Another comeback bites Bluejay gridmen
For the second time in three games, the Bluejay football team staked itself to a sizeable first-half lead, but was unable to extend that margin or hold on for the win.
Merrill dropped a 21-14 contest at Medford on Friday, in the GNC Football Conference opener, after grabbing a quick 14-0 margin with a pair of Alex Cordova-to-Ray Paul touchdown receptions. The Jays had also jumped out to a 22-0 lead over Superior before dropping their season opener 26-25.
“We’re very positive about it,” MHS coach Tom Tourtillott said. “Our kids played their best football of the year. Unfortunately we came out on the short end of the stick.
“We’ve played three schools and all three are 3-0. Mosinee (this week’s opponent) is also 3-0.”
The Jays could still point to the exact spots of their downfall.
“In a lot of ways I feel like we beat ourselves,” Tourtillott said. “We had 13 penalties for 115 yards. We had four holding penalties, some after a big gain. No excuses, we’ve got to clean that up. The ball goes right through our guy’s hands on the 80-yard touchdown pass.
“We really gave up three big plays for 178 of their 376 total yards. But you’ve got to give them credit; they executed.”
Merrill got the ball back on a Nick Peterson fumble recovery with 3-1/2 minutes left in the game, trailing 21-14.
“We took it to their 39-yard line, then they had two guys injured on a play,” Tourtillott said. “There was like a 15-minute delay, and when we came back we shot ourselves in the foot (with penalties). Had we (scored a touchdown) at that point, we were going for two for the win.”
Friday, Merrill made it 7-0 in the first four minutes when Cordova hit Paul for a 48-yard reception. On the ensuing Medford possession, Ben Hintze recovered a fumble and Cordova connected with Paul for a 10-yard score with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter. Cordova’s second PAT kick gave Merrill a 14-0 lead.
But it took Medford less than a minute to cut it to 14-7 on Austin Henrich’s 64-yard scamper. Early in the second quarter the Raiders tied it up 14-14 on an 80-yard pass reception from Luke Sauerman to Kyle Nicks.
The score remained the same until early in the fourth quarter, when Nicks took a Ryan Paul pass 34 yards for the game-winner. Terrin Meyer kicked all the extra points.
Cordova completed 9-of-21 passes for 161 yards, with Pual (5-90, 2 TD), Garrett Pagel (2-24), Ben Anderson (1-28) and Alec Oestreich (1-10) on the receiving end. Merrill managed 93 rushing yards, from Austin Voigt (19-73) Cordova (17-14) and Nick Peterson (1-6).
Medford ran up 216 yards, mostly from Henrich (21-138) and Cole Loertscher (7-49).
The Bluejay defense was paced by: Tyler Schmidt (6 solo, 2 assists, 1 FC); Lucas Olson (5 S, 1 A); Hintze (3 S, 3 A, 1 FC, 1 FR); Coty Rajek (3 S, 2 A); and Peterson (1 S, 1 FR, 1 TFL).
“Alec Oestreich played very well on both offense and defense,” Tourtillott said. “Nick did, too, shifting to receiver and defense (from quarterback rotation). Tyler Scmidt, Alex Klug and Ben Hintze, all three sophomores improved exponentially on the defensive side of the ball. Austin Voigt ran very hard. Alex Cordova did some very nice things at quarterback.”