The Rugby High School football team found itself in a tough, physical battle in its 2013 season opener.
In a 13-7 loss to Larimore, the Panthers found out they could play that physical style, but have plenty more to work on.
“It was very, very physical,” Rugby head coach Scott Grochow said. “It was probably one of the most physical games we’ve been a part of for a long time and that I’ve seen for quite a while, Class AA or A. (There were) a lot of big bodies hammering into each other.”
From a yardage standpoint, the Panthers outgained the Polar Bears by around 50 yards, but were unable to find a rhythm on offense, according to Grochow.
“We have a lot of things to work on from a lot of standpoints, team-wise, coaching-wise, player-wise, the whole bit,” Grochow said. “Hopefully we get that figured out against (our next opponent) Williams County.”
Larimore scored the game’s only first-half touchdown when Hunter Trosen ran it in from 6 yards out in the first quarter.
Rugby took a brief 7-6 lead in the third quarter, as Brad Heidlebaugh hit Tanner Bernhardt for a 72-yard touchdown pass.
But that was all the Rugby offense could muster as the Polar Bears shot back with a Monty Hendrickson 2-yard score in the third quarter and this time converted the point after attempt with a Tristen Johnson kick for a 13-7 lead.
Grochow said the Panthers knew they’d be in for a battle against Larimore, with one of the biggest lines in the state.
“Before the game started, we thought for us to win the game it’d have to be a 28-21 or 35-28 type of game,” he said. “We weren’t sure whether we could stop them up front as physical as they were. We found out we could.”
While neither offense produced much, Grochow said he saw some good things out of the Panther defense.
“They have a huge kickoff return that leads to a touchdown, other than that, they put one drive together and that was it,” he said.
Offensively, the Panthers struggled after having good success in a preseason jamboree with some of the best teams in the northwest part of the state.
“We found some things out on offense,” Grochow said. “Some things we need to change, some things we have to get better at and some things we have to teach a little bit differently. When we need to check down and not throw it as deep and come down to some things and be more patient. Everybody kind of got impatient, players and coaches. We went to the scrimmage and more or less, did what we want to and all of the sudden we couldn’t do that and we got impatient.”
Grochow said both the coaches and players are taking the game as a learning experience.
“The one big thing we talked about is that it has to be a learning experience,” he said. “It was a nonconference game. In essence, it didn’t mean anything. We start now with Williams County, we have to learn from what we did last Friday and get a lot better now. There were definitely some positives and the kids look at it as trying to learn from it so that’s the really big positive.”
The Panthers host Williams County on Sept. 6 and Grochow is expecting another good matchup.
“They’re 2-0 and scored 41 points last game they played,” he said. “Our defense will have a test and the offense will have to get something going.”
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