By Nick Beversdorf
Merrill football traveled to Rice Lake on Friday for the first round of regional playoffs. Unfortunately, things did not go the Bluejays’ way as they fell to Rice Lake in a 41-0 shutout loss.
Most of the scoring occurred in the first half. Rice Lake got their first touchdown at 8:17 in the first quarter, courtesy of Reilly Nolin punching in a one-yard run. Luke Fleming’s PAT was no good. At 4:24 left in the first, they got another touchdown, this time a 14-yard run courtesy of Billy Brown. This time, Fleming’s PAT was good.
At 11:04 left in the second quarter, Rice Lake’s Kenny Bednarek scored a touchdown off a 64-yard reception from Steve Scheurer. Fleming got the extra point. With 8:32 left, Averie Habas scored a touchdown off a 15-yard reception from Scheurer. Fleming got the extra point. Rice Lake rounded out the half with an 11-yard touchdown run courtesy of Brandon Sutton. Fleming’s PAT was good.
The last scoring play of the game came from Rice Lake at 3:49 left in the third with Scheurer punching in a one-yard touchdown run. The PAT was good to bring the total to 41.
Merrill posted a total of 211 rushing yards and 48 passing yards with a total of 10 first downs. Rice Lake put up larger numbers, amassing 251 rushing yards, 189 passing yards and 22 first downs. The Merrill defense ahd 42 total tackles, five assists, three tackles for loss and one blocked kick.
“We knew going in that Rice Lake would be tough and they were,” comments head coach Nick Sturm. “They were very fast and executed at a high level. We struggled offensively to finish drives and beat ourselves too many times. Defensively, we struggled tackling.”
Loss aside, it was still a very successful season for Merrill football, culminating in a three-way tie for first in conference (what would have been second if not for a fluke Antigo win over Medford).
“We had a successful season,” adds Sturm. “We tied for a conference championship. We overcame some tremendous obstacles early in our season and saw some underclassmen really step up and develop into fine football players. The future is bright for Merrill football.”
RCL: 13 21 7 0 – 41
MRL: 0 0 0 0 – 0
Rushing: Nevada Laabs (11 att, 100 yds); Zach Mootz (14 att, 50 yds); Braedon Dorn (2 att, 5 yds); Dominic Leistikow (10 att, 62 yds); Hunter Hintze (4 att, -6 yd).
Passing: Mootz (6/10, 48 yds, 1 INT).
Receiving: Ben Tabor (2 rec, 17 yds); Hintze (1 rec, 18 yds); Laabs (2 rec, 10 yds); Leistikow (1 rec, 3 yds).
Punting: Josiah Nohr (1, 55 yds, 55 avg); Mootz (2, 51 yds, 25.5 avg).