Friday night marked the last regular season game of the year for the Merrill football team. The Bluejays battled against Antigo and would lose the game by a score of 38-15.
The first half was dominated by Antigo as they were the first team to crack the scoreboard on a 21-yard touchdown run. The Bluejays were quick to respond with a seven yard touchdown run by Nevada Laabs with two minutes to play in the first quarter. With Merrill leading 7-6, Antigo got hot and scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 20-7 lead.
The second half was more of the same from Antigo as they extended their lead early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run. Merrill quarterback Zach Mootz hooked up with receiver Kade Bonnell for a 25-yard touchdown to cut Antigo’s lead to 26-15. Antigo responded to Merrill’s touchdown with a 16-yard passing touchdown with nine seconds to play in the third quarter, taking a 32-15 lead. The Red Robins would add one more touchdown to their total in the fourth quarter, winning the game 38-15.
Merrill’s offense was led by Zach Mootz who totaled 87 rushing yards on 15 attempts and completed four of his 20 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. Nevada Laabs scored Merrill’s only rushing touchdown and totaled 24 yards on the ground to go along with his three receptions and 40 yards receiving. Laabs was also the Jays’ co-leading tackler with seven total tackles. Brandt Raleigh was they other Bluejay to record seven tackles in the game. Quinn Steckbauer was a menace for the Antigo passing game with three pass deflections. Chase Bonnell recorded the only turnover for Merrill with an interception.
The Bluejays finish the year with a conference record of 3-3 and an overall record of 4-5. Merrill enters the playoffs as the seventh seed in their Division 3 bracket and will travel to Rice Lake for the second year in a row this Friday at 7 p.m. The Bluejays will be looking to avenge a 41-0 loss to the Warriors in last year’s level one playoff game. The #2 seeded Warriors posted a 7-2 regular season record this year.