Panthers beat Holsteins 49-2
If any questions remained about the Rugby offense heading into the Class A playoffs, the concerns revolved around the passing game.
Dominant on the ground through an unblemished regular season, the Panthers had little reason to consistently pass before a 49-2 rout of New Salem-Glen Ullin in the first round Oct. 25 at Johnsen Field.
The win lifted Rugby to a quarterfinal matchup at home against Region 4 No. 2 seed Killdeer today.
The Holsteins, the fourth seed from Region 4, threw an interception to Rugby senior Tanner Bernhardt on the game’s first drive and the Panthers (9-0) went straight to the air.
Senior quarterback Brad Heidlebaugh completed his first four passes to four different receivers. The second pass was a 14-yard scoring strike to senior tight end Zach Miller. Junior tailback Victor Gronvold took the third pass 35 yards for six. Bernhardt caught second-quarter touchdowns of 61 and 14 yards.
“It was a big step,” said Bernhardt, who finished with a game-high 86 yards on three catches. “We couldn’t run and we passed it and it worked out fine. We have to do that through the playoffs.”
Heidlebaugh finished with four passing touchdowns and a 1-yard rushing score. Gronvold led the Panthers with 51 rushing yards on three carries, including a 51-yard TD. The speedy back had 180 all-purpose yards.
Rugby, accustomed to at least one rusher with more than 100 yards, didn’t need to establish the run as the first six scoring drives lasted an average of 52 seconds.
“We knew they’d gear up to stop the run,” Rugby coach Scott Grochow said. “We figured there were some things to exploit and we did that. Brad threw the ball really well, the receivers caught it and the guys blocked up front.”
All nine of Heidlebaugh’s completions (12 attempts) went for at least 11 yards on a season-high total of 251. The Panthers added 144 rushing yards.
“We knew that they were more athletic and we would need some breaks to have an opportunity,” NS-GU coach Steve Kleinjan said, “and they didn’t give us any breaks.”
The Holsteins (5-4) gained 114 yards on the ground with Zach Anderson (67 yards) and junior Cullen Seeger (60) finding success. The Panthers stuffed any momentum with a strong pass rush.
On the visitors’ second possession, a quarterback keeper on fourth-and-inches was swallowed for a loss by the RHS front line. RHS senior lineman Devon Berg forced a lost fumble later in the first quarter and Berg and Miller combined on a fourth-down sack in the second quarter. Berg added another fourth-down sack and RHS kneeled out the half.
“I thought the defense played really well again,” Grochow said. “We gave up a few big plays, but stopped them after that.”
New Salem’s safety came on a botched snap by the Rugby second team with about three minutes left in the game.
The Panthers will host a Killdeer (7-1) team thats lone loss came against defending state champion and Region 4 No. 1 Hazen. The Cowboys won their first-round game 40-6 over Region 3 No. 3 Harvey-Wells County.
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