By Jared Schmeltzer
Saturday afternoon’s homecoming game against the Lakeland T-Birds was a success for Merrill as they blew out the competition 44-6. Merrill was led by a huge performance from quarterback Zach Mootz who ended the game with six touchdowns.
The first quarter of the game saw no scoring for either side, but once Merrill started to open up the playbook in the second they were able to put points on the board. With only a minute gone in the second quarter Merrill struck for a 60-yard touchdown throw from Zach Mootz to Jared Ollhoff. With 1:07 to play in the first half, Mootz hooked up with Nevada Laabs for a 6-yard touchdown. Merrill went into the half leading the T-Birds 14-0.
Coming out of halftime Merrill had a long drive that was eventually capped off with a Mootz touchdown on a quarterback sneak at the one yard line with seven and a half minutes to play in the quarter. A missed extra point left the game at 20-0. A Merrill interception got the ball back for Mootz who didn’t need long to score again on a 28-yard pass to Josiah Nohr for a touchdown. Merrill missed the two-point conversion and led 26-0 with 5:46 to play in the third. It took Lakeland only 13 seconds to reply with a touchdown of their own on a 71-yard passing touchdown. The extra point was missed as Merrill led 26-6 going into the fourth quarter. One minute into the fourth Merrill found the endzone again on an eight-yard passing touchdown from Mootz to Laabs and after another missed extra point Merrill led 32-6. Mootz opened the game up even more with eight minutes to play as he ran 41 yards for a touchdown and a 38-6 lead. With the starters out of the game for Merrill, Connor Mootz scored the last touchdown for the Bluejays as they got the 44-6 win.
The defense was swarming for the Bluejays, only allowing 239 yards of total offense and racking up three interceptions coming from Brant Raliegh, Kade Bonnell and Chase Bonnell. Zach Mootz was unstoppable as he went off for 206 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, 72 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Nevada Laabs led the team in rushing with 76 yards in 12 attempts. Laabs also caught two passes for two touchdowns. Nate Grefe had a solid day running the ball as well, racking up 74 yards in 14 attempts. The Bluejays leading receiver for the game was Jared Ollhoff who struck for 97 yards on three receptions and one receiving touchdown.
The Bluejays will hit the field again Friday as they travel to Rhinelander to take on the Hodags at 7 p.m.