Rugby falls to Oakes
Rugby’s first trip to Oakes is one it may want to forget.
The Panthers committed costly turnovers and gave up some big plays, falling 26-6 to Oakes in a Class A first round football game on Oct. 24.
“It was a tough way to end what otherwise was a pretty good season for us,’ Rugby coach Scott Grochow said. “I’m proud of the guys. They kept playing hard, not giving up.”
The team had its share of adversity to get through before the opening kickoff as a few players were out sick, including junior linebacker and fullback Jason Goetz.
Rugby actually outgained Oakes 309 to 286 in total yards of offense, but it was the inability to finish off drives that was part of the Panthers’ downfall.
That was illustrated on the first possession of the game when Rugby marched down to the Oakes’ 23 yard-line, but a fumble ended the drive.
Oakes, on the other hand, benefited from some good fortune early in the contest. A long pass down field was deflected by a Rugby defender, but landed in the arms of a Oakes receiver lying on the ground. The Tornadoes would eventually find the end zone on Tanner Zetocha’s eight-yard run to lead 6-0.
On its next possession, Rugby attempted a little trickery on a fourth down play. Eric Kuntz attempted a half-back option pass, but the pass to a wide open receiver was dropped.
The Panthers’ defense held its ground and Rugby got the ball back. However, Oakes, which partially blocked Mike Houim’s first punt, made good on blocking his next and an alert Adam Ladwig scooped up the ball and returned it 20 yards for a score.
Rugby’s defense forced an Oakes’ punt early in the third quarter and the Panthers were driving down field when another fumble killed a promising drive.
It was during that possession that Kuntz broke his left thumb. The junior would finish the game, rushing for 155 yards on 35 carries, however, but had difficulty hanging onto the ball.
Rugby’s lone score came on a Thomas Seaver to Aaron Teigen 90-yard pass play in the fourth quarter to spoil the Tornadoes’ shut out bid. Seaver completed four passes for 115 yards. Teigen caught two passes for 111 yards.
Grochow gave credit to Oakes which improved to 8-1 on the season, saying they made some big plays and made the most of their opportunities.
Rugby’s season ended at 5-4. “I give our seniors a ton of credit for being good leaders,’ Grochow said. “We felt that our record really didn’t show how good a football team we were. I think back and one or two plays could have changed how some of those games ended up.”
Indeed, the Panthers’ program is back on track, earning its 11th playoff appearance in 13 seasons. Although it’s postseason run was short, there is much to build on, Grochow said.
Notes: The game was the first-ever meeting of the two teams…Rugby’s Kuntz finished the season with 1,847 yards rushing…The win was Oakes’ first playoff win since joining Class A…Rugby has dropped its last three playoff games today, Oct. 24.
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