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Firestorm extinguished

By Staff | Sep 12, 2014

Rugby High School junior wide receiver Ryan Michels makes a spectacular one-handed snag Sept. 6 against Williams County. Michels was ruled just out of bounds despite the acrobatic play.

RAY – Five yards. That’s all Williams County managed to gain in total offense against Rugby High School in a Class A, Region 3 matchup Sept. 6.

RHS took advantage of the Firestorm’s anemic offense, forcing two turnovers and stuffing everything the host team tried. The Panthers (2-0 overall, 1-0 region) scored on nearly every possession en route to a 56-6 rout.

RHS led 36-0 after the first quarter with senior running back Eric Hooker rushing for touchdowns of 39, 8 and 17 yards.

Of the five scoring drives in the first quarter, two took one play, two took two plays and one was a five-play drive.

The Panthers also scored in the opening frame on a 33-yard run by senior wideout Tanner Bernhardt and a 48-yard reception by junior Ryan Michels.

RHS senior running back Eric Hooker stiff-arms a defender. Hooker had a career day with three touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Brad Heidlebaugh found Michels on a slant from the right sideline. Michels immediately broke back to his right and blew by the Williams County defense as time expired in the quarter.

“I didn’t think I was going to catch the ball because it was high,” Michels said. “I saw the safety was overplaying and the corner got in the way of the safety and it just cleared it out.”

Michels shook off a shaky start to the season following a pair of drops in the opener at Larimore. He clearly grew even more comfortable later against Williams County, snagging a fade in the second half with one hand. The acrobatic catch was ruled incomplete because he came down out of bounds, but served as confidence booster and jolt of energy to keep RHS focused against the overmatched Firestorm. (The co-op of Ray and Tioga will split into respective 9-man teams next year.)

“I thought I was in, but my butt was on the end line,” Michels said. “That felt good especially when the announcer said something about Sports Center.”

The catch was ESPN top-10 worthy.

The game also served as a huge experience for the team’s reserves, who played nearly the entire second half. Sophomore quarterback Anders Johnson played well at the position and completed passes of 17 yards to junior Hunter Hager and 14 yards to junior Victor Gronvold.

“It’s always good to get reps,” Johnson said. “It’s just some good experience for us JV guys. We did pretty good, especially in the second half. (Freshman) Kaden Jaeger played really good and had some nice runs for us.”

Jaeger was one of six RHS players with more than 25 rushing yards. Gronvold, who scored the team’s lone touchdown in the second quarter finished with a game-high 118 yards. Hooker had 84 yards, Bernhardt 33, Heidlebaugh 32, Jaeger 29 and senior Zach Miller 28.

Senior Devon Berg had the special teams play of the game with a blocked punt and he recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. RHS coach Scott Grochow also lauded the play of senior Morgan Clements, who was in on nearly every kick coverage tackle.

“Morgan did a really great job,” Grochow said. “He might be a little undersized as a senior, but did a really good job.

The Panthers hosted Harvey-Wells County on Friday.

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