chase Bonnell scored Merrill’s final touchdown from a picturesque 21-yard reception from Kobe Blake. Seubert nailed the PAT after both touchdowns.
Everything, for the most part, seemed to work perfectly for both the offense and defense. Rushing was the main method for moving down field and scoring, although most of the passing worked in Merrill’s favor also. Laabs was the dominant ball carrier, rushing for 165 yards and scoring two touchdowns. With passing, Tabor was the man with 48 yards out of two receptions.
Merrill had 454 rushing yards and 83 passing yards with 27 first downs. Defensively, Merrill nearly shut down Ashland’s rushing game, allowing only 18 yards. Passing was a different story, as Ashland had 173 passing yards, and both their touchdowns were from passes.
Nonetheless, Merrill exercised control and pressured both the quarterback and receivers, preventing Ashland’s passing game from becoming a problem. The defense had 23 solo tackles and three tackle assists and two sacks. They had two interceptions and one pass batted down, along with causing two fumbles and recovering one. Seubert had a phenomenal day kicking, drilling every single PAT, going seven for seven.
Merrill will travel to Mosinee on Friday to face the Indians, game to start at 7 p.m.
MRL: 7 14 14 14-49
ASH: 7 6 0 0-13
Rushing: Laabs (18 att, 165 yds, 2 TD); Grefe (25 att, 107 yds, 1 TD); Mootz (10 att, 88 yds, 1 TD); Dorn (3 att, 15 yds, 2 TD); Hunter Hintze (4 att, 35 yds); Dominic Leistikow (3 att, 19 yds); Dan Duginski (2 att, 19 yds); Chase Bonnell (2 att, 6 yds).
Passing: Mootz (4/4, 62 yds); Kobe Blake (1/1, 21 yds, 1 TD).
Receiving: Tabor (2 rec, 48 yds); Bonnell (1 rec, 21 yds, 1 TD); Laabs (1 rec, 18 yds); Hintze (1 rec, -4 yds).
Interceptions: Jared Ollhoff (1 int, 18 yds); Blake (1 int, 0 yds).